Tonight’s dinner is one that takes more effort to prepare than many of our other dinners. Nevertheless, it is well worth the time. It has been a resounding success two years in a row, but this year I tried something a little different. Last year I used pears and mushrooms, but this year I tried persimmons in the stuffing mix. The results were so good, I’m dreaming of planting a persimmon tree in my backyard now. If you can’t find persimmons, you can simply use pears or apples instead.
I discovered persimmons last year when they came in my Bountiful Basket. They were great in cookies and sweet bread in our first experiences with them. Now they’re back again this year, and I wanted to see if we could use them differently.
If you are a persimmon novice, like I was, start with the fuyu persimmon. They are sweeter when firm and much more forgiving for a first experience. This is also the variety that is easier to eat fresh and make into jam. Fuyus are good when firm and soft, so you have a lot more time to use them before they go bad.
Hachiya persimmons are best used for baking and aren’t sweet enough to eat raw until they are soft like an over ripe tomato. Hachiyas are best when they are so mushy that their skins split when you gently handle them. That can be a little “off-putting” for a first experience, unless you know what to expect.
You can stuff any squash you like with this recipe. Last year, I only used acorn squash and mini tiger pumpkins. There is a larger variety in my pan this year since my harvest packs included new varieties. I’ve got two white patty pan squashes, one white acorn squash, four mini tiger pumpkins, one small carnival squash, two white mini pumpkins, and one orange mini pumpkin. All in all, I think my family will get two and a half meals out of this batch. The kids had lots of fun over dinner sampling the different flavors and textures of the various selections. Little Man was very proud of himself for eating a whole pumpkin. What is your favorite winter squash?
Also, if you want a vegan stuffing, you could use mushrooms or pecans instead of the meat. I actually missed the mushrooms I put into last year’s version. On the other hand, I’m probably the only one that noticed the difference.
Don’t forget to save those squash seeds for roasting. Put the kids on it. The task is a great sensory experience and good for fine motor skills, too.
Stuffed Winter Squash
(Note: This was enough to stuff my whole selection of squashes, so cut down on the filling if you are making a smaller batch.)
A selection of winter squash, washed, dried, cut in half, and seeded. Brush the insides and edges with olive oil.
Put in oven cut side up for 45-60 minutes at 400 degrees (F). Some of the smaller ones may be ready earlier, so take them out as needed. They should all be fork tender, but still retain their shape when you remove them from the oven.
4-5 cups of cooked millet (measured after cooked, this is a great thing to do with leftovers). Start it cooking now if you don’t have any leftover.
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
4 celery stalks with leaves, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 lb ground pork or turkey
4 green onions, chopped
1 T fresh thyme (1 tsp dried)
2 T fresh sage, minced (2 tsp dried)
Salt to taste (I used about 2 tsp today)
1 1/2 cups diced persimmon, peeled if desired (5-6 fuyus)
4-6 mushrooms small diced (optional)
2 cups kale or swiss chard, cut into ribbons
In a deep skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add celery, garlic, fennel seeds, and salt. Saute for 5 minutes.
Add ground pork and saute until almost cooked, 8-10 minutes
Add the rest of the ingredients to the pan and saute until the greens are wilted and the mushrooms are fully cooked if you have included them.
Toss with fluffed millet and evenly distribute.
Stuff winter squashes and bake another 20 minutes.
Serve with a side salad and a simple oil and vinegar dressing.