A little bit further up from where I live, the streets are decked with huge pumpkins sitting in big cauldron-style pots outside every shop. In a battle of David, aka the squirrels, against Goliath, aka the pumpkins, well naturally David won — some of these gigantic squash have already been victims to the pesky yet adorable nibblers, with big holes carved out of them. Although, in this case, it seems that Jack's lanterns have been sabotaged! But the tougher pumpkins are just sitting outside, quite wastefully (in my opinion), to the whims of the weather. The idea of carrying one home crossed my mind but I did not. When I mentioned before that I wished I had food bigger than me that I could bite in, well I realised I had just found it! Pumpkins can really grow to be huge — an excellent food source for the cold months if they are well kept or preserved.
Honestly, there are more pumpkin and squash varieties out there than Kevin and I have ever tried. So, after butternut squash (which is the one that we regularly use all year round) and the sugar pie variety that I have used in these Pumpkin Date Roll Cookies, we were up for some acorn (or also known as pepper) squash.
If you are not stuffed already with pumpkin and squash, Kevin has a stuffed recipe — pun intended — that he seems to enjoy making at this time of the year. Previously, he has made it with bell peppers, so you could use other vegetables or other types of squash too.
The filling is a creamy potato, dill and seared tofu preparation which actually brings out the rich sweet nutty flavour of the acorn squash. Somehow the combination of the dill with the tofu cooked in Kevin's own special way is quite reminiscent of seafood but just milder and even better. Referring back to Kevin's way of making tofu for the best texture and taste, he sears the whole block of tofu first on the longer sides then breaks it into smaller chunky pieces. This method ensures that the tofu does not crumble into fine grainier pieces when scrambling. The chunky crispy bits of tofu in the creamy smooth mashed potato adds an interesting nice contrast that brings this preparation to a whole new level.
As far as the seeds of the acorn are concerned, similar to pumpkin, they can be roasted for a delicious, easy and healthy snack. So, save the seeds unless you want to feed them to the squirrels. I usually toss them in some tamari then dust with a little chilli powder or chipotle, and pop them in the oven for 7 - 10 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius or 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Larger pumpkin seeds might take longer to roast and are probably best to eat shelled but the acorn squash ones are much more tender and can be enjoyed whole — they will disappear in no time!
Watch the recipe video as Kevin prepares this scrumptious dish.
Stuffed Acorn (Pepper) Squash Recipe
Ingredients (serves 3 - 4)
1 medium-large [1.2 kg, 2.6 lbs] acorn (also known as pepper) squash
3 - 4 medium [700 g, 25 oz] potatoes
1 tablespoon oil
200 g [7 oz] firm tofu
1/4 cup [40 g, 1.3 oz] frozen peas
1/4 cup [45 g, 1.5 oz] sweet corn
1/4 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon vegan butter or margarine (optional)
2 - 3 sprigs of fresh dill, finely chopped (you may substitute with parsley or thyme)
3/4 to 1 cup non-dairy milk (we used store-bought oat milk)
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
Ground black pepper to taste
Salt to taste
Bread crumbs for garnish (optional)
Cut the acorn squash in half along the length (from the bottom to the top or vice versa, depending on what is easier for you). Remove all the seeds with a spoon (an ice-cream scoop also works well for this). Set the squash aside.
Peel the potatoes and cut into small pieces. Add to a saucepan and fill with water up to 3/4 of the level of the potatoes. Cover and let cook on medium heat until potatoes are soft (about 15 minutes). Occasionally check on the potatoes and add water if it has dried up. Once potatoes are soft, reduce the water to about 1/4 of the level of potatoes in the pan. Then mash the potatoes in the pan itself with a potato masher or wooden spoon. Cover and set aside.
Preheat the oven at 180 degrees Celsius or 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
While potatoes are cooking, you can prepare the tofu. In a skillet, heat the oil on medium-high heat. Place the whole 200g-block of tofu in the skillet and let it brown on one side. Then turn and let the other sides brown until the four longer sides of the tofu is golden brown and lightly crispy. Then, with your cooking spoon, break the tofu into small chunky pieces (like when making scrambled tofu).
Add in the soy sauce, ground black pepper and a little salt. Next add the sweet corn, peas and the cumin. Stir and cook for 3 - 4 minutes. Add a teaspoon of lemon juice, stir and mix. Then remove from the heat and set aside.
Now you can start preheating the oven at 180 degrees Celsius or 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Continue to prepare the potato mixture. Optionally, you can add a tablespoon of vegan butter or margarine. Add salt to taste, ½ teaspoon of smoked paprika and ground black pepper to taste.
Next add in the dill and the tofu mixture along with one tablespoon of nutritional yeast. Mix everything well. Then add about 3/4 cup of non-dairy milk of your choice. Add more milk (if required) to obtain a smooth creamy mixture that is neither too stodgy nor too runny. Adjust salt to taste.
Bear in mind that it will dry up a little bit when baked.
Brush a baking pan with a little oil then place in the two halves of the squash. Brush the inside of the squash with a little oil. Then fill with the creamy potato mixture. Fill them to your heart's content! Garnish with some breadcrumbs if you like.
Place the squash in the oven and bake for 45 minutes to one hour or until they are soft when you insert a fork into the flesh. Then remove them from the oven and allow to cool lightly before cutting and serving.