Monday, March 25, 2013

Acorn Squash with Spiced Fruit & Nuts

Acorn squash is one of my favorite winter squashes, with a mellow and mild flavor that takes to sweet or savory fillings and seasonings equally well.

We routinely enjoy roasted or baked acorn squash as a savory side dish with butter, herbs & spices, or as a main course when stuffed with seasoned ground beef & vegetables.

The other night, however, I decided to try my hand at a sweet filling inspired by the warm fragrance of mulled wine, the luscious flavor of ripe pair, the toothsome textures of dried fruit & nuts, and the seductively rich sweetness honey.

This recipe will perfume the air with the comforting aromas of winter spices. Serve it with roast chicken or turkey, pork chops, roast beef, venison medallions and other hearty meats or poultry. Replace boring old sweet potato casseroles this acorn squash stuffed with spiced fruit and nuts. And I can see myself enjoying it as an alternative to dessert, or even for brunch on a cold and blustery late morning or early afternoon.

Use either one large acorn squash, or two small ones. If you end up with more filling than you can stuff in your squash(es), refrigerate it and stir it into oatmeal or other hot cereal the next day, or spoon it over vanilla ice cream.

Acorn squash: 1 large OR 2 small
1 ripe but firm pear
4 Tbs butter
1/3 cup red wine
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped pecans (walnuts would also work)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Cut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds (you can save them for roasting, just like pumpkin seeds). Tip:  To keep squash halves upright for stuffing and eating, cut a small slice off the skin side of each half to give it a flat bottom surface. Place squashes cut-side down in a large, shallow baking pan and add about 1/4" water to the pan. Bake for 30 minutes.

While the squash is baking, core the pear and cut into small cubes. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, then add the pear and remaining ingredients except the nuts. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered and stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Stir in the nuts and keep at a very low simmer until the squash is ready to stuff.

After the squash has baked for 30 minutes, remove from oven and turn halves cut-side up (be careful, they will be HOT to the touch). Spoon the fruit & nut mixture into the middle of each half, drizzling with any sauce that may be left in the saucepan. Return the stuffed squash to the oven and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes or until squash is fork-tender.

Zestfully yours,

PS:  If you love the sweet-tart flavor of cranberries and enjoy it year-round, be sure to try Toad Sweat Cranberry Dessert Hot Sauce (fantastic on cheesecake, over ice cream, with pancakes or waffles, and even as a condiment for turkey and pork) and Cajohn's Gourmet Cranberry Salsa (an all-natural sweet & tangy salsa made with cranberries and spiced with jalapenos), both on sale at the Carolina Sauces online store.

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