As soon as we get into serious winter weather (or at least what passes for it here), I start to think almost fondly of summer. Almost. Remember, it’s stinking hot here.
Really, what I start to think about is all the tasty produce that we get from the garden and the farm stands. Yes, I know you can buy tomatoes and cucumbers all year, but honestly, that doesn’t mean it’s good. Not only that, but there’s nothing wrong with a little change of pace when it comes to food.
Just before Halloween, I happened to come across a produce section overflowing with a serious selection of winter squashes. They had pumpkins of various colors and sizes, and an equal diversity of acorn squashes, kabocha, delicata, and others I’d never heard of before. So, of course I had to get some (psssst… some means a lot). Good thing for me they last a looooooonnnngg time.
I had made a bunch in my usual fashion with butter and marmalade, but decided with the other **cough cough** dozen (and still several pumpkins left to go) to try something different. I figured, why should summer produce have all the fun? One of the best Greek dishes is made by stuffing fresh vegetables with a mixture of meat and rice and roasting them to perfection. Uh, hello! Winter squash have a cavity left after the seeds are gone, just begging for a stuffing. I am happy to oblige!
Winter Squash Yemista Recipe
Yemista (Γεμιστá) is pronounced yeh-mee-STAH and simply means stuffed. I made three times the amount listed below and that was enough to stuff about a dozen various squashes. The recipe below should be enough for 3-4 winter squash, depending on their size.
- 1/2 lb. onion, sliced
- 2-3 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1/2 lb. ground beef
- 4 large garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
- 1/2 c. regular white rice
- 3/4 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 Tbsp. dried parsley
- 3 Tbsp. pine nuts
- 1/3 c. raisins, or an equal blend of raisins and dried cranberries
- 1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
- pepper to taste
- 1 c. water
In a sauté pan, put the oil and onions, turn heat to high until the onions begin to sizzle. Turn the heat down to medium and sauté onions until they are translucent and just beginning to brown. Add the meat and remaining ingredients except the water. Mix the meat in thoroughly and continue to cook until the meat is mostly browned. Add in the water, mix together, turn the heat down to a low simmer and cover the pan. Cook until the rice is almost cooked through, about 10-15 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave covered.
Preheat the oven to 400° F. Lightly oil a deep roasting pan. Prepare your squashes by cutting them in half from stem end to blossom end, and then scoop out the seeds. You can roast them like pumpkin seeds if you like, or even put them in the compost! Place the squash halves skin side down in the pan and lightly salt the insides.
Taste the meat mixture and adjust seasonings as needed. Scoop the mixture into each cavity so that it is full, but not packed. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and put in the oven. Unlike stuffed tomatoes or peppers, these squash don’t give up as much moisture to finish cooking the rice, so it is important to cover the pan to trap the steam and keep the stuffing from drying out.
Roast the squash for about an hour or until the squash are soft enough to be easily pierced in the side with a fork. Be careful when opening the foil as the steam can burn! The squash are easiest to eat with a spoon to scoop out the flesh. These taste great with a grating of fresh parmesan or a sprinkle of crumbled feta!