Quinoa and Winter Squash Stuffing

By  |  7 Comments

I am smitten with squash. Obsessed, really. My family is probably fortunate that we have such a small backyard garden, or I would be growing acres of squash – all 123 varieties of squash in the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company catalog and then some.  As Amy Goldman, author of “The Compleat Squash” would label me, I am a Cucurbitacean, through and through.

I’ve not always felt this way.  For most of my life, all I ever knew about squash was the common store varieties: yellow crookneck summer squash, black beauty zucchini, table acorns, spaghetti squash. I don’t mean to sound elitist, but they just don’t excite me. I don’t want to admit this about a squash, but they’re pretty boring when it comes to flavor and appearance.

Then I discovered heirloom squash varieties. Holy moly, what a difference! These squash were bred for flavor, not shipping. My favorite summer squash, patisson panache jaune et vert, when picked small and lightly steamed, tastes as if it has been smothered in butter.  And the “skin” on most heirloom summer squash? It is so delicate that you hardly realize it is there, in contrast to the thick, wax-like consistency of commercial varieties.

Patisson Panache Jaune et Vert Scallop (left) and White Bush Scallop summer squash. Easily bruised, but excelling in flavor!

 

The real stars of heirloom squash varieties are the winter squash. They are incredibly diverse, ranging in size from a chicken’s egg to the monstrous pumpkins that capture the media’s attention at state fairs. They are colorful as well. Ask a child to color a squash for you in Australia, and they will likely color it blue, as those are the preferred varieties there. My girls would have a hard time choosing, as they have seen squash in almost every color of the rainbow (Do you know of a purple variety? That’s the only color we haven’t grown so far).

Some of the winter squash grown for the 2012 season.

 

Many of the heirloom winter squash excel in flavor as well. The famous seedsman, James J.H. Gregory, called blue hubbards “the acme of perfection” of squash. If you find  yourself adding brown sugar to your baked winter squash, you won’t need to do so with many of these varieties – the extra sweetness is already there through hundreds of years of selective breeding.

Beautiful blue hubbard squash, ~20 lbs each.

 

Texture is also incredibly important to eating – I never realized how much so until feeding two toddlers. Many people don’t eat squash because of the fibrous flesh found in most all store varieties. By growing your own heirlooms, you can grow winter squash that is both sweet and smooth.

My favorite winter squash (other than my blue hubbards, of course)? An Italian heirloom, butternut rugosa violina gioia. This is a Waltham butternut on steroids.

Butternut rugosa violina gioia, top, compared to a smooth Waltham butternut.

 

Rugosa, for the rough, blue-orange skin of the mature squash.

Rugosa

 

Violina, for its violin-like shape.

Violina

Gioia, the Italian word for “joy!” I can think of no better description for this squash. The bright orange flesh is incredibly sweet and meaty – no fibrous strings in these beauties!

A joy to eat, and joy for your health, the RVG butternut, top, is likely richer in beneficial carotenoids than Waltham.

 

 

Cooking with Winter Squash

My favorite way to eat winter squash, including butternut rugosa violina gioia, is straight-up, baked in the oven. No need to peel it, just cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, and bake in the oven for about an hour at 375 degrees. Scoop out the flesh and enjoy. No brown sugar, no butter… Just smooth, heavenly-sweet squash.

If I really want to get fancy, like for Thanksgiving this past week, I enjoy making this gluten free stuffing, recently highlighted during my guest appearance on an episode of Friends Drift Inn (her recipe for butternut squash with sorghum and raspberries is DIVINE, by the way).

