I love the concept of eating food out of another food. Have you ever eaten soup out of a bread bowl? It’s amazing – both decadent and resourceful. When you run out of bread, don’t worry. You can eat your bowl.
Tacos, lettuce wraps, bread bowls: we’re really talking about one food serving as a vessel for more food. And now that fall is rolling around and the first of those beautiful autumn squashes are beginning to show up in my CSA, I know that it’s a matter of time before I’m using my squash, my pumpkin, my little loaves of bread, as vessels for warm, delicious food.
This week, I got acorn squash in my CSA, and I determined to rectify my Thelma Sanders squash fiasco from back in the day when I did my first CSA. In those days, I had found a recipe for sausage-stuffed acorn squash. But I had already used my acorn squash, and all I had left was an heirloom squash called a Thelma Sanders squash. I found out later, after I wrote the column detailing my massacre of said squash, that the heirloom squash does not hold up as well as the acorn squash. Where the acorn squash’s skin toughens into a lovely bowl while cooking, the Thelma Sanders squash becomes soft and pliable, so that when I tried to scoop squash out of it, I found myself with shreds of squash skin, orange bits of flesh, and a bowl full of sausage with no Thelma to bond with.
Not this time, though. This time, I emerged victorious, making some lovely Moroccan Acorn Squash Bowls. I blended two recipes here, modifying to bring together the Moroccan flavors we like best in this house. I used (check it) the right kind of squash, spiced it up like we like it, incorporated peanut butter, Gala apples, sweet peppers, and fresh cilantro, and made the perfect edible preview of all the goodness fall’s harvest will bring.
Moroccan Acorn Squash Bowls
Yields 2 servings.
CSA Produce Used: Gala apples; acorn squash.
1 large acorn squash, halved and seeded
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 red onion, chopped
1/2 orange pepper, seeded and chopped (yellow or red works too)
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 cup chickpeas, drained
1/3 cup golden raisins
1 small apple, cored and chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Pinch of paprika
Dash (just a dash) of ground cinnamon
Big pinch of salt
Small pinch of black pepper
1 cup chicken broth (You could use water to make it meatless)
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1/2 cup dry couscous
4 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp butter
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange squash halves cut side down on a baking sheet lined with foil. Bake 35 minutes or until fork tender.
2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in garlic, onion, and carrots, and cook five minutes until onions are soft and beginning to go translucent.
3. Mix in beans, apple, orange pepper, and raisins. Add cumin, cayenne pepper, paprika, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Keep cooking, stirring occasionally, until veggies are tender, about ten minutes.
4. Add chicken broth and peanut butter, and stir in couscous. Cover skillet and turn off the heat, allowing couscous to absorb the liquid for five minutes.
5. At this point, the squash should be done, so go ahead and check that it pierces easily with a fork. If it doesn’t, let it cook a bit more, checking at five-minute intervals.
6. When squash is done, put brown sugar and butter in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 30 seconds. Scoop the couscous mixture into the acorn squash “bowls,” piling the mixture into a little mountain. Garnish with fresh cilantro (and, optional, some crushed peanuts or cashews).
This dish was a little spicy, a little sweet, with bright moments from the apples, raisins, and fresh cilantro. The acorn squash was perfectly sweet, the perfect reminder of fall’s best flavors. And if you have leftover couscous mixture (as I did), those heat up great for leftovers the next day. And the best part about this dish? It’s gorgeous and it’s easy. Chop some veggies, bake some squash, do a little thing with sauteing, and you’re in business.
This meal is pretty filling on its own, but you could pair it with a Moroccan orange salad or a salad of leafy greens – something fresh to provide a contrast with the sweet warmth of the squash bowl.