Continuing our theme of a “County Christmas,” today we’re sharing a show-stopper recipe that can work as a vegetarian main or as an attractive side dish. We love the idea of stuffing and baking a whole squash, serving it intact, and slicing into thick wedges at the table. Talk about impressive! Flavourful and beautiful, this dish is sure to become a new tradition for your family.
Baked Squash with Barley Risotto Stuffing & Crispy Leek
4 small Nugget or Acorn squash, washed (or 3 medium)
1 leek, white part only
1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium carrots, diced
1 cup (250 mL) mushrooms, quartered
2 tsp (10 mL) dried thyme
2 cups (500 mL) pot barley, rinsed and drained
2 tbsp (30 mL) dried cranberries
4 cups (1 L) vegetable broth bay leaves
2 1/2 cups (625 mL) fresh broccoli, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp (30 mL) parsley, chopped (or 1 tbsp /15 mL fresh sage)
salt and pepper, to taste
1/3 cup (80 mL) maple syrup or honey
1/2 cup (125 mL) soft, ripened goat cheese, crumbled
paprika for garnish, to taste
1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
With tip of sharp knife, pierce each squash in several places. Place two squash in microwave; cook on high heat for 8-12 minutes, turning every 3 minutes, until evenly softened. Set aside. Repeat with remaining two squash. Cut shallow lids off tops of each squash, discarding lids. Carefully scrape out seeds with a spoon; discard seeds.
Halve trimmed leek lengthwise. Slice one half into thin semi- circles for filling; rinse and drain. Thinly slice remaining half leek for topping; rinse and reserve. Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic, carrot, mushrooms, thyme and leek semi-circles. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add barley; stir 5 minutes or until barley smells slightly toasted. Carefully stir in dried cranberries, vegetable broth and bay leaves until combined. Cover tightly and cook 25 minutes or until barley is softened but still al dente, stirring occasionally and adding additional liquid as needed. Remove from heat; remove bay leaves and stir in broccoli and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Tip: Squash and barley risotto can be prepared a day ahead to this point.
Preheat oven to 400°F (205°C). Place squash in a large roasting pan; brush inside and cut edges generously with maple syrup. Bake 15 minutes and remove pan from oven. Fill each squash with warm barley risotto, re-heating slightly and adding more liquid as needed. Top each filled squash with goat cheese; sprinkle with paprika. Toss sliced leeks with remaining 1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil; place leeks in a single layer in centre of roasting pan alongside but not touching squash. Reduce heat to 350°F (180°C). Bake stuffed squash 20 minutes, stirring leeks occasionally to brown evenly. Remove from oven when cheese is softened and leeks are crisp and brown. Transfer squash to serving platter; top with crispy leeks. Serve with a serrated knife to cut easily into wedges.