This hearty roasted squash dish makes for a lovely vegetarian addition to any holiday table.
Squash is a fabulous storage crop that offers filling, sweet, comforting fall and winter fare. When it is the season, nothing makes me happier than the smell of hearty foods roasting in the oven and the bounty that greets me at the table. This stuffed squash works well alongside an invigorating dish like Chicories with Warm Vinaigrette, Spinach and Grapefruit Salad with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds (try using the squash seeds!), Apple and Parsley Salad, or Deep-Sea Purple Kraut. Makes 6-8 servings.
For the Filling:
- 1 cup dried French lentils
- 1 cup walnuts
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups chopped onion (2 medium onions or 3 small)
- ¼ cup fresh sage or 2 teaspoons dried
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary or 2 teaspoons dried
- 1 cup crumbled goat cheese
- Paprika and fresh sage leaves, for garnish (optional)
For the Squash:
- 2 butternut squashes, 2 ½ – 3 pounds each
- Olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Begin the filling: Soak the lentils in enough water to cover by 6 inches for 6 to 10 hours. Soak the walnuts in enough water to cover by 1 inch for 6 to 10 hours. Then drain both. Coarsely chop the walnuts.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
- Prepare the squash: Cut the squashes in half lengthwise and remove the seeds (consider saving them to roast). Rub the inside of the squash with oil and season with salt and pepper. Set the squashes facedown on a baking sheet. Roast for 40 to 55 minutes, depending on the size and shape of the squash, until the thickest part is just fork-tender. (If you cook it too long, the squash meat will start to separate from the skins, which will make it a little harder to serve.)
- Meanwhile, continue the filling: Combine the lentils in a saucepan with enough water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, skim any foam off the top, then reduce the heat and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Turn off the heat, let sit for 15 minutes, and then drain; this “steeping” will help the lentils absorb water and continue to cook without getting mushy or falling apart.
- Warm the 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the sage, thyme, rosemary, and chopped walnuts, and cook until the fresh sage leaves turn bright green and aromatic or until the dried herbs are aromatic and tender, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.
- Drain any liquid from the roasting pan and turn the squash halves faceup. Scoop a bit of the squash from the neck to create more room for the stuffing. Dice that bit of cooked squash coarsely — it will be very soft, but cutting it will help make mixing it into the stuffing easier.
- Combine the lentils with the onion mixture, and season generously with salt and pepper. Stir in the diced cooked squash and cheese until just combined. Spoon the stuffing into the squash. Bake, uncovered, for 15 minutes, or until the stuffing is hot through. (If you like, the squash can be stuffed ahead of time and baked just before serving.) Garnish with paprika and fresh sage leaves, if desired.
- Serve hot. I like to let people eat it right out of the skin, although sometimes the skin is tender enough to eat too.