Photos: Hannah Palmer Egan
On Route 100 just north of Waitsfield village, Hartshorn's Farmstand
offers a wild proliferation of root-cellar vegetables, squash in particular. Bins along the outside of the stand overflow with butternuts, acorns, hubbards, kabochas, delicatas, and — my personal favorite — buttercups.
I am fond of the buttercup for its rich, creamy flesh, subtle nutty flavor and relative ease in handling. Unlike the hubbard, which I also adore, the buttercup grows to a manageable size, cooks fairly quickly and is easier to slice without losing a finger to the knife.
And, when split in half and stuffed, these make a lovely entrée; they can also be cut, post-cooking, for a fine side dish. Either way, with fresh Vermont cranberries from Cranberry Bob
, and sage, sausage and coconut, these stuffers make for a homey but interesting November meal. What's more, the recipe is vegan but for the sausage (and gluten-free!), so it's friendly for pretty much anyone.
The recipe can also be endlessly adapted: Substitute the sweet breakfast sausage for spicy andouille or chorizo, grapes for the cranberries, pears for the apples or rosemary for the sage. It's all good.
Serves two as an entrée, four to six as a side
1 six-inch buttercup squash
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium onion
1 shallot, diced
2 tablespoons coconut oil
Apple cider vinegar
⅓ cup plus 2 teaspoons maple syrup, divided
1 cup fresh cranberries
1 medium apple, diced to ¾ inch pieces
1 cup quinoa (use the toasted black kind if you can find it), cooked
Scant handful of almonds or cashews, finely chopped
¼ pound breakfast sausage, browned
Scant handful of fresh sage leaves, loosely chopped
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Split the squash down the middle and remove the seeds. If one or both of the "cups" are shallow, scoop out some of the flesh until they are no less than an inch and a half deep (chop the excess flesh, and cook alongside the sausage as it browns.)
Bake the squash cups 15-20 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients.
Place the garlic, onion and shallot in a shallow pan with one tablespoon coconut oil and heat over low heat, stirring often, until they are well caramelized, 15-20 minutes. Deglaze the pan with a shot of apple cider vinegar and stir in ⅓ cup maple syrup and the remaining tablespoon of coconut oil.
Add the cranberries, apples, quinoa, nuts, sausage and sage. Increase heat to medium and cook an additional 5-10 minutes until apples begin to soften and most of the cranberries are well blistered but still shapely.
Swirl the squash cups with one teaspoon of maple syrup each and dust lightly with salt, then fill with the stuffing and bake 30-45 minutes, until the squash is soft.
Serve warm with an earthy red wine or dry cider.