Bins and bins of colorful orbs are calling — it’s winter squash season! Orange, yellow, green, striped, lumpy and bumpy — all the colors of fall. The varieties seem endless. So how can you show off each unique shape as you actually consume these sweet and satisfying curcurbits?
Round squash just yearn to be stuffed. Those with a large hollow center are perfect receptacles for soups or stuffing.
Small sugar pumpkins, acorn squash and kabocha present beautifully at table served individually. Larger squash make a centerpiece that can be sliced into wedges and served.
I got hooked on stuffed pumpkins years ago with a recipe calling for sausage and cream, but since changing my evil ways to plant-based eating, I’ve been adapting that recipe. (That said, you may easily substitute non-vegan versions if you must.)
Here are two creamy, toothsome, oil and guilt-free recipes that will dress up your table and delight your guests, whether they’re meat eaters or not.
Creamy Pumpkin Pot Pie
Serves 2 (Multiply recipe as needed)
2 small sugar pumpkins
2 cups soy milk
2 tablespoons corn starch
1 teaspoon celery salt
¼ teaspoon paprika
4 ounces block plant-based cheese
1 cup peas or baby limas, fresh or frozen
2 large carrots
1 ½ cups bread cubes
2 slices (1 cup) Incredibly Plant-based Nut Loaf (the nuts are perfect for this recipe; or substitute 2 frozen prepared vegetable burgers)
Preheat oven to 375° F.
Dissolve corn starch in 2 tablespoons water; combine with soy milk. Stir in celery salt and paprika. Set aside.
Peel and slice carrots lengthwise, then cut into small chunks. Boil for just a few minutes to slightly soften the carrots. Drain and set aside.
If you’re using fresh peas or beans, prepare them as directed. Frozen peas may be rinsed in warm water. Set vegetables aside.
Cut slices of nut loaf or vegetable burgers into cubes. Stale bread — the heartier the better! — may be cubed into large chunks. It helps to toast them in your warming oven for a few minutes.
Cut a large circle around the stem of each pumpkin, freeing the cap. Scoop out seeds and scrape the inside of the squash clean with a large spoon. Set pumpkins on a baking sheet, with their caps to the side.
Now, assemble the pumpkins: Layer cubes of nut loaf or veggie patties inside the hollow squash, with alternating layers of bread cubes, peas and carrots, and cheese. Compact the contents gently to fill the squash completely. Pour the milk mixture into pumpkins and fill to the brim. Add more milk if necessary.
(You may bake any extra stuffing mixture in a separate baking dish along with the pumpkins.)
Cover pumpkins loosely with foil and bake for 1 hour. At that time remove foil and stick a sharp knife into pumpkin flesh to ensure it’s soft and completely baked. Return pumpkins to oven and allow stuffing to brown up. Serve individual pumpkins one per plate, with their caps to the side.
But wait, that’s not all!
Here’s another stuffing that’s super easy to prepare and just as satisfying to serve. Use one of the quick-cooking farro varieties that are now available to save time soaking the grain.
Easy farro stuffing
2 acorn squash
1 cup uncooked farro
1-2 cups vegetable broth
1 medium zucchini, sliced and cubed
1 small or ½ large red bell pepper, deseeded and chopped
½ red onion, sliced and cubed
Preheat oven to 350° F. Cut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place squash face down on baking sheet. Bake approximately 30 minutes or until soft to touch.
Meanwhile, prepare stuffing: Cook farro in vegetable broth (2 cups), or dilute with water 1:1 if a less intense flavor is desired. Generally, you’re combining raw farro with liquid, bringing it to a boil, then reducing the heat to a simmer. Cook covered for the amount of time recommended on the package. (I cook mine in a rice cooker.)
Heat about 3 tablespoons of vegetable broth in a sauté pan. Add chopped vegetables and sauté until onion is translucent and vegetables are beginning to soften. Once vegetables are ready, add cooked farro and mix together. Add a few more tablespoons of vegetable broth and allow mixture to simmer together for a few minutes. Turn off heat and set aside.
Serve one squash half per person, filled to overflowing with the farro mixture. Gorgeous and oh-so-yummy as the farro and veggies mix with the creamy squash.
At the risk of sounding cliché, bon appétit!