Curried Lamb and Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash

Well, it is now officially autumn. Weather-wise, it came early this year up here in northeast Ohio; the trees are already turning, which usually doesn’t really begin to ramp up until the second week of October in this neck of the woods, and my winter wardrobe’s migration towards the front of our closet is also a bit premature.  It’s the last week of the season for our CSA and Beloved has begun clearing out our own gardens, as well.

I don’t think we’ll be buying as many apples this year, as we still have plenty of applesauce from last year, but I’m really looking forward to some apple-based dishes, both sweet and savory, and I’m going to try and make some apple cider jelly.

We’ve decided not to do a CSA share next year, but rather get our summer produce from our own gardens and supplement with purchases from local farmer’s markets.  There’s only so much we can consume, even with Darling Daughter back home and The Young One here for the summer and holidays, and some of what we grew ourselves simply went unharvested – mostly leafy greens – because we just couldn’t eat it all.

Winter squashes are in full swing about now, and my obsession with cooking and stuffing them continues unabated.  Last week, it was Mexican-inspired stuffed spaghetti squash; this week, it’s a Moroccan-flavored lamb and quinoa mixture heaped inside roasted acorn squash.

Acorn squash isn’t my favorite – that spot is reserved for butternuts and kabochas – but we had two we’d acquired through our CSA share and I decided, since they were sitting there on the counter, just staring me in the face, that I probably should do something with them.  I wasn’t in the mood for soup (that happened last night with our lone sweet dumpling squash), but another stuffed squash sure sounded like a good idea.  It wasn’t long before I was pulling the last pound of ground lamb from our freezer and the bag of sprouted quinoa from the pantry.

It turns out it was an excellent idea – this was just delicious (frankly, I’d have been happy eating just the filling; it was that good).  Darling Daughter and I shared one half between the two of us, while Beloved inhaled an entire half all on his own.  This is also one of those dishes that is even better the next day, and it reheats beautifully.

Curried Lamb and Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash. Liven up that ordinary roasted acorn squash with lamb, quinoa and curry powder.

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Curried Lamb and Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 2 medium acorn squash
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup raisins, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped pistachios
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Cut the squashes in half, lengthwise, and scoop the seeds from the center. Rub each half with the olive oil; place cut side down on a shallow, rimmed baking sheet. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes, or until easily pierced with a fork.
  3. While the squash is in the oven, cook the lamb in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat, breaking it up as it cooks with a large wooden spoon. Once it has barely begun to brown, add the onion and continue cooking until most of the fat has rendered from the meat and the onion has softened. Stir in the garlic, curry powder, cumin, cinnamon, coriander and salt and pepper and cook until the meat is cooked through and the mixture is fragrant.
  4. Remove the meat mixture from the heat and stir in the pistachios, raisins and quinoa, mixing well. Set aside.
  5. When the squash is done, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool slightly. Turn it over so that the cut sides are facing up and spoon the lamb/quinoa mixture into the centers, packing it in as necessary, until all of the filling has all been used.
  6. Reduce the heat to 350 F and return the stuffed squash halves to the oven. Bake, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
  7. Carefully cut each in half lengthwise before serving.
  8. Nutrition (per serving): 396 calories, 21.5g total fat, 41.4mg cholesterol, 512.4mg sodium, 833.2mg potassium, 39.6g carbohydrates, 5.1g fiber, 11.7g sugar, 14.8g protein

Pomegranate-Glazed Meatballs

Well, hello there.   I know I haven’t posted in a month, and I apologize, but I’ve needed this break in the worst possible way.  Part of the problem is that I stare at a computer screen all day and most days the last thing I want to do is go home and stare at it some more.  Another part of the problem is all of my “photography stuff” got consigned to the basement over the holidays and I have so not been motivated to run up and down those stairs looking for appropriate place settings for pictures.  And it’s also the dead of winter, which in northeast Ohio means NO sunlight, which means using artificial lighting for photos and I’ve gotten to the point where I hate that.

Yeah, I know – excuses, excuses.  At any rate, I’m not going to make any promises about the frequency of posting in the near future, but I think I’m ready to get back into the saddle again, at least on a provisional basis.

Even with all of the above-mentioned excuses, I’ve managed to photograph a thing or three I’ve cooked over the last month (when the stars were aligned just so); this is one of them.  And it is very, very good – Beloved keeps asking me when I’m going to make it again, and we argued over what little leftovers there were the next day.  It’s also incredibly simple, and these days, that’s a huge plus.

If you look at the photo, you’ll see this is served over something you might think is lentils, and you’d be 100% correct – it’s a sprouted lentil pilaf, and it was really delicious.  In the wake of all the brouhaha about resistant starch, we’ve been incorporating a moderate amount of properly prepared legumes (soaked, sprouted or fermented, which deactivates much, albeit not all, of the lectins and phytates) back into our diet.  Which makes me happy, because I’ve always liked them.

