Kabocha Squash with Wild Rice Stuffing

from Christina Pirello

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Ah, finally, the centerpiece dish of the feast. It seems that tradition dictates that something be “stuffed,” so some very clever vegetarians came up with the idea of baking the stuffing in a hearty, sweet winter squash. Since then, many variations on the theme have emerged, each more delicious. Here’s one of mine.

Makes 6-8 servings

2 medium kabocha squash, tops removed jack-o-lantern style, seeds removed
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons barley malt
sea salt

¾ cup wild rice, rinsed very well
1 ½ cups spring or filtered water
sea salt
extra virgin olive oil
2-3 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced
1 red onion, finely diced
1-2 stalks celery, diced
8 ounces tempeh, coarsely crumbled
½ teaspoon dried basil
½ cup pine nuts
½ cup dry white wine
2-3 cups firmly packed, shredded whole grain, sourdough bread
1-2 cups fresh orange juice
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

After hollowing squash, whisk together oil, barley malt and a pinch of salt. Using your fingers, rub the mixture over the outsides and insides of the squash. Place them in a baking dish, replacing the caps. Add water to accumulate about one half-inch. Cover with foil and bake until the squash pierces easily with a fork, but is still firm, about 45 minutes.

While the squash bakes, make the stuffing. Place wild rice and water in a heavy pot and bring to a boil. Add a pinch of salt, cover, reduce heat to low and cook until all liquid has been absorbed and rice is tender, about 35 minutes. Set aside.

Place a small amount of oil, garlic, and onion in a skillet and turn heat to medium. When the onions begin to sizzle, add a pinch of salt and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Stir in celery and sauté for 1 minute. Stir in tempeh and dried basil and sauté until tempeh begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Add pine nuts, wine and season to taste with salt. Cover and cook for 5-7 minutes. Remove cover and cook until all liquid has been absorbed.

Place bread in a mixing bowl and add cooked rice, sautéed vegetables and tempeh. Slowly add orange juice, mixing well until a soft stuffing forms. Don’t make it too wet.

Stuff each squash abundantly and replace in baking dish. Lay caps in baking dish next to squash, not on top. Cover with foil and bake until squash is quite tender, 35 minutes to one hour, depending on the size of the squash. Remove from oven and allow squash to cool for about 10 minutes before transferring to a serving platter.

Note: Extra stuffing can be pressed into an oiled baking dish and cooked, covered for 35-40 minutes. Remove cover and brown the top before serving.