Sometimes I like to blur the line between dinner and dessert.
Acorn squash is a
vegetable fruit (thanks, Google…), so it’s perfectly acceptable as a healthy side dish or a vegetarian main for dinner. However, I have stuffed it with something that ends up looking and tasting suspiciously like apple pie, flavoured with cinnamon and brown sugar and studded with walnuts. So is it still dinner? I think so.
Pumpkin is getting a lot of love in the food blog world these days, as it generally does this time of year. I love pumpkin, especially in baked goods (or delicious spicy soups!) but I thought I’d focus on a different type of squash today. We received some lovely acorn squash in our CSA basket this week, and I was excited to see what I could come up with to highlight its smooth texture and sweet, earthy flavour.
This recipe is incredibly easy to pull together, and although it takes about an hour to make, most of that is hands-off baking time, and there’s only about 5 minutes’ worth of prepping and chopping. Simply slice the squash in half, scoop the seeds, and pop it in the oven for 20 minutes to soften up. While it’s baking, chop an apple and mix it with nuts, butter, lemon and sugar. Finally, brush the squash with melted butter and spices, stuff it, and toss it back in the oven to roast to golden perfection.
These are quite filling, and one squash half could easily serve two as a side dish. However, it’s much prettier to serve if each person gets their own half, so I like to serve it as a vegetarian main course with a simple salad on the side.
During roasting, the squash becomes perfectly soft and tender, and the skin softens as well – it’s edible, so make sure you scrub your squash before you start! The apple-walnut filling becomes luscious and oozes sweet, caramelized, buttery juice all over the squash. Cinnamon is the dominant spice, but I’ve added a pinch of cayenne and a healthy spoonful of salt to balance the sweetness. It tastes like autumn on a plate.
- 1 acorn squash, halved and seeds scooped out
- 1 tart apple (I used a Granny Smith), peeled, cored and chopped
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons melted butter, divided
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- ¼ cup chopped walnuts
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon coarse salt
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
- Pinch of nutmeg
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place squash cut side down in a baking dish. Pour in enough boiling water to reach a ½-inch depth. Bake for 20 minutes. Discard water and flip squash over to be cut side up. Leave the oven on.
- While squash is baking, combine chopped apple in a small bowl with 1 tablespoon of melted butter, the lemon juice, zest, walnuts and brown sugar. In another small bowl, combine cinnamon, salt, cayenne and nutmeg.
- Brush squash with remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and sprinkle with the cinnamon mixture to cover (you may not use it all). Fill the squash halves with the apple mixture and sprinkle with additional cinnamon mixture. Pour ½ cup water in the bottom of the baking dish (to prevent the juices that ooze out from burning and sticking).
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the apples are tender and everything is golden brown. Serve immediately, drizzled with any pan juices.