Saturday, October 18, 2008

Autumn Stuffed Acorn Squash with Fried Sage Leaves: Royal Foodie Joust for November

I have to admit I was a bit worried about November's Royal Foodie Joust ingredients; Sage, Oranges and Acorn Squash picked by last months winner, Susan of Sticky, Gooey, Creamy Chewy. I love sage and oranges but acorn squash is another matter. I believe I have mentioned my dislike for pumpkin and the entire fall/winter squash family. I did find when cooked in lots of olive oil, pancetta and creamy risotto that butternut squash wasn't all that bad but acorn squash always seemed even "squashier" to me. How to make something I like and that tastes good out of something I really don't like that much seemed a bit daunting. Then when checking the forum to see who had posted entries, I kept reading how some wonderful bloggers and great chefs were challenged, scrapped their first attempts and were struggling with combining the flavors; as if that's not intimidating!!! None the less, the quest for the Royal Foodie Joust winners' badge and apron and the chance to pick December's ingredients moved me to action.
The result; a stuffed acorn squash, filled with quinoa, ground turkey, cranberries and assorted other goodies, flavored with sage and orange and topped with fried sage leaves--a little touch of Autumn in an Acorn Squash. And I have to say it--I really like my dish. The orange and sage stand out but not obnoxiously so and I found that acorn squash, like butternut, when combined with other things really isn't that bad. A big help was a blood orange infused olive oil that I found at Whole Foods. (If you can't find an orange flavored olive oil, just use regular olive oil and add more orange juice and orange zest). The sweet (cranberries and orange) combined with the savory (sage, spices and turkey) works well with the squash and the chewiness of the quinoa and the slight crunch of the pumpkin seeds add some interesting texture to the dish.

Autumn Stuffed Acorn Squash with Fried Sage Leaves
Serves 2
1 small to medium acorn squash, halved and seeded
1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
2 cups chicken broth or vegetable stock
1 1/2 Tbsp blood orange olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 garlic gloves, minced
1/2 lb ground turkey breast
2 Tbsp chopped fresh sage
2 Tbsp dried cranberries
1/2 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp thyme
1 Tbsp orange zest
1 Tbsp orange juice
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp toasted pumpkin seeds
2 Tbsp breadcrumbs (I used whole wheat)
2 Tbsp blood orange oil oil
6 fresh sage leaves
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut acorn squash in half and remove seeds. Place squash, cut sides down in a large baking pan and put enough water in pan to cover bottom. Bake for about 35 minutes until acorn squash is done and can be easily pierced with a fork.
Rinse and drain quinoa and place in a pot with two cups of stock. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until all broth is absorbed, about 12 minutes. Remove from heat, stir and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat a medium sauce pan over medium heat and add about 1 1/2 Tbsp of blood orange oil. When hot, add chopped onion, garlic and ground turkey, cooking until turkey is done and onion softened. Mix in cooked quinoa and add sage, dried cranberries, marjoram and thyme, mixing well and cooking a bit more until warmed. Add orange zest and orange juice and salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and stir in toasted pumpkin seeds. Set aside.

Remove squash from oven, drain any extra water. Turn squash over and brush inside and rim with blood orange olive oil and salt lightly. Fill each squash half with turkey/quinoa mixture. Top with breadcrumbs and return to oven, baking about 10 minutes until topping is lightly browned.
As filled squash is baking, heat 2 Tbsp blood orange oil in small sauce pan over medium-high heat until lightly bubbling. Add fresh sage leaves a couple at a time, frying for about 30 seconds per side. Remove and drain on paper towel, salting lightly.
Remove squash from oven. Top with fried sage leaves and serve.

Notes/Results: This recipe is very easy and goes together pretty quickly--cooking the squash takes the longest time of anything. It is easily adaptable; if quinoa is not a favorite grain, replace it with rice, bulgar, cous cous, etc. For a vegetarian option remove the turkey, add tofu or veggies and more quinoa. I wanted the orange, sage and squash to stand out for the joust, but I think a turkey sausage would be excellent in this. Would I make it again? Yes and no: the filling definitely, I had some leftover filling and I am going to stuff it in cabbage leaves or a bell pepper because although I ate it and it was good, I am still not a huge acorn squash fan. If I had some acorn squash loving friends, I would make it as is for them. And the fried sage (I had it once in a restaurant in Seattle) is crispy and delicious and makes a fun garnish. Also the kitchen smelled delicious, scented with the orange and sage!

Great but challenging ingredients Susan--perfect for a joust where the bar keeps getting raised and the competition harder and harder! You can check out the other entries as they are posted here and if you are a Foodie Blogroll member, don't forget to vote for your favorite November 1-7.


  1. Fantastic entry! I don't share your dislike for squash - I love pumpkin, butternut and the whole family - so this looks absolutely delicious to me!

  2. Wonderful! I love the last shot where they are plated on the greens with the orange slices - so pretty. I do love acorn squash - must be a Canadian thing - love turkey, quinoa.... I would love this dish!
    ps, haven't tried fried sage leaves yet but I bet they are yum. I had better put frying herbs on my list of things to try.

  3. Fried sage leaves are an elegant garnish. Are they edible or just for looks?

  4. Foodycat--Thanks! I am a bit strange in that way--although I am trying to at least gain an appreciation for squash!

    Natashya--thanks! The sage is good--nice and crispy. I have seen them lightly battered too but I wanted the green.

    Rachel--oh you can eat them! They have the peppery, slightly bitter sage flavor with a nice crunch. Be sure to lightly salt them for the best flavor. I was eating them off of the papertowels and had to make more for the picture.

  5. It's really hard to get inspired by ingredients you don't even like, but you did an awesome job! I love all squashes and just baked one for a soup recently, but I totally blanked on the Joust. I should have used oranges instead of apples. You've inspired me to try another Joust.

  6. Laurie--thanks! I hope you do the joust--its so much fun!

  7. Good luck in the Joust Deb!!! This dish is a competitor!!!

  8. Bellini Valli--thanks so much--keep your fingers crossed!


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