The holiday season is here. Let’s get creative for every palate in the house this year. Here is a vegetarian dinner course of impressive size and heft, to rival any stuffed turkey or loin of pork. The interior is a spin on a kale salad laced with croutons, dried cranberries, blue cheese and frosted pecans that complement the sweet flesh of the squash. You could use any sweet-fleshed winter squash, but delicata squash is our favorite option for reasons of taste and beauty. For a main course, serve a squash whole standing tall on each plate.
Here’s what you’ll need to make this beauty:
• 6 small delicata squash, about 1 pound each
• Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
• Olive oil, for the baking sheet
• 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 2 medium onions, diced
• 1 bunch red kale (about 1 pound), trimmed and chopped
• 6 ounces whole-grain bread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (about 3 cups)
• ½ cup crumbled blue cheese
• ½ cup dried cranberries
• ½ cup pecans, roughly chopped
• 2 tablespoons maple syrup or brown sugar
• 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, for garnish
Cut 1 inch off the top and bottom of each squash. Use a melon baller or small spoon to scrape out the seeds. Sprinkle the inside of the squash with salt and pepper, then stand them upright on an oiled baking sheet.
1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. In a large saucepan set over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. When it foams, add onions to pan and sauté, stirring frequently, until they begin to soften and turn translucent, approximately 6 to 8 minutes. Add kale to pan and continue to cook, tossing, until kale begins to wilt, about 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and put vegetables into a large bowl.
2. Meanwhile, place bread cubes on a sheet pan and toast in the oven until they begin to crisp on the outside, approximately 7 to 9 minutes. Add bread cubes to the bowl with the vegetables, and then add blue cheese and cranberries. Stir to combine.
3. Put pecans in a dry sauté pan set over medium heat and toast the nuts until they begin to darken and turn fragrant, approximately 4 to 6 minutes. Stir in maple syrup and allow to cook for 1 minute, then scrape into the bowl with the rest of the stuffing and toss to combine. Taste and season the mixture with salt and pepper.
4. Lower oven temperature to 400 degrees. Divide the stuffing between the squash. Cut the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter into 6 pieces, and top each squash with a dot of butter. Roast squash until the flesh has softened and you can easily pierce it with a fork, approximately 45 minutes. If the squash is browning too quickly, lay a sheet of aluminum foil over the top to prevent burning.
5. Sprinkle parsley over the squash. Serve 1 whole squash per person as a main course, or 1/2 squash or less as a side dish.
Your Vegetarian and non Veggie family and friends will enjoy this wonderful dish.