This was about the healthiest meal I think I have ever made, and it was absolutely wonderful. I made this a couple of weeks back. It was a very creative use of some of our favorite ingredients. The concept started out simple enough, make stuffed squash. Then it evolved…a couple of times! Now, I have to preface that this is not a quick dish. This is a perfectly designed dish for someone who finds cooking therapeutic and wants to spend the whole day in the kitchen. Nothing on the list is particularly difficult to prepare, but there are a lot of steps. I really enjoy a whole day in the kitchen so this was a perfect Sunday for me.
Start by soaking about 6 ounces of adzuki beans overnight. I precooked the beans the next morning because it takes so long. I also cooked a cup of wild rice (used only 2 cups cooked and saved the rest for another dish).
Then I cooked each of the following components.
Rough chop a pound of potatoes into even pieces, cover with water in a stock pot and boil to make mashed potatoes. When the potatoes are done, drain and mash. Add anything you would normally add to your mashed potatoes. I added sour cream and goat cheese gouda. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice and clean two acorn squashes (mine were very different sizes but they were in need of cooking so I went with it). Place the squash halves cut side down on a cookie sheet with edges. Put in the oven for 45-60 minutes. I use a butter knife to press on the backs of the halves. When they are done they will give quite a bit. Remove them from the oven and use a spatula/flipper to remove them from the water bath and place cut side up on a cutting board to cool.
Be really carful when you use a water bath that you do not burn yourself. Remember to use a silicon pot holder because the fabric one will soak up that scorching hot water and burn your hand. Also to note, while this is a much healthier way to cook squash than with salt and butter, be sure that you get enough water in the pan, or add more as you go, so as not to burn the squash.
Peel and chop two large carrots into small pieces (like 1 cm squared) and boil until tender. Remove from water and put into a large mixing bowl.
Bring a large stock pot of water almost to a boil and add 1/2 lb (8 oz) of fresh baby spinach (you can use frozen here too, just make sure to wring it really well). Remove the spinach from the water after about 2 minutes. Use a pasta spoon to move the spinach around the pot to make sure it wilts evenly. Drain spinach and spread out on a clean kitchen towel. Cover with another towel and roll the whole thing up. Squeeze as you do this to get the water out. Repeat if needed. The goal here is to get the spinach dry and the towel keeps the spinach from tearing.
Put the spinach in a pile on the cutting board and chop through it roughly. Add to the bowl with the carrots. Add the beans and rice and mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Fill each squash half until heaping and use your hand to make sure the mixture is firmly inside the squash. Take a handful of mashed potatoes and form them into a disk in your hand. Form the disk over the mixture to make a potato cover for the squash. Cover with grated parmesan and put onto the baking sheet form earlier (make sure you remove the water!). Repeat with the other three halves and put the sheet in the oven at 350 degrees until the cheese is bubbly (25 minutes or so).
The real kicker on this dish was a quick simple gravy to top it with. While the Squash is cooking put 3 tablespoons of butter in a pan over medium heat. When melted add 1/4 C flour to the butter (you may not need this much so add it slowly mixing between additions) using a whisk to incorporate. You are looking for a consistency that is not dry, but not too wet, you don’t want any butter that is not creamy with flour. Whisking constantly increase the heat to medium high and cook for about 1-2 minutes. Add one can (or 15 oz of homemade) of beef, chicken, or veggie/mushroom broth (which ever you prefer, I used beef) and whisk to incorporate. Continue to whisk as the mixture thickens. Once you have consistent bubbles reduce heat to medium/low and stir frequently. This is the simplest pan gravy you can make. Promise.
Remove the squash from the oven, plate and cover with gravy. Feels sinful because of the gravy, but is really just vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. YUM!