Baked Stuffed Acorn Squash
2 medium acorn squash, 3 pounds or so total
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
1 cup cooked rice (white or brown)
12 ounces Cremini mushrooms, wiped clean and bottom part of the stems cut off
4 ounces Shiitake mushrooms, stems removed (or use more Cremini mushrooms)
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, or ¾ teaspoon dried thyme
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
1 small onion, minced
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced, plus 2 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
¼ cup grated, peeled apple
1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons white wine
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Put a sheet pan in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. While the oven is heating, take a vegetable peeler and peel a strip of skin off each of the ridges on the squash. Cut the squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and strings and discard them (or rinse the seeds off and save them to roast for a snack).
When the oven comes to temperature, brush the cut sides of the squash and the cavity with plenty of the oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then place cut-side-down on the hot sheet pan. Roast for 15 minutes, then remove the pan from the oven. Turn the heat down to 350 degrees F.
In the meantime, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet. Saute the onion and thyme for 3-4 minutes until soft. Add the minced garlic and cook for another minute. Roughly chop the mushrooms while the onion is cooking (by hand or in the food processor). Add the mushrooms to the onions and garlic in the pan, sprinkle with some salt and pepper, then mix everything together. Cover the pan for a couple of minutes, until the mushrooms release their liquid. Uncover the pan and cook until the liquid is almost gone and the mushrooms start to brown a little. Stir in the grated apple, cook for 1 minute. Then mix in the cooked rice and pine nuts. Taste for salt and pepper. The filling should hold together a bit when you press it with a spoon. If it doesn’t, add a little water.
In a glass or ceramic baking dish large enough to hold the four squash halves, mix the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, white wine, a half teaspoon of salt, ¼ teaspoon of pepper, and the crushed garlic cloves. Remove the squash from the sheet pan (you may need a spatula to help), and put them cut side up on the tomato mixture. Stuff the cavities with the filling, mounding it up and leaving some of the squash on the top exposed. Drizzle with a little oil. Cover with a large piece of parchment inside a large piece of aluminum foil, tenting the parchment and foil so they don’t rest on the stuffed squash.
Bake for 35 minutes. Remove the foil and parchment, and use a sharp knife to test that the squash are tender. If not, cover again and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove the foil, sprinkle the grated cheese on the filling, then raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees F and bake for another 10 minutes. Let cool a few minutes before spooning the sauce in the pan over each squash half, then serve.
Note: you don’t have to pre-roast the squash, you can stuff and bake them without that step. Bake the covered squash for 1 hour before testing for doneness, then bake uncovered as directed.