I’ve been missing Bard. It’s probably the fall weather: the Hudson Valley’s prime season is autumn. I miss the trees, that smell, the crisp feeling in your bones when you step outside. And with the physical recollections come mental ones: biking to a field for a picnic, walking home from Smog after a dance, reading at Blithewood.
My parents have been missing Bard too. At a two hour drive from home they were frequent visitors, and we were all dying to make it back to my old school. Back to Annandale. So we packed up the dogs, our rain boots, the New York Times, and drove up there on Saturday. It was at our favorite farmstand that we came up with this dish. Mom and I were (a little) excited that Dad would be away in Boston the coming week. It meant a sleepover. And vegetarian meals. A glimpse of acorn squash made Mom insist we stuff it. And that’s exactly what we did.
Back in her ol’ college days, Mom was a vegetarian. Her roommate, my aunt Maureen, was too. It was easy for them to eat a lot of fish, they were, after all, in Rhode Island. But they also cooked up a lot of stuffed veggies: zucchini, tomato, squash. Lucky for me, Mom’s many years since graduation have allowed her to accumulate knowledge on spices, vegetables, and cooking techniques. For this dish we said “Goodbye” to Progresso Breadcrumb Stuffed Vegetables and “Hello” to wild rice, mushroom, and squash seed. With a little inspiration from Canyon Ranch, we arrived to this recipe.
The lovely thing about this dish is it’s simple enough for a weeknight, and breathtaking for a special occasion. Serve with fresh cut thyme and you’ve made a wonderful presentation, and a tasty addition. Mom and I helped ourselves to one half each and it was enough for dinner, but if the eater is hungry, I’d suggest one whole squash for dinner, and serving a half squash as a side-dish.
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup wild rice
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, plus extra for garnish
3 tablespoons fresh sage, 1 tablespoon chopped fine
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, plus extra for sprinkling
2 acorn squash, halved
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small onion, diced
1 peeled carrot, diced
1 celery stick, diced
1 cup baby bella mushrooms, diced
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 1/2 ounces goat cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring chicken stock to a boil over medium-high heat. Add rice, 1/2 teaspoon of salt (omit if using salted stock), thyme, and sage. Reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered, until the rice kernels are tender, about 45 minutes.
Seed acorn squash like you would a pumpkin: scoop seeds and stringy interior out with a spoon. Rinse seeds with water until clean; set aside. Place halved squash on a roasting pan, flesh side up. Salt to taste and brush halves with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle squash seeds on pan and coat with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 teaspoon salt. Bake acorn squash until tender and pierced easily with a fork, about 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add onion to the pan and cook until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add carrot; cook until tender, about 1 minute. Add celery; cook until tender, about 1 minute. Add mushrooms and allspice; cook until all vegetables are soft and fragrant, about 4 minutes.
Remove squash from oven and set to cool until easily handled. Using a spoon, remove cooked flesh from each squash half, leaving about 1/4 inch of the squash as a lining. In a medium bowl, combine squash flesh with cooked vegetables and rice. Spoon the vegetable mixture into the 4 squash shells. Top each with goat cheese and toasted squash seeds. Return stuffed squash to baking sheet and heat until goat cheese is melted, about ten minutes. Serve hot, with fresh thyme as garnish.