Want a simple meal that’s cheap and loaded with antioxidants? Eat more hard-shelled squash like Carnival, Sweet Dumpling and Acorn.
I came home tonight with not a clue what my husband and I would eat for dinner. Then I spied it — a beautiful hard-shell Carnival squash, speckled green and orange and sitting in a bowl on my kitchen counter. I’d bought it about two weeks ago, at a local farm stand in upstate New York — one of the last-harvested vegetables of the season, and something in me, prior to this night, didn’t want to cut it up and eat it; it just looked so beautifully ornamental, in my kitchen.
But the right time had come to roast it up. I preheated the oven to 350 degrees, set the squash on a hard, flat surface, and pull out a Chinese cleaver (my attack weapon of choice for squash!) from the knife rack.
Warning!!!! Cutting a round, hard-shelled squash in half is a dangerous job. The orb is hard (like its name) and doesn’t lie flat. You need to lay the squash on its side on a sturdy, preferably wooden cutting surface, and holding it, while please keeping your fingers out of the way, make a deep cut lengthwise into the squash from stem to blossom end. Unless you’re really strong, you probably won’t cut it in half on your first whack. I like to make an initial cut and then use a wooden mallet or hammer to pound the clever deeper into the squash until it finally splits in two.
Then you have two halves that can be stuffed, seasoned and baked. But first use a spoon to scrape away any of its seeds and excess fibers.
I like a combination of brown sugar, freshly chopped ginger to taste, salt and pepper, and for this recipe I added a little chopped red pepper for extra color and crunch. Just layer these ingredients, to taste, in the little “bowl” in the center of each squash half; then top each with about 1/2 tablespoon of butter. Or, skip the butter and add to each half a piece of coarsely chopped bacon, which will release smoky flavor and crisp up nicely by the time the squash is fully roasted.
Set the two halves into a baking pan or dish and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 45 to 50 minutes or until you can slip the tip of a knife easily into the orange flesh.
A piece of broiled chicken or some browned sausage, as I show here, is all you need to complete this hearty, healthy, simple and delicious meal.
One last suggestion, stuffed squash halves make a nice presentation on a dinner party table and are perfect for Thanksgiving and other fall or winter holiday occasions. However, I wouldn’t recommend them for parties of more than 8 dinners, unless you have some help in the kitchen to cut and remove their seeds and fibers.