Cooking with Acorn Squash: A Hearty Rice Dish
Fall is on its way and while I’m sad to see the last cherry tomatoes at the farmers’ markets, I’m also excited about the cool weather produce and all of the different things to make with them. The method to my cooking lately has been to find an ingredient that I want to use and then create (with guidance from my treasured cookbooks) recipes that use that item. This weekend I went on a cooking spree, and the result was healthy, flavorful, gluten-free food. The first item on my list was acorn squash.
I had been eyeing the acorn squash at The Local Farmstand for a while, wondering what I could make with it. I’ve cooked a lot with other members of the squash family, including zucchini, butternut and summer squash. Acorn squash looks like its name and can be found in a variety of colors. A pretty vegetable, I had only ever seen acorn squash on display at holiday times, never actually in a dish.
I found a seasonal rice recipe using acorn squash in Sara Foster’s Fresh Every Day cookbook and I tweaked it to make it gluten-free. The recipe also interested me for a couple of reasons beyond having acorn squash in the title. This rice dish included shallots and they have recently become one of my favorite things to use when I cook. Shallots are in the onion family, but their flavor is complex and delicious. Many cooks praise shallots, but I had never truly appreciated them until the last few weeks. A nice touch for many dishes! I also chose this recipe because it’s dairy and egg free and our friend, Chris, was coming over and has to stay away from dairy and eggs.
Here’s what I made:
Brown Rice with Roasted Acorn Squash, Spinach and Satueed Shallots
About 1 pound of acorn squash, peeled and seeded (I used 2 ½ smaller acorn squash…I actually don’t think you can have too much of this ingredient! If you find you have too much squash you can refrigerate it once you’ve roasted it and serve it as leftovers.)
2 T. olive oil
2 t. sea salt
½ t. ground pepper
1 T. unsalted butter
4 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup brown rice
2 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
4 oz. spinach, washed (about 3 cups) I just used what I had left in the fridge from a meal earlier that week; you can use as much or as little as you’d like
Preheat oven to 400. Cut the squash into ½ inch cubes and place on baking pan. Drizzle with one tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Roast spinach for 35 minutes, stirring occasionally until squash starts to brown and become soft. Allow squash to cool a little.
Melt remaining tablespoon of olive oil and butter in medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add shallots and cook about 5 minutes to soften. Add the rice and cook and stir for about 2 minutes. Stir in all of the broth, 2 teaspoons of salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 40 to 45 minutes, or until all liquid is absorbed.
Remove pan from heat and add roasted squash and spinach, tossing gently until spinach starts to wilt. Season as needed and serve warm.
Between the brown rice, spinach and squash, the colors were beautiful and definitely looked like a seasonal, fall dish. This might have been one of the best tasting rice dishes I’ve ever eating, and there wasn’t any cheese adding to the rich flavor. I served it as a side dish with a roasted pork loin. There were four of us at dinner and not a bit of the the rice was left at the end of the meal so if you’re entertaining a larger group, you might want to double the recipe.
Like I said earlier, I just sort of eyeballed the spinach and the squash as I added them to the rice so it’s definitely not an exact science. I’m sure you could make this same recipe with delicata or butternut squash.
Let me know if there’s anything else you like to make with acorn squash or other winter squash.