Monday, September 29, 2014

IFBC 2014: Cooking Seasonably and Stuffed Winter Squash Recipe

How do you plan your dinners? Maybe you're having a small group over for a dinner party and you whip out you favorite cookbook to find a recipe that will impress your guests. I've done this before, copying the long list of ingredients and heading to my grocery store (and usually three more in the area) to hunt down every last obscure spice. More often though, I play my favorite game of 'what's in my kitchen?' collecting whatever ingredients are on hand to create something new. This is mostly due to laziness over creativity, but when life is busy, it works.

Surprisingly, award-winning chef Thierry Rautureau (Chef In the Hat) validated my method during a cooking demonstration at last week's 2014 International Food Bloggers Conference (IFBC).

Image from Foodista.com
Rautureau talked to us about the beauty of using fresh, in-season ingredients, and showed us that an artful meal can be made with just seasonal produce and the food in your fridge. Rather than starting with the recipe book, he suggested starting with a trip to the grocery store or local market to scope out what is in-season, and planning your meals from there.

I really like the notion of cooking what is seasonally available to you, and agree with Rautureau that this is a step towards a more sustainable future. Each Summer I join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group through a local farm, which sends a big bag of fresh veggies my way every two weeks; cooking fresh and local could not get easier. I came home from IFBC in detox mode after all of the lavish dinners, wines and desserts, so I looked to my CSA bag and my swag from the conference for inspiration. This is what I came up with.



Roasted and stuffed squash is pretty much my lazy girl go-to on chilly fall or winter days. I always keep quinoa and chicken stock on hand, so it's just a matter of finding some fresh veggies and squash, and dinner is served. This recipe is completely interchangeable with whatever is in your kitchen, so open the refrigerator door and have at it! It can also be modified easily to fit into a vegetarian or vegan diet by substituting the chicken stock and butter. 

I used this roasted acorn squash with wild rice stuffing recipe on Chow.com with some modifications to help guide my cooking method. Click over there for a different variation on this classic!

Ingredients: 

2 medium winter squash, halved lengthwise and seeds removed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 sweet red pepper, diced
3 stalks of broccoli rabe, torn into bite-size pieces
3 cups of cooked quinoa, prepared like so (I used Aneto chicken broth as my liquid, but veggie broth or water also work just fine)
1.2 ounces of sliced black olives (this number is random because I used a pack of Pearls Olives to-go, courtesy of IFBC)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon hemp seeds
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Instructions:

Heat the oven to 450°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Place the squash cut-side up on a baking sheet, brush 1 tablespoon of the melted butter over the tops and insides of the squash halves, sprinkle with the brown sugar, and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven until just fork tender, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, place 1 tablespoon of the melted butter in a large frying pan over medium heat (substitute with cooking oil, if desired). Once melted/heated, add the onion, red pepper, and broccoli rabe, season with salt and pepper, and stir to coat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until just softened, about 6 minutes.

Remove from the heat and stir in the quinoa, black olives, and crushed red pepper flakes. Divide the quinoa filling among the roasted squash halves and sprinkle the hemp seeds on top to garnish.

Continue roasting until the squash is completely fork tender, the edges have started to brown, and the filling is heated through, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Feel good,
Christina