The one thing I never see in other people’s grocery carts is any of the wonderful array of winter squashes. Not that I’m nosy or anything.
I think the reason is that many people don’t know what to do with them. For the most part, you don’t really need to do much. However, they have a versatile flavor and texture that lends them to getting a little more gussied up whenever you want to get fancy.
The fact that all winter squash will have a cavity left behind after scooping out the seeds means they beg to be stuffed with something tasty. The possibilities can stretch from simply sweet to savory and meaty. In this case, a seasoned blend of lentils, rice, and pine nuts add nutty flavor and great texture to naturally sweet squashes like delicata and acorn. It’s like the Mediterranean diet took a trip to North America and decided to stay!
Greeks are no strangers to stuffing vegetables. Probably the most well known are stuffed tomatoes and peppers, a quintessential summer dish. Winter squashes aren’t as well known in Greece since they are native to North America, but I have no doubt that given the opportunity Greek cooks would take advantage of that nifty cavity and stuff them, too!
Lentil & Rice Stuffed Winter Squash Recipe
- 4 to 5 acorn or delicata squash, or other similar winter squash
- 1/4 cup olive oil, plus extra for brushing on the squash
- 1 lg. onion, about 3/4 pound, sliced
- 4 to 5 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 cup lentils, picked over and rinsed in a strainer
- 1/2 cup white rice
- 1 tsp. dried oregano, Greek preferred
- salt & pepper to taste
Split each squash lengthwise (from stem end to the blossom end) and scoop out the seeds. You can roast these like pumpkin seeds! Brush the flesh with olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt. Place them skin side down on a roasting pan and set aside.
Put the 1/4 cup olive oil in a pan with the onions and saute on medium heat until the onions are translucent and beginning to brown. Add the garlic and pine nuts and continue to cook for a minute more.
Add the water, cover the pan, and bring to a boil on high heat. Add the remaining ingredients, mix together, cover, and reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook without stirring or opening the pan for 15 minutes. The water should be almost completely absorbed and the rice and lentils tender but not all the way soft.
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Distribute the lentil and rice mixture into each cavity, lightly packing it in. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the flesh of the squash is soft. A sprinkle of crumbled feta cheese, mizithra, or Parmesan cheese tastes great on top, along with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Enjoy!