Autumn is the most lovely season of the year. The air becomes still and mild as sunbeams mellow their harsh, often over-bearing work of summer. Deep shades of gold, red, and bronze cover the earth as leaves on trees change their colors and seasonal mums – autumn’s jewels – reach full bloom in gardens. Seasonal foods reflect this same richness and color as red-green Macintosh apples appear in grocery produce departments, along with crimson cranberries, and orange pumpkins. Other varieties of colorful, flavorful squash are often available in grocery stores and at farmer’s markets this time of year, as well. Of course, zucchini and types of summer squash are abundantly plentiful during the summer months; however, their textures and flavors are more light and mild those varieties of squash that ripen during autumn months. Meals made with fresh, light zucchini pasta or grilled yellow squash may be welcome fare in the heat of a summer evening; however, they can’t compare with the rich heartiness of roasted butternut squash or pumpkin soup. Fall squash has sumptuous flesh that pairs well with nuts, warm spices, maple syrup, and molasses for use in sweet or savory dishes. It also pairs well with fall fruits such as cranberries and apples. Finally, the variety of squash that ripen in the fall are amazingly nutritious, with high amounts of vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, and calcium. Personally, I can eat summer squashes with a certain amount of pleasure, but dishes made with fall squashes bring the most joy to my taste buds. I tend to have a sweet tooth and autumn / winter squash dishes allow me to indulge my fondness for sweet sensations with a healthy dish.
Among my favorite autumnal squash varieties is the dumpling squash. This squash has an charming name, an attractive appearance, and delicious flavor. My favorite way to prepare this squash is to roast it stuffed with brown rice, cranberries, pecans, shallot, and warm spices. As the squash nears completion in the oven, I melt smoked Gouda cheese over the stuffing, and the result is a hearty, smoky, sweet / savory dish that pleases one’s palate and keeps one’s stomach feeling full and satiated for several hours. This meal is so easy to make, yet so elegant! I often pre-make my stuffed dumpling squash, refrigerate it, and then stick it in the oven to cook while I shower after I finish a run. By the time I’ve washed off all my run, the squash is ready for the final step: the melting of Gouda cheese over the top of the stuffing.
*This dish works well for family gatherings in that it is rich enough to satisfy the family carnivores, yet acceptable to the family’s vegetarians. Additionally, it can easily be made vegan by omitting the cheese on one or two servings.
**When I cook the rice for this dish, I substitute vegetable broth for water so that the rice has a more rich flavor.
*** I cut the squash and stuff the squash horizontally. This way you can get two servings out of one squash, and you can more easily scoop the cooked flesh of the squash with each forkful of the stuffing. It’s so scrumptious!!!
- 2 Dumpling squash
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 cups brown rice, cooked
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- ½ pecans, chopped
- 2 tablespoons scallions, minced
- 1 teaspoon Ceylon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground allspice
- Himalayan pink salt to taste
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 cup smoked Gouda cheese, shredded
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Cut each dumpling squash in half horizontally. Scoop the seeds and strings out of the interior cavity of each squash half. Rub ½ teaspoon of olive oil evenly inside the cavity of each squash half. Sprinkle ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg evenly inside the cavity of each squash half. Place cut side down on a baking sheet and bake in the 425 F degree oven until the exterior begins to turn brown, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool slightly.
- While the squash is cooling, saute 2 tablespoons of minced scallion in olive oil until tender. Mix together the sautéed scallion, brown rice, dried cranberries, chopped pecans, cinnamon, allspice, salt, and pepper. Pack ¼th of the mixture into each of the squash halves. Place the stuffed squash halves on a baking sheet and bake in a 350 F degree oven for fifteen minutes. Remove the stuffed halves from the oven. Sprinkle ¼ cup shredded smoked Gouda over the top of each squash half and return to the oven until the cheese becomes brown and bubbly, and the stuffed squash halves are heated through.