Saturday, August 22, 2009

Stuffed Delicata Squash with Ground Turkey, Greens and Garlic

This week, at the natural foods store where I cook, I prepared a Harvest Dinner featuring the best of summer’s cornucopia.

…The Menu…
Simple Heirloom Tomato and Sea Salt Bruschetta
Green Goddess Soup with Fresh Peas and Mint
Delicata Squash stuffed with Ground Turkey, Greens and Garlic
Sweet Corn Spoon Bread
Tender Lettuces with Raspberry Viniagrette and Toasted Almonds
Stone Fruit Crisp with Maple Whipped Cream

I am lucky to be able to work with beautiful organic produce. Most of the time my Thursday Night Dinner menus are ethnically inspired, but this kind of menu is inspired by the produce, and limited only by the product I have to work with. In late August, my palette is full of colors: Ruby red pluots, bright orange peaches, deep green chard with magenta stems, butter yellow corn, golden beets, ripe tomatoes in a sunset-hued array, burlap-colored potatoes, and eggplant in a shade of it’s own name.

Some menus excite me more than others, and I felt especially happy with this one. Seeing it all set up on the buffet was like looking at a rainbow—how appropriate considering the name of the store (Rainbow Foods). I liked to think about the customers filling their bellies with those colors. This week, I was just a sous chef to Mother Nature, a conduit between her wares and the people.

The recipe below was a fortunate accident. I had planned on doing a stuffed summer squash (patty pan, zucchini, or crookneck), but the produce department was short, so at the last minute I opted to use Delicata squash. Most people think of hard squashes as winter fare, and it’s true that they do last a loooooong time (hence the “winter” classification), but I think the best time to eat them is now and into early fall, just as they’re coming from the fields. Freshly picked produce is often higher in sugar, and as time elapses, those sugars turn into starch. Corn on the cob is a great example of this. It seems to me that winter squashes are especially sweet and moist early in the season.

Of the entire menu, this dish received the most enthusiastic reviews:

Apologies for the fluorescent lighting in the photo—it doesn’t do justice to the beauty of the finished product. This is how they looked before I topped them with cheese.

Stuffed Delicata Squash with Ground Turkey, Greens, and Garlic
(makes 10 stuffed squash halves)

I played off the natural sweetness of the squash here by doing an especially savory filling with lots of rubbed sage, roasted garlic, and nutty cheeses like parmesan and gruyere. Delicata is an heirloom squash variety, and has a thin edible skin (if you so choose). I think ground turkey sausage would make a great stand-in for the ground turkey, but you can also make this vegetarian by substituting a ground meat substitute like “Gimme Lean”. Recipe can be prepared through step 4 up to 1 day in advance.

1/3 cup peeled garlic cloves (whole)
1/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
5 delicata squash
1 large yellow onion, diced small
1 pound ground turkey (see other options above)
1 ½ teaspoons rubbed sage
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch cayenne
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 bunch chard or Lacinato kale, stems removed*(see note), and finely chopped
½ cup finely grated parmesan cheese
1 ½ cups grated gruyere or gouda cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350. Combine the garlic cloves and the oil in a small ramekin or oven-safe dish. Place in oven and bake 30 to 45 minutes or until the cloves are starting to turn golden brown in spots. This is an easy way to roast garlic and at the same time make a garlic-infused oil. Remove from oven and set aside.

2. Wash the squash and cut it lengthwise, through the middle. Use care here, this can be a little difficult. Place the squash halves cut side down onto an oiled baking sheet and place in oven, 25 to 30 minutes or until the squash gives a little when squeezed. Remove from oven, flip the squash so they’re cut side up, and set aside until cool enough to handle.

3. Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a large soup pot (with a tight fitting lid) over medium high heat. Add diced onion and sauté about 3 minutes or until onion has softened a bit. Add ground turkey (or sausage or ground meat substitute), herbs, and seasonings and cook, stirring until browned. Add greens to the pot and stir until they begin to wilt. You may need to add about ¼ cup water to the pot (for steam) if the mixture is too dry, but the meat and greens should release some liquid as they cooked. Reduce heat to medium low, cover pot, and cook until greens are tender, stirring occasionally (kale will take longer than chard, so taste for doneness). Remove from heat and stir in parmesan cheese. Remove roasted garlic from oil with a slotted spoon and add to mixture. Taste the filling and adjust seasonings. It should be pretty robust, so add salt to taste. The filling will be a little bit wet, but that’s good—it will help keep the squash moist when baking.

4. Gently scrape the seeds from the squash and discard. Arrange on baking sheet, cut side up, and brush the cavity with a light coating of the roasted garlic oil. Divide the filling evenly among the halves. Top with grated gruyere.

5. Cover and return to oven for 20 to 30 minutes or until cheese is melted and everything is heated through (this will take longer if they’ve been refrigerated overnight). Enjoy!

*After cooking with a LOT of hearty greens at Rainbow Foods, I’ve learned a trick for removing the tender leaves from the tough stems. With one hand grasp the stem end of the leaf, and use the other hand to grasp the leaf at the base. Pull upwards along the central rib. The tender part of the leaf should come right off, ready to be chopped and cooked up. Once you get a feel for it this goes super fast and works well with both chard and Lacinato Kale.

4 comments:

Ivy said...

Oh my. That menu sounds so good. Did your guests appreciate how much work that was? I'd love to try the green goddess soup...quite an image in my mind..cool, green, creamy, minty? Care to share the general recipe?

Sara Ohlin said...

Looks Delicious! I think I have Delicata Squash growing in my garden. I saved the seeds from last year and didn't label. Once again can't wait to try your recipe!

Kristin said...

I have this in the oven right now and can't wait to try it for dinner! :) Any recommendations for uses for some leftover stuffing?

Food-G said...

Hi Kristin! Thanks for visiting Food-G. Did you like the squash? Hope I got to your comment in time, but if you still have leftover stuffing a couple ideas come to mind:
-Use it to top a french bread or pita pizza, or make an oven-toasted grinder.
-Toss it with pasta for a bonus meal.
-Combine with chicken stock, a can of white beans and simmer to make a soulful fall soup.
Thanks again and good luck!

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