It's not often that you hear me say this…but I am completely fooded out. Stuffed. It's been a month of amazing dinners and get togethers and celebrations. There's been so much good stuff happening…and most of it revolves around food.
In the midst of all of the hullabaloo, I have found time to make trips to my local farmers markets. Winter squashes are something that I love to eat and buy with the best intentions of cooking with but they often sit around and end up going unused. I had this acorn squash at the house for several days when I decided to throw together a fridge cleaner stuff acorn squash recipe.
I have done several types of stuffed squash with grains and meat before…but this was my first completely veggie version. I adored it. The sweetness of the squash – especially with the last minute dusting of brown sugar – plays well against the herbed barley (something that was a total crapshoot and ended up really enhancing the dish) and the chewy texture plays of the fruit. It's also a knockout of a dish and looks way more difficult and impressive than you'd like to let on.
Scented Barley-Stuffed Acorn Squash – serves 2
Place barley, water and/or stock, star anise and cinnamon in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for about 45 minutes, until barley is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed. Remove star anise pod and cinnamon. Fluff grains with a fork. Remove from heat but keep in a warm place.
While the barley is cooking, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Set the squash halves, cut sides up, on a baking sheet. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, if desired. Cook for 40-45 minutes or until fork tender – this can depend wildly on your oven. During the last 5 minutes of baking time, sprinkle 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar on each half and continue baking so the sugar melts and caramelizes a bit.
To serve, mix in your dried cranberries or other dried fruit and nuts – walnuts would be killer in this dish. Using a microplane, zest the orange into the barley, as well. Salt and pepper your filling to taste. At the last minute before stuffing the squash halves, mix in minced herbs. Fill each half of the squash with equal amounts of mixture. Serve immediately.