If you wish to avoid legumes for whatever reason, these would be very nice served over just about any vegetable puree or steamed white rice.  Make those itty bitty, cocktail-sized meatballs, and they’d make a great appetizer, too.

The meatballs would also work well made with ground pork or turkey if you can’t find or don’t care for lamb.

Pomegranate-Glazed Lamb Meatballs.  These little gems are delicious - bright and exotic.

Click the image to enlarge

Pomegranate-Glazed Meatballs
Serves: 3
Ingredients
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons [url href=”http://www.janssushibar.com/pomegranate-molasses/” target=”_blank”]pomegranate molasses[/url]
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tablespoon chopped pistachios
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a large bowl, gently mix together the lamb, garlic, salt, coriander, cardamom and pepper until combined; form into meatballs. Transfer to a foil-lined baking sheet.
  3. Bake the meatballs until golden and just cooked through, 7 to 10 minutes. Brush with pomegranate molasses, making sure to coat the meatballs completely, and return to the oven until glazed, 3 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle with mint and pistachios and serve.
  4. Nutrition (per serving): 384 calories, 21.5g total fat, 101.3mg cholesterol, 581.8mg sodium, 1104.5mg potassium, 17.9g carbohydrates, <1g fiber, <1g sugar, 28.8g protein

Russian Beet Salad

This is an interesting little dish that I made last week as a way to use up some baby beets I’d roasted and peeled a day or two before, but hadn’t eaten.

Thursday, before we caught our flight to Sin City, I made us lunch.  One of the lunch items was something we’d never experienced before – leftover Slow Cooker Pot Roast (we NEVER had leftover beef of any sort before The Young One went away to college); we also scarfed down some of those delicious Dilly Beans.   I spied the beets in the fridge, and knew that if I didn’t do something with them that I’d just end up throwing them away.  But what to do with them?

I’ll tell you what:  make this salad.  It. Is. WONDERFUL.

I don’t know about you, but I rarely think of Russia as having it’s own cuisine.  Of course it does, and beets play a prominent part in it.  This is a lovely, simple salad of cooked beets, walnuts, garlic and mayonnaise and it really couldn’t be more delicious.

It helps to cook, peel and chill the beets ahead of time; once they’ve been shredded or grated, the salad comes together in a snap.  I used Better Than Miracle Whip to dress it and added raisins because that’s what I had on hand, but plain mayonnaise and chopped prunes are traditional.  Beloved, who adores beets, couldn’t get enough of it and I quite happily ate the leftovers when I returned home from Vegas.

Russian Beet Salad. This lovely, vibrant salad is one of the easiest and most delicious ways to eat beets you'll ever find.

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Russian Beet Salad
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 pounds beets, roasted, peeled and grated
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise, preferably homemade
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Combine all of the ingredients, except the salt and pepper, in a bowl, stirring until well mixed. Season to taste with salt and pepper; cover and refrigerate for half an hour before serving.
  2. Nutrition (per serving): 227 calories, 14.8g total fat, 11.3mg cholesterol, 116mg sodium, 499.1mg potassium, 23.1g carbohydrates, 3.5g fiber, 16.8g sugar, 4.1g protein

Winter Squash Casserole

It’s funny, where you can find inspiration for a dish.

I don’t know about anyone else, but the little “ticker” over on the right-hand side of the screen on Facebook fascinates me.  I’ll often click on it just to see the photo or status someone on my friends list “likes” or see the post or status they’re commenting on.  I’ve found some hilarious and infuriating things over there – and, occasionally, something instructive.

Such was the case last weekend when I clicked on something that looked like a recipe by my friend Barbara, a professional chef who owns the blog Tigers and Strawberries.  (She hasn’t blogged for quite some time, but has left the blog up – which is a great thing; it is a marvelous resource of recipes and cooking knowledge.)  In fact, that’s exactly what it was – a simple recipe on one of her friend’s post about discovering delicata squash.

And, like all of Barbara’s recipes, it looked marvelous.  Right away I sent her a private message saying I planned to make the dish soon (I made it the next night, as a matter of fact) and asking if I could post the recipe here when I did.  Gracious as always, her reply was, “Go for it.”

So here it is.

And it is every bit as marvelous as I had anticipated.

Barbara gave no real measurements – it was just a list of ingredients and general instructions for the dish – so I had to sort of wing it when it came to proportions.  We had a fairly large butternut squash that we’d just pulled out of our garden, so I used that, along with two Fuji apples because they are delicious and hold up fairly well to cooking.  The only other ingredients were 2 parts almond butter to one part maple syrup, dried cranberries and slivered almonds.

