Apple

Manoomin-Stuffed Squash With Gingery Orange Sauce

November  2, 2021
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Photo by James Ransom
Author Notes

I spent many years living on the north shore of Lake Superior. I appreciated the slower pace of life, the unexpected mood swings of the big blue water. It was upon moving there that I discovered wild rice—not only at the grocery store, but also at gas stations, and in the summer, at stands on the side of the road. In the upper Midwest, wild rice is a regional food, with deep significance to the native people.

While living on the shores of Lake Superior, I spent a few summers working as a chef for a wilderness outfitter on Moose Lake. We were an entry point to the BWCAW (Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness), a highly protected stretch of glacial lakes that border Canada and the U.S. Within the deep woods of the BWCAW are pristine lakes, untouched by motorized boats—nature in its purest form, a place where humans are the intruders. During my lunch breaks, I would get to take a canoe out. And on my days off, I would go for an overnight. When the lake was calm, I’d paddle out for miles, straight to the Canadian border.

My first introduction to cooking wild rice was at this mom-and-pop outfitter lodge. I inherited a menu that they’d been using for decades, to serve the fishers and scout troops and adventure seekers. Most of the food felt very Midwestern, and all-American—items like pork chops, steak and potatoes, and fresh dinner rolls. One of the staple salads was a wild rice salad with canned wild rice, mayonnaise, apples, celery, and carrots.

A few years later, a good friend brought me some wild rice that they had recently harvested. Northern Minnesota and bordering Wisconsin are home to the Anishinaabe tribe, which also includes the Chippewa and Ojibwe. In that region, wild rice is often called manoomin, or “good seed” in Ojibwe. Every year, my friend canoes on various lakes in Wisconsin to harvest manoomin. Many of the Ojibwe travel these lakes by canoe as well. In late summer through early fall, it’s tradition to take part in manoominike-giizis (Wild Rice Moon), or the ricing season.

Wild rice is actually a seed that grows in aquatic grass. Harvesters go out in their canoes and tap the tall grass so that the seeds fall into the boat. Sowing the rice would be an insult to Mother Nature—in fact, there are certain parts of Minnesota where the rice must be harvested manually, not with a machine. Inevitably, through the thrashing process, some seeds fall back into the water, helping to sustain the grains for next season.

I dreamed up this dish one year, when I wanted to create a hearty entrée that just happens to be vegan and gluten-free for my former restaurant, Martha’s Daughter. This combination is so great—cozy squash, wild rice, apples, walnuts, and citrus. If you want to plan ahead, the squash can be roasted in advance, then reheated in the oven while you mix the filling. The ginger sauce can also be made ahead of time and refrigerated for up to 5 days.
Nyanyika Banda

  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Serves 4
Ingredients
  • Squash & Filling
  • 1 medium acorn squash, halved lengthwise
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for roasting
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 medium red apple (Braeburn, McIntosh), diced
  • 2 cups cooked manoomin (wild rice)
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Sauce & Garnish
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 cups orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1/4 cup tamari or coconut aminos
  • 1/2 cup crushed toasted walnuts
  • 1 cup microgreens (or baby arugula or kale)
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Line a sheet pan with foil or parchment.
  2. Drizzle the squash with olive oil and add flesh side down to the prepared sheet pan. Roast until tender, about 1 hour.
  3. While the squash is roasting, work on the filling and sauce. To make the filling, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, ginger, and apple. Allow to caramelize and brown, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Add the cooked rice and orange juice. Reduce for 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (The filling can be prepared in advance and refrigerated—just rewarm before serving.)
  4. To make the sauce, combine the cornstarch, orange juice, garlic, ginger, and tamari or coconut aminos in a mixing bowl and whisk until the cornstarch has dissolved. Pour into a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the sauce is thick and transparent (nappe).
  5. To serve, scoop out the seeds from the cooled squash and reheat if needed. Scoop the rice filling into the hollowed out squash. Serve with the orange sauce to drizzle all over and top with crushed walnuts and microgreens.

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