Everybody knows by now that I love fall and winter squash—just about any kind, from pumpkins (that are food not decorations) to butternuts. And by far, my favorite is delicata, which until recently could only be gotten at the farmers markets. The grocery stores are so slow to catch on the fabulous local food, but delicata squash is turning up regularly now at major chains, though I still get all mine from my local farmers.
Delicatas store well, though not as well as the harder squash like pumpkins, butternuts and acorns. And their beautiful peach-tone flesh is super sweet and rich when roasted. Because of their relatively small size, they are easier to manage in the kitchen, too—a good cutting board and a sturdy chef’s knife are all you need. The seeds scoop right out and can be dried, stored and replanted next year!
Sometimes, though, things grow a little bigger out on the farm. I bought the delicata squash in this photo from Biver Farms, and, as you can see, I got perhaps the biggest delicata at the market….perhaps at any market. Where is a county fair when you need it?
So the recipe below, which is TO DIE FOR, if I might add, took me only my one supersized delicata (which I’m guessing might have fooled around with a cute little butternut out in the field), but it will take you four, at least, because I’m thinking you are more likely to find standard size squash at your market. You’ll probably still have stuffing to spare, but that can be a good thing, yes? Not to mention the bonus of each diner having her own little stuffed boat of flavor—so cute! So let’s get cookin’!
But before we do…if Millet is new to you, check the end of the post for further information on this gluten-free, super-nutritious grain. And please read through the recipe before you start, so that you can schedule this dish into your menu, as there are several make-ahead steps that are easy, if you plan. Be brave—you’ll squash this!
- One quarter-cup toasted sesame oil (I use Spectrum.)
- One tablespoon dark pure sesame oil (Usually you do not cook with this—it's used as a condiment. Ignore that wisdom here and be brave.)
- One teaspoon fennel powder
- One teaspoon whole cumin seeds, crushed
- One teaspoon whole mustard seeds, crushed
- One-half teaspoon turmeric
- One-inch cinnamon stick (Nothing compares to a Ceylon Cinnamon Stick from Penzeys.)
- One small whole serrano chili (optional)
- One and one-half cups dry whole millet
- Three cups liquid (I like my own veggie stock here, but chicken broth would work, too. In a pinch you can use plain water or water with bouillon.)
- One teaspoon coarse sea salt
- Three or four firm pears, such as D'Anjou or Bosc, peeled, cored and cut into small chunks
- Fresh lemon juice to keep the pears from turning as you peel and cut
- Two to three tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into little cubes
- Sprinkle of coarse sea salt
- Pure maple syrup, to taste
- Four nice-size delicata squash, washed, halved and seeded
- Olive oil
- Course sea salt
- About a quarter-cup olive oil
- Two tablespoons unsalted butter
- Coarse sea salt
- Four shallots, or yellow onions, chopped fine
- Four cloves garlic, minced
- One cup lightly toasted pecan halves, 10 minutes in a 350-degree oven
- One cup dried cranberries (Gotta love Trader Joes Organic!)
- The pre-cooked millet and pears, which can be prepared up to two days in advance and actually improve during that time.
- One half-cup chopped fresh herbs—this can be whatever you have in your garden. I used a combo of thyme, rosemary and sage.
- Heat the toasted sesame oil in a wide shallow skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add the fennel, cumin, mustard, turmeric and cinnamon stick (the serrano, if you wish). Stir, allowing the spices to bloom in the hot oil. Once they become aromatic, add the dry millet and stir constantly as the millet toasts, about three minutes.
- Now add sea salt to taste, along with the dark sesame oil as you stir. Once the millet has toasted and started to brown, increase the heat and add the liquid all at once, bringing to a rapid quick boil. Cover tightly, reduce heat to a low simmer and cook for 20 to 30 minutes without lifting the lid, until the millet has absorbed all or most of the liquid. At that point, turn off the heat and let the millet steam covered for another 20-30 minutes. You want the millet to be chewy but thoroughly cooked and tender.
- When the millet is where you want it and calmed down, store it in the frig with the cinnamon stick (and serrano, if using) still included until ready to use.
- Have your pears peeled, cored and chopped, keeping them fresh in a bowl of fresh lemon juice until you have them all prepped.
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Drain the pears so that most of the lemon juice is gone. Toss the pears with a generous drizzle of pure maple syrup and a generous sprinkle of coarse sea salt. Transfer to the baking sheet and dot all over with the butter cubes.
- Roast at 375 degrees for about 30-40 minutes, depending on the firmness of your pears. You want the pears to be fork tender but not mushy. They should still be slightly firm in texture and somewhat caramelized. Allow to cool off and store in the frig until needed. (You will need to fend off bandits.)
- Heat the olive oil and butter in a large chef's skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and a good sprinkle of sea salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots soften and become translucent. Reduce the heat a bit and add the garlic and continue cooking, a total of about 30 minutes on a low heat.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line two large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Place your cleaned, halved and seeded delicata squash on your work board. Rub the flesh all over with olive oil and salt.
- Roast your squash halves cut-side down for 30 or 40 minutes, until nearly fork tender.
- As the squash roasts, finish up the shallots and garlic, adding in your previously cooked millet (minus cinnamon stick and serrano) with the toasted pecans and dried cranberries. Cook and stir until this is heated through and the flavors are mingling, about 15 minutes. Test and salt, if desired.
- When the squash is ready to come out of the oven, add the roasted pears to the filling, stirring carefully but thoroughly to combine. Turn off the heat and stir in your fresh herbs. Once the filling is ready, turn the squash halves over and fill the seed cavities with the stuffing—be generous. Any leftover stuffing can be served on the side or saved for another use.
- Return the stuffed squash to the oven and continue to bake for another 20 minutes.
Don't freak out about the prep and cook times. These times represent the entire process--the millet and pears, the squash and stuffing. Doing some steps ahead makes this way easier.
Millet was new to me when I started this blog, but I’m always looking for gluten-free options for my daughter and my friends who need or desire to eat gluten free. Millet is perfect, with high nutrition and a chewy, satisfying texture. I have always cooked with ancient grains–there are posts using barley and wheatberries, for instance. But the serious gluten-free search led to millet, which is hardier than quinoa, when you want a more substantial grain that actually chews like a grain. Most health food stores carry millet, and it is finding its way into more mainstream outlets, as well.