Acorn squash makes transition to fall dining

One of the sure signs that fall is here is the appearance in supermarkets of winter squash, which gardeners in this region generally pick in September. One of the most popular of the winter squashes, and among the easiest to prepare, is acorn squash.

Acorn squash, which is a baking squash, has a natural sweetness; its flavor is somewhere between butternut squash and pumpkin. Even so, it accepts other flavors well and works well in combination with both sweet and tart ingredients.

An acorn squash sliced in half creates two servings and, perhaps best of all, becomes its own baking dish. As the foundation of a self-contained meal, the acorn squash can be dressed or stuffed with ingredients that will round out your daily nutrition requirements.

When selecting acorn squash in the store, look for dark, firm, softball-size squash. A small patch of yellow on the outer skin won't hurt, but the squash should be blackish-green otherwise.

Acorn squash are not perfectly round and should be cut in half "lengthwise," or along one of the ridges that extend from the stem of the squash. Even so, the squash will not balance easily with cut side up, so you'll want to slice a flat surface, about the size of a 50-cent piece, on the rounded side of each half. That will give the squash a stable platform to sit on while it's baking open-faced.

The following recipe is from "A Kansas Compote," a cookbook assembled about 10 years ago by the Kansas Fruit Growers Assn. It's a nice little cookbook, with contributors from across the state. I had fun looking through it, as there were several people I knew whose recipes were in the collection. Laurie Walters, who operates an orchard in McLouth, is among those growers represented in the book.

The books are still available for $15 from the KFGA, care of Frank Morrison, 2725 Stagg Hill Road, Manhattan, 66502.

Alas, the following recipe, appeared in the book unsigned.

Apple-Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash



3 acorn squash

1 pound ground sausage

2 large unpeeled apples, preferably Jonathans, cored and finely chopped

1/3 cup brown sugar (packed), molasses, maple syrup or honey

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon cloves

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

1/3 cup dried currants or raisins

1/3 cup butter

1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 F. Cut squash lengthwise into halves; remove seeds. Place cut side down in baking pans filled about 1/2-inch deep with hot water. Cover and bake 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, brown sausage in a skillet, but do not overcook. Add apples to sausage for last few minutes of cooking time. Drain off grease. Mix together brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Sprinkle seasonings over the sausage and apple mixture; mix well. Stir in currants or raisins and nuts.

When squash are done baking, remove from oven and carefully turn cut side up in baking pan. Divide sausage mixture among the squash halves. Put a dab of butter on top of mixture in each squash half.

Cover baking pan with foil. Return to oven and bake for 30 minutes more.

Makes 6 servings.

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