Saturday, November 2, 2013

Ingredient Spotlight: Acorn Squash (+ Brown Sugar & Walnuts)

The Beautiful Acorn Squash, Photo: NK
There are a ton of things that rock about fall - like fuzzy flannel shirts, leaf-peeping, and pumpkin flavored everything.  

Of course, cooking with autumn produce ranks high in our house and I can tell that you too love preparing the foods of the season. Our Foolproof Fall Dinner for Six  post is getting tons of traffic! It is a great menu, if we do say so ourselves. 

For more Autumn produce inspiration check out our super healthy recipe for Apple Rutabaga Mash. But today, we're all about the Acorn. Acorn Squash to be exact. If you are looking for the world's  easiest side dish for your next meal, please, look no further. Today's recipe is merely a guideline, as there are endless possibilities for baking acorn squash. Just let your favorite spices be your guide. 

Our version includes the usual brown sugar and butter, but adds a hint of cinnamon and some smokey paprika (my favorite spice of all time), before finishing it all off with a sprinkling of crunchy toasted walnuts. The textural combo of the tender squash and walnuts is just great. Also - I find it especially cool that this dish is self-contained. Slice off a bit of the squash's bottom and you've made yourself a sturdy little bowl filled with fall goodness. Just get out a spoon and start scooping out the sweet, nutty middles. 

This recipe is so easy - just bake the squash, flavor it like so
(or use your own favorite spices), and bake again! Photo: NK 

Before we jump to our recipe, let's first learn a bit about our main ingredient:

"(Acorn Squash) flesh is sweeter than summer squash, with a nut-like flavor. It is shaped like a ribbed acorn, hence its nickname. The growing period is longer than summer squash, giving it plenty of time to soak up the sweetness of the sun. 

Along with the standard green variety, you may also run across orange and white acorn squash varieties. Although available in many areas year-round, prime season for acorn squash is early fall through winter." 

OK! Now let's cook what we've learned. 

Baked Acorn Squash + Brown Sugar & Walnuts, Photo: NK

Baked Acorn Squash With Brown Sugar & Toasted Walnuts
Loosely Adapted from Martha Stewart
Serves 2

1 medium-sized Acorn Squash (about 1.5 pounds)
1/3 cup Toasted Walnuts, roughly chopped
1 heaping Tablespoon Dark Brown Sugar
1 Tablespoon Salted Butter, divided + more for greasing baking sheet
1/4 teaspoon Hot Smoked Spanish Paprika (or regular Paprika)
1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon

1. Preheat your oven to 425 and grease a baking sheet with butter.

2. Lightly toast your walnuts in the toaster oven if you've not done so already. They should turn slightly golden.

3. Cut acorn squash in half and carefully scoop out all the seeds. Slice off a small part of each of the squash bottoms so they will sit level on the baking sheet later.

4. Bake, cut side down, until golden, about 20-25 minutes.

5. Turn the squash over and pierce the insides all over with a fork. Rub a half tablespoon of butter on the flesh of each half and place any remainder in the middle. Sprinkle the dark brown sugar evenly over each half, follow with paprika, cinnamon, and then a pinch of salt and pepper.

6. Return squash to the oven to bake for another 25 or more minutes with the cut side up. When they are done, the flesh of the squash should be easily pierced with the tip of a dull knife. Sprinkle walnut pieces over each squash and serve warm! These are best eaten with a spoon. Enjoy!  

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