Gluten Free Quinoa and Butternut Squash Stuffing
 
My favorite thing about this recipe, other than its intense flavors? It doesn’t take a lot of time or precision to prepare. Once you have diced the squash, it is cooked and on the table in ~20 minutes. Don’t we all need less time in the kitchen during the holidays?
Author:

Ingredients
  • ~8 cups butternut squash, diced (Waltham is fine, but butternut rugosa violina gioia preferred)
  • ~2 cups zucchini, cubed (I like to use immature tromboncino squash – what is it about Italians naming squash after musical instruments?)
  • 2 cups gluten free quinoa
  • 1 sprig each of fresh thyme, rosemary, and sage
  • 1 cup dehydrated persimmons, chopped (or use dried apricots)
  • 1 cup dried cranberries (as of this date, Craisins are gluten free)
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley
  • 1 bunch fresh mint
  • 1 bunch green onions
  • 1 organic lemon
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper

Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Begin boiling 4 cups water in a heavy-bottomed pot.
  3. Oil the bottom of two baking pans. Add butternut squash to one baking pan, add a little more olive oil, and stir to coat pieces in oil and distribute in a single layer. Repeat with the zucchini in the other pan. Season both to taste with sea salt and black pepper. Bake uncovered until fork-tender, about 20 minutes for the butternut squash and 15 minutes for the zucchini.
  4. While squash is baking, add quinoa to boiling water with fresh sprigs of thyme, rosemary, and sage. Return to boil, cover, and reduce heat to simmer. Cook 15 minutes.
  5. While squash and quinoa cook, chop the parsley and green onions, and tear the mint (to prevent browning).
  6. When quinoa cooking time is complete, remove from heat, add dried persimmons and cover for 5 minutes to allow quinoa to rest and persimmons to rehydrate.
  7. Combine cooked squash, quinoa, and persimmons into large serving bowl. Add cranberries, and ~1 cup each of the mint, parsley, and green onions.
  8. Zest lemon over the ingredients, then squeeze juice from lemon over all. Stir and combine ingredients thoroughly. Serve warm.

 

7 Comments

  1. darlene

    November 25, 2012 at 6:37 am

    This recipe is absolutely wonderful! I had the opportunity to dine with the “Mother of a Hubbard” family as well as her nannie and husband and enjoy this delicious dish. I did not grow up eating all of the sqaushes mentioned but I know one thing – I am loving every one I am afforded the opportunity to eat! Thank you for sharing!

  2. Pingback: Peter, Peter, Pumpkin-Eater | Mother of a Hubbard

  3. Little Mountain Haven

    March 13, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    I’ve been meaning to pick up ‘the complete squash’ for ages, it is one of those books I know I would love as growing squash has become a favourite of mine in the garden. have you ever had any powdery mildew issues? last year it attacked my entire squash and pumpkin patch which greatly affected the yield! I would love to know if you have any tricks. also I am thinking of adding lots of vertical growing areas, do you trellis any of your squash?

    • Ma Hubbard

      March 14, 2013 at 7:40 pm

      You are going to love this treatment for powdery mildew: milk! Dilute about 1 part milk (any milk, whether skim or whole) in 4 or 5 parts water, and spray the tops and undersides of your squash leaves. I swear by this, and it has been proven to work by many university researchers (though no one seems to understand the mechanism). do this BEFORE you have powdery mildew for best results… Just spray every week or so, depending on weather.

      • Little Mountain Haven

        March 17, 2013 at 10:10 am

        oooh THANK YOU sooo MUCH!! I think I have heard about it but not before which must be the main key. I think it was so bad last year because we had 5 weeks straight of rain in June which was absolutely terrible for all the heat lovin veg. I will try this treatment this year!!

  4. Karen Arnett

    November 13, 2013 at 4:17 pm

    I just cooked a tromboncino as a winter squash for the first time and it is absolutely high quality. I’ve been growing it for some years as a summer squash, but for some reason this year one of my plants were quick to turn their fruits orange, so I let a few ripen and brought them in for storage. They have the best flavor and texture! I saw in your lovely squash medley photo that you have some tromboncinos. They’re so prolific and easy to grow as well. I plant them around my compost pile and the extra nitrogen leaching from the pile turns them into truly rampant and healthy plants, and they grow up and over any tree standing in their way!

    • Ma Hubbard

      November 13, 2013 at 4:37 pm

      I agree, Karen! I always grow tromboncino as both a winter and summer squash. I love their versatility and how easy they are to grow. You might enjoy this recipe for a great winter soup that I make using mature tromboncino: curried winter squash soup.