Once Reserved Only for the Noble.
The health benefits of black rice are so powerful, this ingredient earned its name. Highly prized by noblemen and once forbidden amongst the common in ancient China.
Black rice, was first introduced to the United States just recently, in 1995. Today it’s gaining popularity. Forbidden black rice is delicious, and has an amazingly chewy bite. It can be purchased at natural grocery stores, specialty markets and through your favorite on-line store.
2-4 golden acorn squash, small sugar pumpkins or your fav squash
2 cups black forbidden rice, thoroughly washed
1 pound ground sausage
3 1/2 cups good quality chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more to adjust seasoning
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon, plus 1/2 tablespoon good quality California olive oil, divided
1 cup celery, small dice
1 yellow onion, cleaned peeled and small diced
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped fine
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
1 red bellpepper cored and cut small dice
1/4 cup dried apricots, small dice
1 small green apple, cored & diced
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup pecans rough chopped
1/4 cup chopped pistachios
1/2 cup Grand Mariner or good quality brandy (optional)
1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped fine
Squash seeds, roasted for garnish
Preheat the oven to 375′ F degrees, prepare a high-sided cookie sheet with olive oil and set aside.
In a small bowl, soak dried apricots and golden raisins in Grand Mariner. Set aside.
Wash and dry the squash and cut the stem to remove. Cut the squash in half horizontally. Careful not to cut yourself. Place the round squash on a folded kitchen towel, to prevent from rolling. With a serrated bread knife-using a sawing motion, cut through the firm flesh.
On each halve- carefully cut a very straight silver dollar sized piece off the backs of each halve. This will ensure each piece will sit upright at service time. With a spoon, gently scrape interior to remove seeds. Set aside to roast. ( See my seed roasting recipe ) or discard.
Lightly coat the flesh of the squash with some of the olive oil. Season generously with salt and fresh cracked pepper. Sprinkle lightly with ground nutmeg and ground clove.
Place flesh side down on the prepared baking sheet. Put into a pre-heated oven for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the flesh is soft- but stable when pierced with a knife.
Meanwhile, while squash is roasting, prepare the remainder of the recipe by rinsing the black rice thoroughly in a sieve under cold running water. Shake rice until water begins to runs clear, removing much of its starch.
In a medium sized, 6-8 quart sauce pan with fitted lid- bring rice, chicken stock, olive oil, salt, and pepper to a roaring boil – uncovered, over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cover tightly. Continue to cook rice until tender and most of water has been absorbed, about 35 – 40 minutes. Remove from heat, and let stand covered, about 10 minutes undisturbed. After rest period, reveal and fluff with a fork. Black rice is naturally chewy when done. Test for doneness.
About 15 minutes before the squash and the rice are expected to finish cooking, begin to prepare the stuffing. In a large 10-12 inch skillet over medium heat add 1/2 teaspoon of oil add ground pork, season with salt and pepper and additional 1/4 teaspoon ground sage. Sauté until slightly brown. About 2 minutes.
Add the diced celery and onion. Continue to sauté an additional 3-4 minutes until celery is cooked through, but still firm to the bite. Add fresh chopped herbs and small diced apples to the pan. Cook for an additional 2 minutes. Remove the from the pan away from any heat, strain liquid off dried fruit and add to the pan. Stir to combine. Return to heat and fold in the cooked rice, and pecans. Cook an additional 1 minute to combine flavors. Add a good pinch of chopped parsley reserving additional for garnish. Stir. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
Place cooked squash skin side up in a baking dish. Generously spoon the rice stuffing into the cooked acorn squash so that they are piled high. Cover “tent like” with foil and return to the oven for 5-8 minutes or until heated through. If holding any longer in the oven, add a few tablespoons of chicken stock or water to keep moist.
Remove from the oven, and finish with finely chopped flat leaf parsley- serve immediately!
Remove pork sausage and replace with bacon or omit all together.
If you want a sweeter flavor sprinkle acorn squash with a pinch of brown sugar or maple syrup and cinnamon before stuffing.
Makes approximately 4-6 servings depending on size of squash.