Friday, May 20, 2011

Acorn Squash or Pod People?

I wasn't sure anything would come of the rotten acorn squash I tossed out into what used to be a small flower bed, but to my amazement, things were happening underground.

The acorn squash, stored over autumn on my cold back porch, had turned bright yellow-orange and was so soft my fingers squished through it. The week-long winter rains were still pouring down in solid sheets and since I had no desire to venture outside, I simply opened the back door a couple of inches and tossed the yukky thing toward the section of my backyard I laughingly refer to as a garden. Then I forgot about it. Bad memory, I suppose.

The next time I noticed the rotting mass, it was in my raised flower bed. I didn't want it there, so I moved it back to the garden area. A few days later, it was in a different spot. Spooky. But most likely the culprit had been my dog, Bonnie, thinking she had some new kind of toy. Still, memories of the 1950s movie called "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers" where aliens take over most of a small town via Pod People who had hatched beneath the large-leafed plants that were now growing everywhere teased my mind. One day there was an unexpected  knock at my door. I froze. What if.... What if.... But it was only my gardener.

"What do you want me to do with that squash?"  he asked. I told him to leave it in the garden. I was hoping some of the seeds would sprout so I'd have squash the coming summer. He shook his head in seeming disbelief, said O.K, and went back to work. The squash lay exposed to the elements all winter--a time of more driving rain than we ever see in S. California. Then the thing just disappeared. I figured the gardener had grown tired of looking at it and sent it off to veggie heaven. Truth be told, the carcas had melted into the soil and disappeared. Oh well, I says to myself, I gave it a good try.

It was a sunny spring day when I noticed something odd over in the garden. Two large seedlings had sprouted nearly side by side. I recognized the leaves. Squash. I had squash growing. And growing. And growing. Overnight it would stretch another foot or more, sending feelers in every direction. The plants grew larger and larger, taking over not only the garden area but a good portion of my grass. The thing was taking over my small backyard, bit by bit.
The squash plant has become unweildly and is taking over my grassy lawn a couple of feet at a time. There is no way to move it and I don't intend to cut it back. I'm learning to live with it. Besides, I have other vegetaables that have reseeded in strange places and I'm leaving them as is also. Anywhere food wants to grow on my property, more power to it.

In all my years of gardening, I've never tried growing acorn squash. It's one of my favorite vegetables, but I know how much room they need to fully spread out, so I'd simply purchased them at the grocery store. I began thinking of what I'd do with my supposed bounty. In the mood to experiment, I purchased a couple of acorn squash. Then I hit the internet for  recipes. I found one that sounded tantalizing and had more than 40 recommendations. It wasn't vegan, but I figured I could change it to fit my vegan lifestyle. The end result was so packed with flavors, I declared the dish good enough for company. I'm thinking you'll like it too. Oops, there's the doorbell. Who on earth could be here this late on a Friday night? I peek through the window. Oh my gosh, it looks like Pod Peop........

The dish was a meal unto itself.  It was supposed to be a side, but I couldn't even finish the whole squash. I bought medium sized squash, but should have purchased small ones. If you want a full meal, go big. Whichever you choose, you'll like the finished product.


1 package broccoli and cheese flavored rice mix
1 pound turkey sausage
2 medium acorn squash, halved and seeded
1/2 cup chopped apple
2 tsp. crushed coriander seed
1/2 cup shredded white cheese

Prepare the rice mix according to package directions. Cover and set aside.
Place squash halves onto a baking sheet and roast, uncovered, for at least 1/2 hour for small; longer for large ones.
In a medium skillet, cook the sausage until evenly browned. Drain and set aside.
In a large bowl, mix together the rice, sausage, apple, and coriander.
 Stuff each squash with 1/4 of the mixture.

Place the squash back in the oven for another 30 minutes to finish cooking.
Remove from oven and sprinkle with shredded cheese. Then back into the oven for a few minutes.

Addendum: I read all 42 comments concerning this recipe and more than a few reviewers said the brocolli and rice boxed mix was not good choice. They had switched to Uncle Ben's White and Wild Rice mix,  so I did too.

Everyone seemed to agree that the coriander seeds were an absolute must, so don't leave them out.

 I switched out the turkey sausage for two tofu Italian Sausages cut into small cubes. It was an excellent exchange.

The recipe doesn't recommend any certain apple so I used a Granny Smith for its ability to bake without falling apart. Good choice. The apple still had a bit of crunch and went really well with the sweetness of the squash and the tang of the spices.

Since I can't stand the taste or mouth feel of vegan cheese, I simply left it off.

I've already decided that the cooked rice mix doesn't need 30 minutes in the oven. When I prepare this again, I'm going to roast the squash till it's almost ready to eat, then stuff it and reduce the oven time to about 15 minutes.

Although the finished dish was delicious, it appeared dried out, which it wasn't. A cheesy top would have improved its appearance. Next time I'm going to add some flour to 2 Tbs. of olive oil and make a rue, then thin it out with vegetable broth and drizzle it atop each squash. With the cheese verboten, the dish just needs something to dress it out.

P.S. I took the opening photo two days ago. Today there is nothing of the planter showing. That's just how fast squash grows. Amazing.

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