Long due : meeting with the winter squash

By Mélanie, on Sunday, November 16, 2008

I should have told you about this for a long time. Like, for example, when I first made it, as an invitation for fall to come. It was early September, leaves were barely changing colors and lunch could still be appreciated on a terrace. This was my way to feel the seasonal change.

Or when a light breeze caused a golden fall of leaves, making me realize that autumn had arrived. I wonder if I used to be blind, or if the days were cooler and sunnier than usual, but I had never seen such vibrant red and gold in the trees. It was exactly what everyone would dream of for this season.

Or when I understood time had passed by again, and that we were now experiencing what people call “typical November weather” (I hate when they say that. It’s my month. So it shall not be criticated!). And anyway, I love that weather too. A dark grey sky, the sound of the wind blowing, heavy rain*, it makes me feel alive (ok, and also a little bit like a character of a Brontë sisters’novel).
* Well, except when I'm wearing my new shoes...

But now that a winter coat, and sometimes even mitten, are necessary to go outside and face the cold temperatures, I fell it’s high time for me tell you how I got to like winter squash. See, I was highly intrigued by them. Except for pumpkin and red kuri, we don’t cook/find a lot of winter squash in France. I tried them once in the US, but the flavors were too mild and cloying (just like pumpkin pie… I know this will sound as a sacrilege for some of you…). But then, I saw this cutie in the grocery store.

I had no idea what to do with it, but I just couldn't resist. I searched on the web to understand how I should cook it, and how the flavors would develop with other ingredients.

I took advantage of its nice shape for the presentation, and stuffed it with brown rice, celery, and some ground hazelnut, which complement ideally the nutty and sweet taste of the squash. And this is how I discovered how good it was!

Stuffed sweet dumpling squash
For 2

1 sweet dumpling squash
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion
1 branch of celery
1 tsp salt & pepper
1 tsp nutmeg
1 Tbsp dried parsley
¼ cup brown rice
1/3 cup hazelnuts
1/8 cup dried cranberries (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut through the stem end of the squash with a sharp knife. Scoop out the seeds and place cut-side down on the baking sheets. Bake for 40 minutes. Reduce the oven heat to 375°F.

While the squash is in the oven, cook the brown rice in the water.
Finely slice the onion and the celery. In a small sauté pan, heat the olive oil and sauté the celery and onion over medium heat until just softened. Stir in the parsley, pepper, nutmeg, and salt, and take the pan off the heat.

Use a food processor to grind the hazelnuts to powder.

When the squash is cooked, use a spoon to scoop out the flesh, leaving a bit behind to keep the skins from tearing. Mash the flesh coarsely with the ground nuts and the sautéed mixture.
Add the brown rice and the cranberries to the squash in the bowl and mix thoroughly.

Stuff the mixture into the squash shell. Bake for 20 minutes, then close with the lid and serve.

Patidou farci au riz brun et aux noisettes
Pour 2 personnes

1 patidou
1 cuillère à soupe d’huile d’olive
1 oignon
1 branche de céleri
1 pincée de sel, de poivre et de muscade
2 cuillères de persil
½ bouillon cube
50 g de riz brun
30 g de noisettes
20g d’airelles séchées (facultatif)

Préchauffez le four à 200°.

A l’aide d’un grand couteau, découpez le dessus du patidou pour avoir un couvercle. Videz les graines qui sont à l’intérieur de la courge. Posez la à l’envers dans un plat (n’oubliez pas le couvercle) et enfournez pour 40 minutes.

Pendant ce temps, émincez l’oignon et le céleri.
Faites cuire le riz dans une casserole d’eau bouillante salée avec le bouillon cube.
Faites chauffer l’huile dans une casserole. Lorsque l’huile est chaude, faites revenir les oignons. Lorsqu’ils ont atteint une couleur translucide, ajoutez le céleri et laissez dorer. Ajoutez sel, poivre et persil, et retirez ensuite du feu.

Dans votre mixeur, broyez les noisettes.

Une fois que la courge est cuite, creusez la chair avec une cuillère (attention de ne pas casser la peau de la courge, qui est assez fine et fragile) et passez la au mixeur avec les noisettes, les oignons et le céleri. Mélangez avec le riz égoutté et les airelles pour ensuite farcir la courge.

Remettez là dans le plat, et remettez au four à 180° pour 20 minutes.
Refermez la courge avec le couvercle, et servez.

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