Okay, what I’m about to lay on you here is a bit… Thanksgiving-y. I know that it’s so far away and it’s still summery in spots and you don’t even wanna think about telling the same stories to your relatives over and over… But! This dish is definitely appropriate for everyday celebrating. And it’s so easy. It just takes a teeny bit of planning.
But back to Thanksgiving (yes!). It’s definitely my favourite holiday. I love the sincere appreciation of harvest time and how it brings people together. It’s pretty special. We’re at a peak time where I live: all kinds of squash and vegetables and fruits are available. I’m so thankful for it all. It’s been brisk and mostly grey and well.., I wanted to eat some squash. Stuffed with delicious and maybe just slightly festive things. Not too festive, just a little bit. A taste even.
So I made a stuffing for some garlic-roasted acorn squash with wheat berries, a few veggies, some herbs, spices, dried fruit and toasted nuts. There’s a lot of flexibility with this recipe though! You can use any kind of rice, farro, millet, different vegetables and spices, leave out the dried fruit, maybe add some chopped olives etc; whatever you fancy. I was going for that sage-y, hearty, traditional stuffing-flavour thing and it worked out beautifully.
stuffed squash with wheat berries, pine nuts, sour cherries and sage
notes: Roasting the squash with the garlic clove underneath is totally optional but so, so tasty. I try not to use frou-frou and buzz-y terms here, but it totally aromatizes it to high level, game-changer deliciousness (I’m sorry, really).
1 acorn squash
2 cloves of garlic, lightly smashed
salt and pepper
1/2 cup wheat berries, soaked for at least a couple hours
1 tbsp grape seed oil
2 shallots, small dice (or 1 small-medium cooking onion)
1 celery stalk, small dice
1 medium carrot, peeled and small dice
1 bay leaf
1 tsp ground coriander
3 sprigs thyme, leaves chopped up fine
1 sprig sage, leaves chopped up fine
splash of white wine (alternatively you can squeeze a bit of lemon at the end or use a bit of white wine vinegar at the end too)
3/4 cup vegetable stock (or water)
1/2 cup dried sour cherries, chopped up roughly
salt and pepper
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted (I just slide them into the oven for a bit while the squash is cooking)
3 sprigs parsley, leaves chopped fine
Start the grains: strain the wheat berries and place them in a small sauce pan with 1 cup of water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then lower to medium. Simmer for about 40 minutes or until they are still a bit chewy (they will absorb more liquid later when making the stuffing). Drain if necessary.
Cook the squash: preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. season the inside with salt and pepper. Place the smashed garlic cloves on a parchment lined baking sheet with a good amount of space in between. Put the seasoned squash halves over the garlic cloves so that the squash form upside down bowls over the garlic cloves. Place in the oven and cook until tender, about 30 minutes. Once cool enough to handle, scrape a bit of the cooked squash flesh out. It should amount to about a 1/4 cup. Set it all aside.
Make the stuffing: heat the oil over medium and add the shallots. Cook until they begin to soften (4 minutes), add carrots, celery and the bay leaf. When the carrots and celery have softened up a teeny bit (about 4-5 minutes), add ground coriander, thyme, sage and dried cherries. Add the splash of white wine and stir the mixture around, scraping any bits off the bottom.
Add the drained wheat berries to the saute pan and stir to coat them in the mixture. Add the vegetable stock and simmer until most of the liquid is evaporated. Add the squash flesh you scraped out earlier and stir it around, incorporating it into the mixture (this will act like glue for the stuffing). Add the parsley and pine nuts, reserving a bit of both to garnish with at the end. Take off the heat.
On the same lined baking sheet, fill the squash halves with the stuffing as much as you can (there may be some leftover). Slide them into the oven to heat through completely. Garnish with remaining pine nuts and parsley, serve.