Look at that squash. It’s just. So. Big.
Being that it is the wonderful autumn season, and our CSA boxes have contained a whole lot of pumpkins and squash, I have been indulging in my pumpkin obsession.
Admittedly, I am not in the mood for sweets. I crave something savory, spicy, warm, and hearty. I wanted real food as I like to call it.
When I think of pumpkin and squash for dinner it inevitable goes to it being roasted or mashed on the side. Or, if it is a main dish, a soup or a ravioli. Though those options are delicious, it wasn’t what I was looking for. I wanted something else. Something different. Something a little bit less cream, butter, and cheese based.
As much as I LOVE cream, butter, and cheese, I know that, in the immortal words of the Stark House, “Winter is Coming.” For me, that means cold, staying inside, and not being as physically active. Though I want to eat all the heavy, filling foods and fall asleep, I shouldn’t. Bulky sweaters are not in my wardrobe, so I try to be careful about the amount of rich food I eat. Especially around the holidays. It’s an age old struggle.
Fall flavors, for me, are warm and spicy, tart, a hint of sweetness, and of course, savory. I had been watching Hannah Hart’s Youtube show, My Drunk Kitchen, and she did a show with Jamie Oliver. I adore Jamie Oliver. I think he’s charming and adorable, and his recipes haven’t steered me wrong yet.
I remembered that I had one of his cookbooks up on my shelf that I haven’t looked at in forever, and I figured I would check it out for savory pumpkin recipes. When I grabbed the book, it was Jamie’s America, (ISBN 9780718154769), in which he cooks real American food, though not how you think. It’s great book. You should check it out at your local library.
I know, I know, more cookbooks, more library plugs…but, seriously! What do you expect from a librarian? All I do is read. That’s a lie, I cook too. The library offers so many amazing resources for just about anything you could want to read about. Why NOT use it. That’s what it’s for. And seriously…free books. Thousands of them. And probably movies and CDs too! How could you go wrong?
Anyway, mini library-rant over, back to Jamie. Well, he had a recipe for what he calls “Wild West Rice”, which he describes as a traditional Native American dish of “…hallowed-out pumpkin stuffed with rice and other delicious things” (p320). There are obviously many ways that a cook could riff on this. His recipe looks amazing; of course I didn’t have everything that was called for, so I substituted and added and subtracted where I needed to. But, the results were still awesome.
Long story short: give this one a try. It’s smokey, sweet, creamy, and everything you want in an American rice dish.
And also, make sure if you use the proportions listed that you have a really big pan. The serving size says 8-10…those are generous portions. I halved this recipe, too. I’ve definitely had this for lunch everyday for about a week now. My mother has eaten some, and there is still a TON left. Luckily it’s delicious, otherwise it might be a trial to finish it off. So, just make sure you are having some very lucky friends over when you make it!
I love a good excuse for a party.
Wild West Rice
a la Jamie’s America (With a few Molly changes)
1 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
5 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 1/4 c wild black rice
1 bunch fresh dill
1 quart chicken broth
2 lbs butternut or acorn squash
1 dried chipolte chili,
1 1/4 c basmati rice
1 c dried cranberries
- Preheat our oven to 350. Get a wide and fairly shallow Dutch oven or similar pan on a medium heat and add a lug of olive oil, onions, garlic, black rice, and a good pinch of salt and pepper.
- Fry for around 10 minutes over medium-high heat, or until the onions have softened.
- Finely chop the dill stalks, and roughly chop the leaves. Add the stalks to the pan, reserving the leaves for later. Then, pour in the chicken broth and bring to a boil.
- Put the lid on the pan and simmer for around 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- While the rice is cooking, carefully halve the squash and seed it. You can peel the squash if you want, but the skin is usually thin enough that you don’t need to. (And it’s delicious, and gets really soft when you cook it.) Slice the squash into 3/4 inch wedges. Toss them in a large bowl with a good lug of olive oil, a big pinch of cinnamon, the chopped chipolte, and the reserved dill leaves. Season with salt and pepper.
- Remove the lid from the rice and stir in the basmati and dried cranberries.
- Gently push down the wedges of squash into the rice so that they are half-in and half-out. Replace the lid, or cover with aluminum foil, and put in the hot oven to bake for 45 minutes.
- After 45 minutes, take the pot out and check the rice. it should be lightly golden and soft. If you want a bit of crispiness, place the pot back into the oven, without a cover, for 10 minutes, to let it brown up a bit.
- Serve and eat! It’s really delicious with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt on top.