Squashes are all over at the farmer’s markets this time of year in Indianapolis. I must admit that the idea of winter squash never much intrigued me. It seemed hard and time consuming to prepare…and brought back faint childhood memories of being forced against my will to sample some each fall (just try it!).
On a whim, I bought a few acorn squashes just to see what might happen – and I’m so glad I did, because they blew my misconceptions out of the water! Not only did the squash have a delicious, sweet and nutty taste, but it only took about 30 minutes to roast! And with no real chopping or peeling involved? That’s my kind of recipe.
I love accenting sweet with savory flavors, so while there are many recipes for acorn squash that call for roasting with sugar or stuffing with dried fruit, I knew I’d prefer a straight savory combination with the squash. Quinoa with some sauteed leeks (one of my favorite fall foods) fit the bill perfectly. However, this recipe can have endless variations – just adjust to use your favorite grains and stuffing items (cheese, nuts, dried fruit, etc)!
This a great option for a Thanksgiving or other special meal as a vegetarian or vegan main dish, or a hearty side dish! It also happens to be gluten-free.
- 2 large acorn squash (about 2½ pounds each) or 4 small acorn squash
- 1½ cups quinoa (white, red, or mixed)
- 1 pound leeks (we used 2 medium leeks, about ½ pound each)
- ¼ cup fresh sage
- ¼ cup fresh thyme
- 3½ tablespoons olive oil (divided)
- ½ cup walnuts
- Kosher salt
- Fresh ground pepper
- Roast the squash: Preheat the oven to 425°F. Cut each squash in half, and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Drizzle ½ tablespoon olive oil over the cut side (or ¼ tablespoon over each if you use 4 smaller squash) and season with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Place the halves cut side down on a baking sheet, and roast for about 20 to 35 minutes, until slightly browned and easily pierced with a fork. (The time will be less for smaller squashes; test with a fork after 20 minutes; if the fork doesn’t go all the way through, cook a bit longer.)
- Make the quinoa: Cook the quinoa following the instructions found at Master Recipe: Perfect Quinoa, using 1½ cups quinoa and 2¼ cups water. While the quinoa cooks, complete Step 2 and 3.
- Prepare the fresh ingredients: Chop off the dark green stems of the leeks, then slice them in half length-wise. Place each leek half cut-side down on the cutting board, then chop it into thin slices (resulting in half-moon shapes). There will be dirt in between each layer of the leeks, so when you’ve finished chopping them, rinse them thoroughly in a colander. Remove the leaves of the thyme, and chop the sage leaves. If not already chopped, roughly chop the walnuts (we usually place them in a bag or towel and hit them with the back of a spoon).
- In a skillet, heat 1½ tablespoons olive oil. Add the leeks, and saute about 4 minutes, just before they begin to brown. While you saute the leeks, toast the walnuts – place them in a small skillet and toast over low heat, until slightly browned. (Make sure to watch so they don’t burn!)
- When the quinoa is done, stir in the sauteed leeks. Then add the fresh sage, thyme, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, and fresh ground pepper. Taste, and add more salt or pepper to taste, as well as a drizzle of olive oil if desired.
- When the squash are done, spoon quinoa generously into each half. Top with walnuts and serve immediately.