Nothing shouts fall like warm spices and beautiful squash! Here they are stuffed with lamb, herbs and dried cherries and topped with a fresh turmeric tahini dressing and a bright relish of pistachios, pomegranate and capers. A beautiful main course to serve at a dinner party, it also makes for wonderful leftovers that can easily be reheated in the oven. Pairs wonderfully with a pinot noir or zinfandel! I personally found one half squash enough to be satiated especially when served with a salad or side.
3 small mixed squash (approximately 1-1/2 lb each, or 3-1/2 lb total of acorn, red kuri and/or buttercup kabocha squash)
6 T olive oil, divided
1 large onion (about 1-1/2 cups chopped)
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander seeds, ground
1 lb ground lamb (get local, grass-fed and finished if possible)
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup (20 g) chopped herbs, equal parts parsley, dill, cilantro and mint
Black pepper, cracked
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 T tomato paste
1 T maple syrup
1 T lemon juice
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/3 cup raw shelled pistachio
1/2 cup chopped parsely, cilantro, dill and mint
Zest of 1 large Meyer lemon
1 T capers, roughly chopped
2 T pomegranate seeds
1/4 cup raw tahini
Juice of half a Meyer lemon juice (about 3 tablespoons)
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 small knob fresh turmeric or 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 T olive oil
2-3 T water
1. Preheat oven to 425ºF. With a sharp knife, cut squash in half through the stem. Remove seeds. Brush with 4 tablespoons olive oil and generously crack salt and pepper over them. Bake skin side down (see photo) for 30 minutes until starting to brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool on the counter.
2. As the squash bakes, make the lamb filling. Warm skillet on the stove top, add 2 tablespoons oil and once hot add spices and cook for 1 minute. Add onions and cook for 8 more minutes stirring often.
3. Add lamb and cook for 10 more minutes until cooked through. Combine chicken stock, maple syrup, tomato paste and lemon in a bowl, whisk together. Add to the lamb along with the dried cherries. Simmer for 10 more minutes until the stock-mixture is mostly evaporated. Taste for seasoning.
4. Reduce oven temperature to 375º. Distribute filling into the squash. Bake for 20 more minutes.
5. To make the tahini dressing, combing tahini, lemon juice, garlic, turmeric, salt and water. Blend until smooth and runny. Let sit for a few minutes. The dressing will turn yellow as the turmeric really incorporates.
6. To make relish, combine pistachios, herbs, lemon zest, pomegranate seeds and capers in a bowl. Toss.
7. When the squash are finished, remove from oven. Plate by spreading a little tahini dressing down first, then the squash, then more dressing and finally the relish. Serve warm!
To reheat: Preheat oven to 350ºF. Add a tablespoon of chicken stock or water to each squash half. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 30 minutes. Service with more tahini dressing and relish. A day later, I found the spices really started to make their way into the squash which was wonderful!
Serves 4 to 6.