Seems to be a lasting trend as home cooks confront an increasing variety of restricted diet plans when planning meals. And true to trend, that was our dilemma for the family Christmas dinner gathering. Not only were we hosting a non-red meat eater, one who dislikes fish/seafood, a gluten-free diet, a low-carb connoisseur, but also someone who primarily focuses on plant-based meals. Martini anyone??
But we persevered and realized everyone but Vikki, our family vegan, liked ham, so that was the highlight of the meal for most. After a little online research prior to the big day, I found a plethora of stuffed butternut squash recipes and finally zeroed in on Vegan Stuffed Butternut Squash with Mushroom and Couscous from honestcooking.com. The prep appeared easy (although it takes quite a while to bake), and the ingredients were appealing.
The sweet, soft butternut squash is filled with a subtle spicy heat from the chili and packed with porcini, couscous, and herbs. Alternatively, it can also be filled with rice and pine nuts. The best part is the rice or couscous cooks in the squash using only the moisture from its flesh, which surprised me.
I instructed Vikki on the “forking” technique.
One trick I learned a few years back was to “fork” a squash around the perimeter lengthwise, prior to cutting it in half. Trust me, it makes the job soooo much easier to slide a knife through the tough outer skin. Oddly, the original directions indicated to put the two halves of filled squash together and then wrap with foil. No way José. There was too much mixture mounded in each, so I left them flat on the baking tray before covering with foil.
Vikki, right, is pleased that she learned how to slice, clean out, and cook a butternut squash.
Vegan Stuffed Butternut Squash with Mushroom and Couscous
- 1 butternut squash, about 3 lbs., cut in half lengthways, scoop out the seeds and soft fibers
- 1 small handful dried porcini mushroom
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 5 pieces sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
- 3 oz. couscous
- 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped
- 1/4 tsp. chili powder
- 1/4 tsp. ground coriander seeds
- 1/2 handful walnuts, very coarsely chopped
- olive oil
- salt, black pepper
- In a bowl soak the porcini in 1/2 cup water for about 5 minutes. (Do not discard the water as it is part of the recipe.)
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Using a spoon, score and scoop out some extra flesh from the neck of the squash. Finely chop this flesh and set aside.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan and add chopped red onion and garlic. Sauté them for a few minutes, then add coriander, chili, rosemary, the chopped butternut squash flesh and the sun-dried tomatoes.
- Cook for 5 minutes until tender. Add the porcini and soaking water, season with salt and black pepper and cook for another 2 minutes.
- Stir in the couscous and walnuts. Rub the outer skin of the squash with olive oil and place them on a small baking sheet.
- Spoon the mixture tightly into the 2 halves of the squash.
- Wrap the baking tray in foil and bake in the preheated oven for about 1 1/2 hours, or until the squash is “fork” tender.
The rest of the meal was a family affair.
Son Dan and his girlfriend Tina put together their specialty, a Charcuterie Platter.
Dad watches over daughter Julia as she makes her famous Mac ‘N Cheese casserole.
And the star of the show (for most) was the Spiral Ham, in which we took a shortcut and used a jarred Boar’s Head ham glaze.
While son David didn’t actually do any food prep, his contribution was a few bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon—much appreciated. And the dogs Bentley and Olive, well, they made sure the kitchen floor was clean at all times.
Merry Christmas from our family to yours!