Wild Rice, Apple, Kale and Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash with Roasted Concord Grapes
So Sunday wasn’t my best day for health consciousness.
There may have been some day drinking with friends, a few fistfuls of savory hand-pie from the Pasty Republic food truck, an unfettered gorging of pizza after said day drinking.
Then I *MIGHT* have accidentally stumbled upon some Girl Scout cookies of a questionable age somewhere in the dark nethers of my pantry. And did horrible, horrible things to them.
So basically, on an 80/20 diet, Sunday might’ve counted as my 20% for, like a few months.
Whatever, its fine.
Its fine, because Monday I had an angel day. You know, the kind of eating day where you make up for all the sins of the past with a single nutrition-minded and delicious meal that makes you think you will never again be tempted by the wily lures of a box of cookies because healthy food can be so, so much more delicious than you remembered.
A veggie-centric dish is always a good place to start, and after a day/month/year of poor eating decisions, your body will be actively craving those sweet, sweet nutrients. This recipe feels indulgent because you get a whole half of toasty, roasty, tender acorn squash all to yourself no deprivation.
And, bonus: you are eating your dinner IN A SQUASH. I will never not be delighted by foods served in other foods (r.e. pumpkin soup in a pumpkin, apple crisp in an apple, broccoli and cheese soup in a bread bowl).
USING MEAT AS A GARNISH RATHER THAN A FOCUS ENCOURAGES YOU TO SUPPLEMENT GOOD-FOR-YOU INGREDIENTS TO FILL THE VOID.
Once the squash has been softened and browned in the oven, you can pile it high with goodies like wild rice, sautéed kale and perky green apples and not even feel bad because, kale. A few niblets of salty, spicy pork sausage give the stuffing substance and pep using meat as a garnish rather than a focus encourages you to supplement with other good-for-you ingredients to fill the void.
But the true gift of this recipe is the roasted Concord grapes. Ooooooh those grapes, yall.
The technique is so easy and simple a quick turn in the oven makes the tannic skins collapse and soften while puddles of juice condense in the heat, leaching light, herbaceous hints from sprigs of thyme and rosemary. Roasting elevates this simple fruit into a tart, luscious side with an inky, sweet-and-savory reduced syrup you can drizzle with sass over your healthful meal.
Always with sass.
Balancing tangy roasted grapes, sweet, earthy squash and salty spicy sausage, you wont even notice youre making a good dinner decision.
- 2 Acorn squashes
- 1/2 c. wild rice mix*
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1/2 lb sausage (I like to use Jimmy Dean Hot Breakfast Sausage, adds some spice)
- 1 small Granny Smith apple, diced into small pieces
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 cup kale, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 cup white wine**
- 1 tbsp mixed chopped fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary and/or sage), a few sprigs of each for rice and grapes
- 2-4 clusters Concord grapes on vine***
- Olive oil
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil, and rub a drizzle of olive oil over the foil so the squash won't stick. Cut each squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Rub the squash all over with olive oil, then season with salt, pepper and a pinch of the chopped herbs. Place cut side down on sheet pan, put in the oven and set timer for 40 mins (more or less depending on how large your squash is - mine was about 7 inches wide). Check periodically for doneness by squeezing with tongs - when the squash gives a little, it is finished.
- Prep another sheetpan with foil. Rub the grape clusters with olive oil, then place on the sheet. Sprinkle with salt and place herb sprigs on top of the grapes. Set aside.
- Make Rice - After putting the squash in the oven, combine broth, rice, a few sprigs of herbs and a heavy pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Turn down to simmer and cover. Cook for 30 mins or until tender, adding more water if necessary. fluff and cover for 5 more minutes.
- Saute Stuffing Ingredients - While rice cooks, heat up a Dutch oven or pan with a a drizzle of olive oil, then sear the sausage. Cook just under done, then take sausage out and and drain on a paper towel. Add apple, onion, kale, garlic and chopped herbs to sausage grease and saute until onions are translucent and apples are tender.
- Deglaze with wine, and reduce by half.
- Add rice to stuffing mixture and stir to combine. Set aside.
- When squash is finished, take out and put the grapes in to roast for 15 minutes.
- Gently flip the squash cut side up and place on plates. Stuff the squash with the apple and sausage mixture, mounding high.
- After 15 mins, remove grapes from oven. Gently pick up the vines and place on the plate next to the squash. With a spoon, scoop up juices from burst grapes off of roasting sheet and drizzle over squash.
- * Mixed wild rice and white rice, can substitute brown or white rice, orzo, farro or other grain/small pasta
- ** Apple cider or chicken stock will work too
- *** Grapes roasted on the vine are prettier on the plate but a bit messier to eat! If you don't care about the presentation, simply pluck grapes from vine and follow the same directions for roasting, scattering the herb sprigs evenly over the grapes.