To Stuff or Not to Stuff – I Ponder the Merits of Rice-Stuffed Squash
July 6, 2012
Why is it that stuffed (suitable vegetable here) always sounds like a great idea, but then turns out to be a huge, laborious production with merely adequate results? I can think of two reasons, now that I’ve done a couple round of ‘pretty, but not a repeat’ stuffed vegetable dishes.
First, for whatever reason, it always seems to involve about 4 pans/pots/baking sheets. For this dish I used a pot to boil the squash, a pot to simmer the rice, a sauté pan to cook the mushrooms, leeks, garlic, and peppers, and a baking sheet to bake the stuffed squash. And then I did a lot of dishes.
The second reason is because the vegetable receptacle often seems to be somewhat bland on its own, and since it’s serving as a shell, there’s quite a bit of it in a large continuous piece. I didn’t actually buy the pattypan squash at the farmers market with the intention of stuffing it, but when I was coming up with a menu plan, I thought that might be a good way to use them. Unfortunately, since they aren’t really huge, they didn’t hold too much rice, and they had such thick walls we found we had to add quite a bit of salt to ‘flavor them up’.
The rice component (made with ruby red Jasmine rice, mushrooms, leeks, and pepper) was pretty good though. Since I had quite a bit left over after this meal, I ended up extending the remainder later in the week with a couple of andouille chicken sausage, some more mushrooms, and some chicken stock.
So, what did I learn with this dish? If you’re going to do a complex stuffed meal, try to find a shell vegetable that’s really tasty on its own. Pattypan squash probably doesn’t quite fit that bill. And maybe it really isn’t worth all the hassle – for me at least. But I must say, it was a pretty dinner!
Mushroom, Leek, Pepper and Rice Stuffed Pattypan Squash (should you choose to embark upon the laborious path)
serves up to 6 (with bonus rice leftovers if you use less than 6 squash!)
up to 6 pattypan squash (or other suitable squash)
1 cup ruby red jasmine rice (or brown, white, etc)
3-4 leeks, chopped
1 red or orange bell pepper, chopped
1/2 lb shiitake mushrooms (or your choice), sliced and then cut again into 1/2 inch pieces (if necessary)
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
2 + 3/4 cups chicken or vegetable stock, divided
2 tsp olive oil, divided
thyme (or your choice)
Cook the rice according to package directions, but use the chicken or vegetable stock instead of water. (Mine called for 2+1/2 cups, but adjust as necessary for whatever type you are using).
Meanwhile, boil the pattypan squash until they are tender (but not too tender), about 20 minutes. When they are done, remove and let cool a bit.
While the rice and squash are cooking, heat 1 tsp olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat, then cook the mushrooms until they release their juice. Keep cooking until most of the juice evaporates, then remove from the pan and set aside.
(Carefully) wipe out any mushroom detrius, then heat another 1 tsp in the sauté pan over medium heat. Add the peppers, and cook for 3-4 minutes, until they just start to get tender. Then add the leeks and garlic, and continue to cook until the leeks are tender, roughly 5-8 minutes.
About this time you’ll want to pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Turn off the heat under the vegetables if the rice isn’t done yet. Otherwise, add the rice, then add 1/4 cup of stock. Add the thyme (or other herbs) and salt to your taste, then stir well, and cook a minute or two until the stock cooks off. Turn the heat off.
Cut the top of each pattypan squash off, then using a spoon, hollow out the squash, being careful that you don’t go through the sides or bottom (although it’s not a disaster if you do). I had to empty the squash of juice a few times as I was doing this.
Once you have the squash hollowed out, fill each cavity with the rice and vegetable mixture. Place the squash on a cookie sheet covered in foil and sprayed with cooking spray. If the squash and rice/vegetables are still pretty warm,you can just put the filled squash in the oven for 5-10 minutes until everything is hot.
The remainder of the rice/vegetables will be used as a bed for the squash. If it has gotten coolish before you serve the dish, just reheat it right before you take the squash out of the oven.
Put a bit of rice on each plate, flatten it out, then put the squash on top.