Roasted-and-Stuffed Acorn Squash with Coral Pepper Sauce

Okay, so I gave up on the sandals a couple weeks ago, save for the warm weekend. I’m embracing the autumn, yet a small piece of me still hangs onto the last bits of summer like the basil plant in my backyard that gave up some leaves for pasta the other night. A lone red tomato on the plant next to it was a welcome sight, too. When the calendar threatens that cold-weather crops are really on their way, chef and cookbook author Rozanne Gold said she begins to plot how to extend the last of the sun’s warmth and summer bounty. Her recipe for this roasted squash, which appeared in Real Food, is autumnal in spirit yet the edible squash “bowl” is filled with summer goodness—tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini—and perfumed with fresh thyme, cinnamon, ancho chile, and cumin. The coral-colored red pepper sauce ramps up the drama. This dish may have lots of ingredients but it is easy to make ahead. And if you’re looking for wine to pair, this main course is so “meaty” that it can stand up to a red; Pinot Noir would be a great choice.

Roasted-and-Stuffed Acorn Squash with Coral Pepper Sauce

Serves 6

3 large acorn squash, about 2 pounds each
¼ c. olive oil
2 large leeks
1 large eggplant, about 1¼ pounds
6 large ripe plum tomatoes
2 medium zucchini
3 large cloves garlic
1 ½ c. milk
1 lemon
2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, chopped
¼ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ancho chile powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
2 large red peppers
1 ½ Tbsp. unsalted butter
½ c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Cut each squash in half through the equator to get 2 halves. Scoop out seeds. Place on a rimmed baking sheet, cut side down. Pour ½ cup water in pan and roast for 45 minutes until soft. Remove from oven, turn over, and let cool.

Clean leeks. Chop white and light green parts finely to get 3 packed cups. Put oil in a very large nonstick skillet. Heat over medium-high heat and add leeks. Cook 5 minutes until golden, stirring constantly.

Cut zucchini, eggplant, and tomatoes into ½-inch pieces. Add eggplant to pan and cook over high heat for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add zucchini and cook 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook 5 minutes. Add milk, thyme, spices and garlic pushed through a press. Continue to cook until vegetables are soft and mixture is thick. Cut lemon in half and squeeze in juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pile mixture into squash. Sprinkle with cheese and bake 20 minutes until heated through.

Meanwhile, prepare coral sauce: Cut peppers into 1-inch pieces. Put in a medium saucepan with ½ cup water. Peel 3 cloves garlic and cut in half lengthwise. Add to saucepan. Bring to a boil. Cover pan and lower heat. Simmer 15 minutes until soft. Transfer contents to bowl of a food processor or blender. Add butter and process until very smooth. Add salt to taste and transfer back to saucepan.

Remove squash from oven. Reheat sauce and pour over each squash. Sprinkle with a little more cheese and/or fresh thyme.

Nutrition info (per serving) Roasted-and-Stuffed Acorn Squash with Coral Pepper Sauce: CALORIES 443 (151 from fat); FAT 17g (sat. 6g); CHOL 19mg; SODIUM 212mg; CARB 69g; FIBER 19g; PROTEIN 12g

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Mary Subialka is the editor of Real Food and Drinks magazines, covering the flavorful world of food, wine and spirits. She rarely meets a chicken she doesn’t like, and hopes that her school-age son, who used to eat beets and Indian food, will one day again think of real food as more than a means to a treat—and later share this with his younger brother.