Hungry? Run on down to your local shuk and get yourself a butternut squash.
Butternut squash is still in season. Try stuffing it with quinoa, the seed that the pre-Columbian Native Americans called “mother of the grains.” With its nutty taste and high nutritional protein levels (not to mention amino acids and minerals), quinoa’s a super-food. Nowadays you can buy it in health food stores and supermarkets everywhere.
Like rice, quinoa cooks up light, yet satisfies hunger. Get it organic if you can, and wash the grains before you start cooking.
Put the quinoa to soak for half an hour in water to cover, then drain it and rinse it briefly again, till there are no more “suds”. These suds are caused by bitter natural substances, saponins. It’s nature’s way to repel birds and insects in the field. Unfortunately saponins also repel people at the table. Quinoa tastes good only if you rinse it before cooking. Once rinsed and ready, its characteristic nutty taste comes through for you to enjoy.
Butternut Squash Stuffed with Quinoa
Serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side dish.
1 butternut squash
2 tsp. olive oil
salt, pepper, cumin, and ground coriander seed – a few pinches of each
1/2 cup raw quinoa
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup cilantro or parsley – or wild edibles like nettles or chicory
1 small onion
4 halves of sun-dried tomatoes, put to soak in 3/4 cup plus 1 Tblsp hot water
The water from soaking the tomatoes
more salt and pepper to taste
2 Tblsp. olive oil for sauteeing
optional: Parmesan cheese to grate over the finished dish
Preheat the oven to 350 F – 190 C.
Start by washing the quinoa as advised above. Set it aside to drain.
1. Cut off the end of the squash. Slice it in half. Remove the seeds. Cut most of the flesh out.
2. Rub 1 tsp. of olive oil into the cavity of each half. Drop pinches of salt, cumin, and coriander over the halves, and rub the spices in. Grind some fresh pepper over them.
3. Put the squash halves to bake, cut side up. They will need about 20 minutes.
4. Put the dried tomatoes in a small bowl and rehydrate them in the 3/4 cup hot water. Allow them to soak 5 minutes.
5. Remove the tomatoes from the water and save the water. Put the tomatoes aside.
6. Cook the quinoa with the 1/2 tsp. salt and the water from the tomatoes. Just put it all into a small pot over a low flame, cover, and let it steam till it’s done – about 15 minutes.
7. Chop the flesh of the squash.
8. Peel and dice the onion.
9. Rinse the cilantro or parsley and chop it up. 10. Scissor or chop the tomatoes up coarsely.
11. Sauté the onions in a little olive oil, till they’re golden.
12. Add the chopped squash to the frying pan and cook, stirring often. The squash and onions should cook up within 15 minutes.
13. Add the chopped cilantro or parsley and the tomatoes. Stir. Cook till the greens are wilted.
14. Tip the contents of the frying pan into the pot where the quinoa cooked. Stir everything up well. Taste, and season if needed. You may like to drizzle a little more olive oil into the mass.
15. Remove the squash halves from the oven and let them cool slightly so you can handle them. At this point, the flesh should be tender and slightly charred.
16. Spoon the stuffing into the squash shells. Mound it up. The dish is now ready, but a generous amount of Parmesan cheese grated over the stuffed squash puts a great finish on it.
If the squash has gotten cold, just pop it back into the hot oven for a few minutes.
Eat it with a soup spoon for scooping out the filling and the flesh of the squash.
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