Nothing screams fall-time like squash. It begins to pop up everywhere in grocery stores, at farmer’s markets, at orchards. I become giddy when I see it at the store. My eyes get big, my mouth starts watering, and my stomach begins to growl. When I see it on sale I begin to load it into my cart with 2 of each variety. Sometimes I contemplate 3 of each.
When I was a kid I hated squash. I only remember having it once a year at Thanksgiving. It was orange, and mushy, and tasteless.
It wasn’t until college that I tried a squash that I enjoyed. My roommate got a squash from her family garden and roasted it in the oven with some butter and brown sugar. I tried a bite and I was in love. The squash was tender, sweet, slightly caramelized, and buttery. Yum!
A few years after college I began to try different types of roasted squash. I quickly learned that I loved them all. The issue with the squash at my childhood Thanksgiving dinners was that it was boiled and mashed. Boiling the squash deprives it of sooo much flavor (sorry family, but it is true).
Roasting is the way to go! It caramelizes the flesh, creating a sweet and nutty fall-time delicacy that does not resemble the consistency of baby food.
Mushroom, Kale, and Goat Cheese Stuffed Acorn Squash is a great way to introduce squash to your pallet.
The acorn squash is sweet, nutty, soft, and creamy. The ground beef adds substance, the kale adds an earthy chewiness, the mushrooms are a hearty meatiness, and the apple lends a pop of juicy crispness. The tangy goat cheese adds a touch of decadence that helps to balance the flavors. A touch of crunch is added by topping it off with some garlicky roasted squash seeds. Nothing is wasted here. This dish is quite possibly my new favorite!
The ingredients list may seem a bit over the top, but I promise that it is not so bad. The filling is cooked while the squash and seeds are hanging out in the oven. Then you simply stuff away.
Your friends and family will be super impressed when you serve them this dish!
- For the Acorn Squash:
- 1 acorn squash, washed, scrubbed and dried
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Sea Salt and pepper
- For the squash seeds:
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- For the filling:
- 1 tablespoon butter
- ¼ pound ground beef
- 1 small yellow or white onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 8 ounce package mushrooms, cleaned, stemmed, and roughly chopped
- ¼ to ½ cup vegetable or chicken stock
- 1 medium cooking apple, such as Cortland or Gala, roughly chopped
- ½ cup kale, washed, dried, roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon arrowroot powder, or cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons stock (only if needed for thickening)
- Sea Salt and pepper to taste
- Pinch of cayenne pepper, or to taste
- ½ 4 ounce package of goat cheese
- For the acorn squash:
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare 2 rimmed baking sheets (one medium-sized and one small) lined with a silpat mat or parchment paper.
- Using a large sharp knife cut the top and bottom of the acorn squash off. Turn the acorn squash on its flat end and slice the acorn squash in half. Using a rocking motion helps to shimmy the knife through. Use a large spoon or an ice cream scoop to remove the seeds and the membrane. Place the seeds in a bowl and set aside.
- Place the 2 squash halves on the larger baking sheet. Brush the flesh of the acorn squash with the olive oil. Sprinkle both halves with the sea salt and pepper. Place the halves skin side up and place in the oven. Cook for 30 to 45 minutes, or until a sharp knife is easily removed from the skin side of the squash. The cook time will vary depending on the size of your squash.
- Allow the squash to cool 3 to 5 minutes before handling.
- For the Seeds:
- While the squash is beginning to cook, prepare the seeds. Sort the large pieces of membrane from the seeds and discard. To the bowl of seeds add the sea salt, onion powder, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper and stir to coat the seeds. I find that the coating from the squash “slime” works well in place of oil.
- Place the seeds on the smaller baking sheet and spread out evenly. Roast in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, removing to stir halfway through. The seeds should be crispy and slightly browned when done. Set the seeds aside to cool.
- For the Filling:
- While the squash and seeds are cooking heat a medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat. Melt the butter, add the ground beef. Use a wooden spoon to break up the ground beef. Allow to brown thoroughly, about 5 minutes. Remove some of the grease if there is a lot.
- Add the onion and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, or until tender. Add the garlic and sauté for 2 minutes, or until fragrant. Add the mushrooms and vegetable stock. Turn the heat up to high and allow the stock to simmer for 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms are browned and the stock has reduced. Turn the heat down to low.
- If the stock needs to be thickened mix a teaspoon of cornstarch or arrowroot powder in a small bowl with 2 tablespoons of stock, until there are no more lumps. Add the mixture to the pan and stir until thickened, about 1 minute.
- Add the apple and kale. Sauté for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the kale is slightly wilted and the apple is slightly cooked but still crisp.
- Turn off the heat and add the sea salt and pepper to taste. Add the pinch of cayenne pepper or more if desired. Stir in the goat cheese, allowing it to melt a little.
- Stuff the cavities of the cooled squash with the beef and mushroom mixture. Sprinkle the squash seeds on top of the stuffed squash and place the rest in a bowl to add to the dish as needed. Serve immediately and enjoy.