Hi! Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! This stuffed kabocha squash recipe is perfect if you’re a procrastinator like I am. It can be thrown together in a little under an hour and the presentation has a wow factor to it. I have actually made it a few times this fall and I’m still head over heels for this squash. I bought another one yesterday to make it again tomorrow. Kabocha squash is quite possibly my favorite, rivaled only by the delicata squash–though, butternut is still a contender. They’re kind of sweet, but not too much for a savory meal. Both the kabocha and the delicata have edible skin! No peeling! Just carve out the top with your chef’s knife and then scoop out the seeds. The squash bakes while you make the filling, which is a pot of basmati rice, chickpeas, mushrooms and greens. None of the components have a cook time of more than 5 mins, except for the rice, which will cost you about 20 minutes and can be done beforehand. Add some toasted pumpkin seeds and a handful of chopped dates or cranberries, thyme and you’re done. A little apple cider poured into the stuffed squash and over the outside to crisp up the skin and we’re talking about a winning meal here.
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, though like many people, it’s sometimes fraught for me. We always end up running around in two different directions at least. I used to worry about trying to be everything to everyone, but there’s only one of me and I’ve been a lot better about being present where I am. If that means saying no to friends who are in town and really want me to come over, then so be it. I’ve found that reversing the invitation is an amazing trick. If someone really wants to see you, that doesn’t always mean you have to go to them. It’s hard to choose between all the people you love, but I’ve learned to be grateful for the choice, to appreciate those who mean the most to me and to honor them with the time I choose to spend with them and they with me.
The other newer wrinkle is that diet eventually comes up. Why less (no) meat? Why more plants? Why are you being difficult? My plan to handle that is that I’ll try to bring something everyone will love and I just won’t get into it, unless the inquiry is out of pure curiosity and not bait. I’m sure people have a lot more to talk about and on their minds then what I’m putting or not putting on my plate. If anyone really wants to know, they’ll drop by here!
Aside from the usual trappings of running around and family dynamics though, there is a certain magic that comes with this season’s inauguration. There is a feeling of home. This past weekend we were hiking and the season’s first snow landed on my face. Warm drinks, long sleeves, and that crisp November smell casts me into a reverie of nostalgia that brightens my step.. Being outside is a year-round activity for me and I get a rush of excitement when it’s cold and I’m out there too. That’s what hot chocolate and mulled apple cider are for!
Before I let you go, if you’re still looking for good Thanksgiving ideas check out this pumpkin pie, this stuffed pumpkin and this vegan cheesecake. They’re all easy to make, quick and so good. Just the kind of recipes I need when things at the firm inevitably ALL become “urgent” before (and sometimes during) a long weekend or holiday.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you and positive vibes to those outside the US too. Thank you for helping to make this space what it is.
BASMATI RICE, MUSHROOM + CHICKPEA STUFFED KABOCHA SQUASH
For the stuffed kabocha squash:
- 1 small kabocha squash, about 1/2 pound
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 8-10 oz various mushrooms
- 1 can chickpeas
- 1 cup basmati brown rice
- 2 cups spinach/kale or greens of your choice
- 3 cups water
- 1 handful chopped dates or dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup pepitas, toasted over a flame
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
- pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- pinch of cinnamon
- 1/2 cup apple cider, plus more for cooking the chickpeas (optional)
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
For the squash:
Using a very sturdy knife—and caution—cut a cap out of the top of the squash. Scoop out the seeds and strings from the cap and from inside the squash. Season the inside of the squash generously with salt, pepper and nutmeg, and put it on the baking sheet and into the oven while you make the stuffing (this pre cooks the squash for about 20 mins).
For the rice:
In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, boil the 3 cups water. Add the rice and let cook until soft. Lower the heat to low and cover. Let sit until done. Add more water as needed. While the rice is cooking, make the rest of the stuffing.
For the chickpeas:
Add the can of chickpeas to a medium saucepan pan over medium heat. Pour in about 1/4 cup of apple cider to marinate the chickpeas. Stir until heated and warm.
For the mushrooms:
Heat a medium pan over medium heat. Add about 1 tsp olive oil, sesame oil or vegetable broth. Add the mushrooms and stir until soft. Add salt, pepper and thyme as desired.
For the greens:
In a small to medium pan over medium heat at the greens and about 1/4 cup water. Heat until wilted (about 5-7 mins). Season as desired.
When each of the above components is finished add to a big bowl and mix. I usually have extra rice and try to make sure the rice doesn’t overwhelm the mix. Add the pepitas, dates/cranberries and thyme.
Remove squash from oven. Pack the mix into the squash. The squash should be well filled. Reserve any leftover mix for later. I usually have more squash than filling and am happy to have extra for leftovers.
Stir the rest of the apple cider with the nutmeg, a hint of cinnamon and some salt and pepper and pour a about 1/4 cup into and over the squash. You might have too much or too little depending on the size of your squash—you don’t want the ingredients to swim, you want the hint of flavor and the outside to crisp up a bit.
Put the cap in place and bake the squash for about 45 mins—or until the flesh of the squash is tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a knife. Because the squash will have exuded liquid, remove the cap during the last 20 minutes or so.
When the squash is ready, carefully, very carefully—it’s heavy, hot, and wobbly—bring it to the table. To serve, put it on a plate and/or cut like a pie. Enjoy!