There’s something essentially comforting to me about harvest time.
Beyond soul-satisfying fall foods like butternut squash soup, pumpkin mac and cheese, and roasted root vegetables, harvest serves as a yearly reminder that there is much in this world that is a whole lot bigger than I am. That, regardless of me and what I may have done in the previous year, come autumn, the days will start to get shorter, the wind swifter, and the nights colder. The baskets that just recently held watermelons and peaches will start to overflow with crisp apples, sweet potatoes, and turnips.
Try as I might to control the world around me, clinging tightly to summer and nectarines and ripe heirloom tomatoes, fall harvest can be counted on with certitude, to show up anyway, right on time, in all its crunchy-leaf glory. And I can protest, but that would be very silly. Better, I can fill sweet little acorn squashes with earthy kale, onions, creamy goat cheese, and piquant little cranberries, pour a glass of reasonably priced Pinot, and toast to a vibrant, fruitful fall season.
2 medium acorn squashes, cut in half, lengthwise, seeds removed (don’t forget you can roast and eat them!) $3.50
Extra-virgin olive oil pantry
½ medium onion, chopped $1.00 for a whole onion
1 clove garlic, minced pantry
1 cup (packed) thinly sliced kale leaves, stems removed $1.50 for a bunch of whole kale
4 ounces fresh creamy goat cheese $2.50 for 5 ounces
¼ cup dried cranberries $2 for 8 ounces
Salt and pepper to taste pantry
2 tablespoons chopped raw almonds, optional
Estimated total cost of ingredients: $10.50
Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Place the squash halves flesh side up on a microwaveable plate and pierce their yellow flesh several times with a fork.
Microwave for 8-9 minutes, or until the flesh is soft (if you don’t have a microwave, this can be done in the 375-degree oven by roasting for about 30 minutes).
Let the squash halves cool until they can be handled.
While the squash halves cool, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat.
Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until the onions are soft and very fragrant.
Stir in the kale and 3 tablespoons water.
Cook, stirring occasionaly, for about 8 minutes, or until all the water has absorbed and the kale is very soft.
Scoop the flesh of the cooked, cooled squash into a mixing bowl, leaving about ¼-inch flesh on the skin, to prevent tearing while cooking.
Arrange the empty squash skins on an ungreased baking sheet.
Use the back of a fork to mash the squash flesh until mostly smooth.
Stir in the cooked kale-onion mixture, the goat cheese, the cranberries, salt and pepper to taste, and 2 teaspoons of olive oil until completely combined.
Divide the mixture between the squash skins, packing it in carefully.
Top each stuffed squash with a sprinkle of the chopped almonds, if desired.
Bake for 27-30 minutes, or until lightly browned on top.
Let cool for 5 minutes, then serve hot.
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