Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Barley Stuffed Acorn Squash

I've eaten a lot of squash since getting my winter CSA, so I'm trying to get creative with recipes to avoid getting completely sick of it, and if I can turn it into a main dish, all the better. I've had a bag of barley since making Barley Soup with Beef and Mushrooms, so I decided to use that as my grain instead of my typical go-to grains of quinoa, couscous, or brown rice. I probably eat a broader range of whole grains than the average person, but I'm still working on expanding the number of kinds of whole grains I have in my diet.

The most dominant flavor in this dish is Parmesan cheese, so pick a high-quality Parmesan (or Parmigiano-Reggiano) and grate it yourself, if possible. I have a block of absolutely delicious Hook's Parmesan which made this dish something special, but this dish is still well worth your time and effort even with Kraft Parmesan. This dish is  hearty and healthy without being heavy, with salty and rich cheese, toasty walnuts, fresh parsley and sweet apples providing fulfilling a wide variety of elements of flavor.

Barley Stuffed Acorn Squash
serves 4

2 small to medium acorn squash, halved and seeded
2 teaspoons olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Canola oil cooking spray
3/4 cup pearled barley (not hulled barley), rinsed and drained
1 medium to large onion, diced
4 garlic cloved, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup chopped dried apples
2 tablespoons minced fresh flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons toasted chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon butter

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with aluminum oil and spray with cooking spray. Brush the cut sides of the squash with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Place squash cut side down on baking sheets and roast until a knife can be slipped into the flesh with no resistance, rotating once during cooking, about 35 to 55 minutes, depending on the size of the squash. Remove squash from oven and increase heat to 450 degrees.

2. Meanwhile, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil. Add barley and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and return mixture to boil. Simmer until barley is tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.

3. Dry saucepan and return to medium heat. Add remaining teaspoon of oil and onion and cook, covered, over medium heat until onion is softened, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook until garlic is fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute longer. Remove from heat.

4. Off the heat, add cooked barley, 3/4 cup Parmesan, apples, parsley, walnuts, and butter and stir thoroughly to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

5. Divide mixture even among squash halves and top with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Return to oven and bake for 5 to 10 minutes longer, until cheese is melted squash and barley mixture are warm.

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