Since the almond butter I used was an all-natural butter with no added salt or sugar, I ended up reversing the proportions of that and the maple syrup (which turned out to be a good thing once I saw the calorie content of a serving).  On a whim, I also added raisins along with the dried cranberries and I had no slivered almonds, so I used chopped pecans instead.

I also didn’t realize when I began that it was going to make a HUGE amount, but that’s okay – it is so very, very good that we’ve eaten the leftovers every day this week for lunch (and there is still some left in the fridge that we’ll probably polish off today).  In fact, it’s so good that Beloved is campaigning for it to be part of our Thanksgiving dinner this year, and I may very well accommodate him.

This would work well with just about any kind of winter squash, and Barbara says you can use sweet potatoes if you prefer.  She also says this would make a great dessert, and if you use sweet potatoes, I’d have to agree.

Note:  This dish is vegetarian as written; if you sub the butter with olive oil or palm oil shortening for greasing the pan, it will become vegan – and dairy-free – as well.

Winter Squash Casserole. This delicious and simple casserole is perfect for a chilly autumn day - or your holiday table.

Click the image to enlarge

Winter Squash Casserole
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • 3 cups butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2″ dice
  • 2 cups apples, peeled, cored and diced
  • 1/2 cup unsalted almond butter
  • 1 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 cup dried unsweetened cranberries
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Generously butter a 9″ x 13″ baking dish.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the almond butter and maple syrup until well-blended. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients except the salt and pepper. Pour the almond butter mixture over the contents of the bowl and toss to coat all of the pieces of squash and apple evenly. Add the seasonings and stir to combine.
  4. Pour the squash mixture into the buttered baking dish and spread out evenly. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes, or until the squash and apples are tender. Remove the foil and return to the oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until the top of the casserole begins to brown.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 425 calories, 13.2g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 343.5mg sodium, 426.3mg potassium, 77.5g carbohydrates, 6.6g fiber, 26.5g sugar, 3.8g protein

Lamb Burgers with Mint-Pistachio Pesto

Well, the boy is safely ensconced in the hallowed halls of Kent State University.  If he can avoid the National Guard, he should be okay. 😛

I finally got an opportunity to cook something worth posting yesterday at lunch.  I’d taken a pound of ground lamb from our recent purchase out of the freezer a couple of days ago, but hadn’t had a chance to make it (and was unsure exactly what to do with it).  Worried that it was going to go bad if I didn’t use it soon, I decided I’d make some burgers for lunch before driving The Young One out to Kent, which is about 45 minutes from where we live.

The idea of burgers just seemed kind of, well, plain, and I began looking around for things I had that might make a good sauce or condiment for them.  Mint is traditional with lamb, and we grow three different kinds in our herb garden, so I went and picked some plain peppermint (we also grow spearmint and chocolate mint).  While I was there, I noticed the parsley and cut some of that, as well.

Back in the kitchen, I had some roasted pistachios; I grabbed them and began shelling a few.  There was a bottle of olive oil on the counter, as well as a lemon and more garlic, and before I knew it all of the ingredients were in the food processor.

The resulting pesto was surprisingly delicious and was the perfect complement for the lamb burgers.    As lunches go, it was quick, easy, unusual and simply scrumptious – Beloved and I scarfed them down with some fresh cherry tomatoes from our garden, a good helping of Fermented Peach Chutney and some lacto-fermented pickles (recipe coming as soon as I can make them again; they are so incredibly good that by the time I thought to take a photo, they were more than half gone).

Note:  There’s no cheese in the pesto, but if you’d like to add some, a tablespoon or so of a good quality hard Italian cheese would probably be quite nice in it.

Lamb Burgers with Mint-Pistachio Pesto.  A riff on the classic pairing of mint and lamb, these burgers are quick, easy and delicious.

Click on the image to enlarge

Lamb Burgers with Mint-Pistachio Pesto
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 2 tablespoons grated red onion
  • 1 large clove garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Pesto
  • 1/2 cup packed fresh mint
  • 1/4 cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 small clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup shelled pistachios
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Gently combine all of the ingredients for the lamb burgers in a large mixing bowl. Form into 4 patties and cook over moderate heat until the internal temperature reaches about 145 F; the inside will still be slightly pink.
  2. While the burgers are cooking, put all of the ingredients for the pesto except the salt and pepper into the bowl of a food processor or high-performance blender and pulse until the ingredients are well mixed. Transfer the pesto to a bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Serve the burgers topped with the pesto.
  4. Nutrition (per serving): 441 calories, 36.9g total fat, 76mg cholesterol, 539.1mg sodium, 431.6mg potassium, 4.4g carbohydrates, 1.7g fiber, <1g sugar, 23.1g protein