As the photo makes clear, this is an impressive Holiday centerpiece that’s both healthful and tasty. Should you want to veer away from squash – the stuffing as a stand-alone makes a wonderful whole-grain side-dish: great texture, flavor and roasted nuttiness that will win everyone over. I happened on the combination of sage and garam masala in the stuffing quite accidentally a couple of years back and while it may seem unlikely – just trust me and give it a try; it will become a go-to for you too!
Serve this dish with a bean and tamari-based gravy (I like Isa’s white bean so-sage gravy), a nice robust red (check your red here first!) and a Brussel-sprout slaw for an unforgettable spread.
What you need:
- a large Red Kuri Squash (3-1/2 to 4 lbs; or another sweet winter squash such as kabocha or butternut)
- 2/3 cup whole barley
- 2/3 cup einkorn berries (or farro, or wheat berries)
- 1/3 cup wild rice
- 3 cups filtered water
- a few slices of dried Reishi mushroom (optional)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large leek, quartered and sliced fine, 3 packed cups
- 1/2 a red onion, finely diced, 1 cup
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 ribs of diced celery, 1 cup
- 1 cup chopped toasted almonds
- 1/2 cup finely diced dried, unsulphured apricots
- 1 tablespoon dried saged (powdered is fine)
- 1-1/4 teaspoons garam masala (home-made if possible)
- 1 teaspoon marjoram (dry herb)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
What you do:
- Soak the barley, einkorn and wild rice overnight in a generous amount of fresh water. The three can be soaked together.
- Drain the grains, add to a pot with the 3 cups of water and dry mushrooms if using.
- Bring to a boil and then cover and reduce heat. Simmer on stove-top until the water is absorbed, 45-50 minutes. Let cool. You could also use an electronic pressure cooker or grain cooker with a multigrain cycle if desired. To save on prep time the day you make the stuffing, the grains can be cooked up to 3 days ahead and stored in the refrigerator until ready for use.
- Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- Cut the top from the Red Kuri Squash and scoop out the innards. Compost the squash guts or use them to make a tasty vegetable broth. If using another variety of winter squash that doesn’t have such a sizeable hollow to stuff, then you may have to hollow out the center by removing some of the flesh. Set that flesh aside to make mash or a soup, or freeze it for later use.
- Place the hollowed squash in a shallow baking dish (an 8″x8″ should be about right) with an inch of water in the bottom. Partially precook the squash in the preheated oven 30-35 minutes until beginning to tender (it should still be pretty crunchy at this point). Remove from the oven and set aside. Raise heat to 375 F.
- Meanwhile heat a Dutch oven over medium flame and add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the leek, onion, garlic and celery and sauté until the vegetables are beginning to soften.
- Add the sage, garam masala, marjoram, pepper and salt and cook, stirring frequently, for a few minutes more. The mixture should be quite fragrant.
- Lower the heat and add the grains, breaking up any lumps. Follow with the toasted almonds and apricots. Cook, mixing, 5 minutes longer, until the ingredients are warmed through.
- Add the nutritional yeast and mix thoroughly. Taste for seasonings and adjust as desired.
- Pack as much stuffing into the reserved squash as you can, pressing it in firmly. There will probably be some left-over which makes for a quick meal at a later date (it also freezes well). If desired, top with the stem-end to close. (A whole Portobello mushroom marinated in white wine, tamari and garlic, placed over the opening and then liberally brushed with oil is another option to seal off the opening).
- Add more water to the bottom of the baking dish if it’s evaporated too much (there should be about an inch in the bottom) and bake between 45 minutes and 1 hour, depending on the size of the squash. You want a fork to go in easily and the squash to be fully cooked and sweet – but stop before the whole thing is falling apart or you won’t be able to slice it.
- Remove from the oven, let cool 5-10 minutes, slice and serve.