Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Acorn Squash Stuffed with Cranberry & Leek Black Rice

So I go away for one week and am greeted back in New York with a full-fledged autumn farmers market. Teeming with spaghetti, acorn, and delicata squash; pumpkins, gourds, indian corn, apples, and pears....eek, vegetable anxiety induced panic attack happening now! Unable to resist I buy everything, so now the question is, what to make first??
I envisioned some sort of squash/leek/wild rice combination, and ended up with this Acorn Squash Stuffed with Cranberry & Leek Black Rice. I love wild rice, but its expensive and not always whole grain, so this black rice was the perfect solution. At only $3.69 a pack, I used Lundberg's black & mahogany whole grain rice blend to achieve the color and taste I was looking for. Hesitant to splurge? Mix wild rice or black rice with regular brown rice to dilute the cost but maintain the flavors.  
Braised in a lovely mixture of leeks, broth, sage and cranberries, the rice mixture exudes all the delightful elements of Thanksgiving stuffing.  The dish, which works perfectly on its own as a side to roast turkey or duck, is instead nestled in a baked squash half to deliver the ultimate taste of fall.
I chose acorn squash because it has a great shape for stuffing, and is small enough that I was sure I'd be able to cut it in half with my knife! Not only does the balsamic rice balance perfectly against the subtly sweet squash, but its fun to carve out each smooth spoonful of squash filling and finish with the robust, crunchy rice.

Acorn Squash Stuffed with Cranberry & Leek Black Rice (derived from AMA Family Health Cookbook)
Serves 2 main dishes or 4 side dishes

2 acorn squash, about 1 3/4 pounds each, halved lengthwise and seeded
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 leeks, white parts removed, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
3/4 cup black rice, rinsed
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus additional to taste
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage or 3/4 teaspoon crumbled dried sage
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Sprinkle the squash with salt & pepper and arrange in a baking dish cut side down. Bake, uncovered, in the preheated oven, until the squash begins to soften. After 25 minutes, turn squash so cut halves are facing up and bake until tender, about 20-25 minutes more.
2. While squash is cooking, prepare rice. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add leek and celery and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables begin to soften, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
3. Add 2 1/2 cups of broth along with rice and salt, stir once, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook, covered, for 30 minutes.  If liquid is absorbed at this time, add 1/2 cup more broth.
4. Add cranberries and sage and continue to cook until rice is ready, about 10 minutes, until liquid is absorbed.
5. Stir the vinegar and pecans into rice. Season with black pepper and more salt to taste.
6. Remove squash halves from oven and carefully scoop rice filling into squash. Serve warm.

American Medical Association. Family Health Cookbook. New York: Pocket, 1997. Print.

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