The holiday season is officially here and it’s a bit of a bummer, to be honest. Here in Toronto, we are in lockdown 2.0, so we’re keeping our Hanukkah and Christmas celebrations small. Like, super small, like, two people and two cats small. And since I’m not entertaining a large crowd at any point this December, I don’t really need to have a vegetarian option on hand. But in spite of my omnivorous household, I felt compelled to offer you my usual veggie holiday option that isn’t a sad afterthought. Say hello to this Wild Rice Stuffed Squash with Pomegranate and Feta.
This year has been strange, so why would the holidays be any different? But while I’m out-of-sorts over the lack of seasonal entertaining, I’m trying to see this Christmas as a novelty. Think about it, the holidays will never be this chill again. And this year will stick out in your mind, far more than the five years previous. Life is about experiencing things and, boy, aren’t we all just stocking up on novel experiences this year.
But while the word “different” may sum up this holiday season, some familiar things remain. Christmas tree, Quality Street chocolates, and vegetarians needing a holiday dinner. I couldn’t very well leave you without any festive veg-happy inspiration, now could I? Plus, I really enjoyed eating this year’s offering. So let’s get into it.
The number one thing I love about this Wild Rice Stuffed Squash is how simple it is to make. As I said, this Christmas is all about embracing the chill, so why should dinner be any different? All you’re doing is roasting the squash until its flesh reaches buttery perfection. Then you throw together a warm wild rice salad and spoon it inside the squash. And then, you’re just a few artfully placed mint leaves and pomegranate arils away from holiday perfection.
Now, even if you’re hell-bent on prime rib or turkey this year, I think you should pay this squash some attention. It could be a lighter yet festive option in the lead up to the main event. Or, if you’re keen to make it a side, you could split the squash in half lengthwise or even quarter it. This would turn the squash into a fleet of manageable squash boats. Eating an entire acorn squash to yourself is a bit much if you also have roast beef to contend with.
If this Wild Rice Stuffed Squash sounds too simple to be the main event, don’t forget you can dress this up any way you want. Heck! You could shave some truffle on there and have a party. The sky really is the limit in terms of mix-ins. So let your nostalgia drive when you’re choosing ingredients to deck your rice out with. I think chestnuts, dried cranberries, and crispy sage would work quite nicely as well. Or you could swap the cremini mushrooms for black oyster or maitake.
Another bonus is once you’ve stuffed one acorn squash, you’re more than qualified to stuff them all and with whatever you want. Just last year I loaded one up with risotto and melted some cheese over it. I bet you could do the same with mac and cheese or even turn it into a fondue situation. I opted for a healthy-ish wild rice salad because I know what this month holds for me and it contains more than a little sugar.
So that’s everything you need to know about this Wild Rice Stuffed Squash. As I said, these guys are very customizable, so stuff them with your family’s favorites. And don’t forget to relish the small pleasures to be found in this bizarre year. I for one will enjoy not having to use all of my stove’s burners simultaneously. Oh! And fewer dishes – always a plus.
Wild Rice Stuffed Squash with Pomegranate & Feta
- Large baking sheet
- Medium saucepan
- ¼ + 2 tbsp olive oil divided
- 4 acorn squash tops lobbed off, seeds removed
- 2 1/2 tsp salt divided
- 3 shallots halved and thinly sliced
- 227g (8oz) cremini mushrooms sliced
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 1 cup wild and long grain rice mix
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- 3 sprigs thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 200g (7 oz) feta cut into cubes
- 1/2 pomegranate arils removed
- 2 tbsp fresh mint finely chopped
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Remove the bottom point from each of the acorn squashes so they can sit flat with the bowl facing up.
- Drizzle the inside of the acorn squash lids and bowls with a 1/4 cup of the olive oil. Sprinkle evenly with 2 teaspoons of the salt and place the squash parts cut and bowl-side-down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place the squash in the oven and roast for 45 minutes or until the flesh is very tender.
- While the squash is roasting, cook the rice. Pour the remaining olive oil into a large, deep skillet. Heat the oil over medium until shimmering. Add the shallots and reduce the heat to low. Sprinkle with a little salt and saute until just translucent.
- Stir in the mushrooms and increase the heat to medium. Saute until well browned. Transfer the mushrooms and shallots to a bowl and set aside.
- Return the skillet to the heat and deglaze the pan with the white wine. Add the rice to the skillet and toss to coat. Pour in the vegetable stock and add the thyme, bay leaves, and the remaining salt. Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cover and let cook until most of the moisture has been absorbed and the rice is tender. This should take about 20-25 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork and cover. Let stand for 10 minutes more.
- Once the rice has steamed for an additional 10 minutes, transfer it to a large bowl. Add the butter and red wine vinegar and toss with a fork until the butter melts. Add the mushrooms and shallots, feta cheese, pomegranate, and fresh mint. Toss to combine. Taste and season with additional salt accordingly.
- Spoon the rice mixture into the bowls of the roasted acorn squash. Garnish with additional mint and pomegranate and serve alongside the acorn squash lids. Serve immediately.