Tired of Playing Fowl on Thanksgiving?

You will absolutly fall in love with this Umami stuffed butternut squash so much, it just might persuade you to reconsider poultry this holiday season! Not only is it vegetarian… it’s fancy! 

You’ll Need: 

1 cup fresh pecans, chopped

1- foot long butternut squash

1 Japanese eggplant about 8-10 inches in length

1 zucchini, about 10 inches in length

1 white onion, cleaned and roughly chopped

2-3 garlic cloves, divided

1 shallot, coarsely chopped

1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, cleaned, coarsely chopped

1 celery rib, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup sundried tomato packed in oil, squeezed of excess oil

1 tablespoon good quality olive oil

1 bunch fresh thyme, divided

8 oz. unsalted butter, melted

2 tablespoons pure maple syrup or honey

1 cup ricotta cheese

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

2 eggs

1/2 cup Japanese bread crumbs

1/2 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped fine and divided

1 teaspoon ground sage

Kosher salt and white pepper

Here’s How:

Preheat oven to 325′ F Degrees. Toast the pecans on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing once, until fragrant and slightly darkened, 10–12 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely chop and set aside.

Increase the oven temperature to 400′ F Degrees. Drizzle the baking sheet with good quality olive oil.

While the oven is getting up to temperature, carefully cut butternut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the interior, leaving about a 1/2″ border on all sides and creating a divot deep enough to fit the eggplant halves inside. Discard the stringy guts, reserving all the solid meat filling, and the seeds for roasting.

Cut eggplant in half lengthwise and scoop out and reserve the interior, leaving about a 1/4″ border on all sides and creating a divot deep enough to fit delicious filling inside, which will go inside the butternut squash- follow me?

Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise, scoop out interior for the vegetable, leaving behind a fairly-wide mote down the center to fit the remaining filling.

Place squash halves cut side up, on a prepared baking sheet. Using a fork, be sure to pierce insides of squash and zucchini halves to release steam. Using a sharp knife, make shallow crosshatch marks inside of eggplant, being careful not to pierce through the skin. Season all with salt and pepper butter and a drizzle of maple syrup or honey then set aside.

In the bowl of your food processor, combine the garlic, shallot, onion, mushrooms, celery, squash, and eggplant filling. Working in batches, if needed, pulse the food processor until finely chopped but not to a paste. Add sundried tomatoes and pulse one final time.

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large high-sided skillet over medium-high heat, add the vegetables from the processor, and a few thyme sprigs and the ground sage. Cook until the mixture begins to brown, and almost all the moisture evaporates- about 5-8 minutes. Taste, and adjust season with salt and pepper. 

Remove from the heat to a large bowl and allow the vegetable mixture to significantly cool. Remove the thyme sprigs and discard. Crack in the eggs, ricotta, Parmesan cheese, panko, a small handful of chopped parsley, and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. 

Using an ice cream or portion control scoop press about 3/4 cup vegetable mixture into each half of the butternut squash until the interior is fully coated using the back of the scoop or spoon press the combination into and up the sides making room for the eggplant to fit. Sprinkle with the toasted pecans and then add the eggplant cut side up and repeat the filling process, including the pecans. Now add the zucchini and repeat to fill with vegetable mixture, continue the nesting process with each halve until you have filled the whole butternut squash with all the vegetable halves layered with stuffing- just like your famous lasagna.

Using kitchen twine. Slip under one squash half, then top with the second squash half, so that the cut sides face each other. Now press together and tightly tie the twine around squash to secure it for the oven. 

Brush the exterior of the stuffed butternut squash with melted butter and maple syrup then season again with salt and pepper. Wrap the squash tightly in aluminum foil and place it in the center of a low-sided baking dish to prevent it from rolling. 

Roast the squash until it is tender to the touch, about 90 minutes to 2 hours. 

Remove foil and let rest at least 10-20 minutes.

Remove twine and place it on a cutting board. Cut into 1″ thick disc with a serrated knife, transferring to serving plates as you go. Spoon warm herbed or salted butter over slices, garnish with more pecans and serve with warm maple syrup.

Happy holiday!

Tzatziki Dipping Sauce     

English pronunciation ( Taet-Zeek -Key) 

Tzatziki is a sauce, or a dip. Made up of a combination of cucumber, fresh yogurt, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice or vinegar- and fresh herbs. So delicious and refreshing. I like to use it on everything. I especially love to dip raw vegetables in it, and sometimes use it for salad dressing.

My kids love it and it’s a great source of protein on its own. I love Tzatziki on grilled meats, on Falafel and in Gyros too. I grew up with a portion of a Greek family, and this was a highly coveted culinary staple at most family gatherings. 

Ingredients:

1/2 large seedless cucumber, unpeeled, grated and set to drain- or rush the process by tossing in 1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups plain full-fat Greek yogurt

2 large garlic cloves, finely minced

2 Tablespoons extra virgin good quality olive oil

1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice 

1/2 teaspoon Kosher or Himalayan salt

1/4-1/2 teaspoon white pepper

1 -2 Tablespoons minced fresh dill

Method

Grate the cucumber, gently salt and toss – set to drain through a fine mesh sieve overnight in the refrigerator or allow to sit for 10-20 minutes and squeeze and excess liquid from cucumber wash off salt residue and squeeze dry using a clean kitchen towel. 

Add prepared cucumber to a small bowl and combine with the yogurt, garlic, oil, lemon juice and white pepper. Cover and refrigerate overnight, or as long as you can. 

Remove from refrigerator and add chopped fresh dill to the mixture and stir to combine. Check and adjust seasoning. 

Serve chilled with pita bread, fresh cut veggies for dipping or use as a side for grilled meats. 

Chef Notes

Cucumbers inherently release an abundance of water when cut. Make sure your grated cucumber is well-drained before adding to the remaining ingredients or your recipe will become watery and flavorless. If you have time, can drain it in cheesecloth or a fine mesh sieve overnight. If you’re in a rush, you can salt the cucumbers let sit about ten minutes, rinse and use your hands to squeeze the remaining liquid out of the cucumber.

The longer the garlic rests in the yogurt, the less bitter it will become and the better it will taste. For best results, combine all of the ingredients except the cucumber and allow it rest overnight in the refrigerator overnight- while your cucumber is draining.

Add the fresh dill at the last minute so it doesn’t overwhelm the rest of the flavors.