In this recipe, soft squash’s tender sweetness and diced Pink Lady’s firm bite of acid play against pastured pork stuffing’s spicy smoke and tang. By creating a mix of sweet, acidic, firm, and soft, any filled vegetable recipe can sing. Since stuffable vegetables usually contain high-levels of natural sugar and have mild flavor, you should pair them with intensely flavored fillings that contain bright, aromatic ingredients with a range of textures and tastes.
The amaranth adds another texture element and acts to absorb the unctuous juice that releases from squash and ground pork as they cook. While white quinoa, millet or brown rice can be substituted for the amaranth in this recipe, the texture of the filling will be different. The small seeds of the amaranth deftly bind with the pork and apple and readily take in the chipotle’s spice and lemon zest’s fragrance.
If you long for a summer comfort dish, try this filling in roasted zucchini or a hollowed red bell pepper. You will not need to roast the bell pepper before hand: just fill it and bake for about 12-14 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit, then serve. For the zucchini, you will want to use a large, mature zucchini. After cutting the zucchini in half, trimming the ends, and removing the seeds and center flesh, lightly salt and roast it for about 10 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit, then add the filling and cook it for another 10 minutes.
2 acorn squash, washed, cut in half, insides and seeds removed
½ cup cooked amaranth*
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup diced yellow onion
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon ground chipotle pepper (use the dry powder, if possible)
3 cloves garlic, crushed
½ pound of ground pasture-raised pork
1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
1 tablespoon lemon zest
½ cup diced Pink Lady apple (or a similar variety)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon parsley, finely chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Rub the insides of the washed, halved, and cleaned squash with olive oil. Sprinkle a little salt inside, and turn the squash over so that the insides are facing down on a heavy-bottom baking dish.
3. Cook the squash for between 30-35 minutes, or until the backsides are slightly soft. When the squash are just cooked through, pull them from the oven and set them aside to cool (still face down).
4. While the squash are cooking, prepare the amaranth*:
1. Put ¼ cup amaranth, ¾ cup water, and a generous pinch of salt in a small pan.
2. Bring the liquid up to a boil and immediately turn the heat to low so that the liquid simmers.
3. Cook the amaranth uncovered for about 20 minutes, and remove it from the heat.
4. Set the amaranth aside with the lid removed.
5. Place the olive oil in a large sauté pan, turn the heat on medium-low, and add the onions, garlic, and a teaspoon of salt. Cook the onions until they are translucent.
6. Add the pork, red pepper flakes, chipotle, and black pepper. Continue to cook the mixture on medium-low heat.
7. When the pork is just about cooked through, add the ½ cup cooked amaranth and lemon zest, and stir until all of the ingredients are mixed.
8. In about a minute, turn the heat off, set the pan aside, add the diced apple and sage, and stir.
9. Check the pork-amaranth filling for seasoning. You want the filling to be intense and robustly seasoned so that it can stand up to the sweetness of the squash.
10. With a spoon, put the filling in each squash. Aim for a round top that rises just over the edge of the squash.
11. Place the pan in the oven, and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the filling is a golden brown.
12. Serve the stuffed squash with a sprinkle of parsley over the top.