Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat, then add the olive oil and heat until it shimmers or the butter just until it melts.
Sauté the onion just until the edges turn golden, then add the garlic, stirring just until it is fragrant, but don’t let it brown.
In a bowl, combine the onion and garlic with the grain, almonds, cranberries, and herbs, mixing thoroughly.
Season to taste with salt and pepper, and salt and pepper the hollow of the squash.
Mound the grain into the squash, place the squash in a baking dish, and pour about a cup of water into the bottom of the dish.
Cover and bake for 20–40 minutes for small squash, 30–60 minutes for large. Start checking after 20 or 30—the squash should start to be a little yielding but not soft yet). Uncover and bake 10-15 more minutes or until the squash is easily pierced with a sharp knife.
Use any cooked whole grain you have on hand – oat groats, quinoa, barley….
Use any nuts (or combination) you prefer or substitute pumpkin or sunflower seeds for the nuts; substitute any small or chopped dried fruit for the cranberries – cherries, apricots, apples, etc.; use whatever herb/s you prefer.
Just about any smallish vegetable can be stuffed and baked in this way: hollowed out onions, scooped out tomatoes, zucchini “boats,” acorn squash…. You will need to adjust the cooking time to the vegetable: start with 15-20 minutes covered and go from there, checking every 10 minutes for doneness.
You can also just bake the stuffing in a dish and serve it as a grain.
You can mix the stuffing up to 3 days in advance and keep it refrigerated in an airtight container until you’re ready to use it. Count on increasing the cooking time if you’re starting with cold stuffing.
Stuff the squash up to a day ahead and keep it tightly covered in the refrigerator until you’re ready to bake it. Let it sit at room temperature while you preheat the oven.
If you have the oven on for something else and have extra room, you can always roast the squash halves ahead of time, then stuff and reheat later.
© Elizabeth A. Baker, LLC. All rights reserved.
Photo by Chuk Nowak, 2016 for Fl!p Your K!tchen® (visit the shop page)