Stuffed squash is really a pretty basic dish. Generally you cook up a mixture of rice and veggies, stuff it in a hollowed out squash, throw it in the oven, and bamm…you have stuffed squash. In this recipe, the biggest variation from what I just outlined above is that the squash is partially cooked beforehand in the microwave (thank you Cooking Light for this excellent idea). This accomplishes two things. First it cuts the baking time down by more than half, and second because the baking time is shorter it allows the grain, or in this case the quinoa, to retain some of its nutty texture instead of turning to mush while it hangs out in the oven for an hour waiting for the squash to cook. For this recipe I used the beautiful Amber Cup squash pictured above. You could use a variety of different squashes in the is dish. Golden Nugget, Acorn, Buttercup, Autumn Cup, Carnival, Turban. Basically any winter squash with a shape that allows you to hollow it out and stuff it will work just fine.
The original recipe only called for onion, garlic, and sausage, but I decided to throw in some carrots, fresh Italian parsley and a portabella mushroom for extra flavor and texture. This last minute addition was so tasty that I am pretty sure I will be making a vegetarian version with just the portabellas in the near future. If you decide to go this route I would suggest using at least three mushrooms to replace the 8-ounces of sausage. On the subject of sausage, any kind will do but I used Al Fresco brand Chicken Apple sausage with Vermont Maple syrup- wow! That’s good stuff.
4- 1 pounds
Winter squash such as Amber Cup or Golden Nugget
Sausage, any kind you like but if you use pork be sure to drain all but 1 tablespoon of the fat left behind after cooking
carrot, roughly chopped
onion, finely chopped
cloves garlic, minced
large portabella mushroom, roughly chopped
fresh flat-leaf parsley
freshly ground black pepper
cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
Prepare the squash. Cut off the top of each squash about a quarter of the way down. Scoop out the seeds and scrape the inside of the squash. Place two of the squash in a microwave safe dish. I used an 11 x 7-inch dish. Fill the dish with 1-inch of water. Microwave on high for 15 minutes. Remove squash from the dish and place on a plate to cool. If you are using 4 squash, repeat the process with the remaining two squash.
Preheat oven to 375?.
Cook the quinoa. In a medium saucepan bring 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups water to a boil. Turn the heat down, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes until the quinoa is soft and grains appear translucent.
While the squash and quinoa are cooking, prepare the filling. Heat a large skillet with a swirl of olive oil over medium-high heat. Remove the casings from the sausage and add to the pan. Sauté the sausage for about 5 minutes, stirring and crumbling with a wooden spoon. Add the carrot, onion, garlic, and mushroom. Cook, stirring often, until the mushroom releases its juices and the carrot it soft.
Remove the skillet from the heat. Mix in the quinoa, parsley, thyme, salt, pepper and a ½ cup of shredded cheese.
Place the squash on one or two baking sheets, depending on how many squash you used. Also place the squash tops on the baking sheet(s). Fill the squash with the quinoa mixture. Top each with 1-2 tablespoons of shredded cheese. Bake for 20 minutes or until thoroughly heated.