Cheesy Millet-Stuffed Butternut Squash with Shiitakes, and Kale Pesto
This vegetarian main is packed full of flavor!
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 55 minutes
Total: 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings: 4 as a moderate meal.
For the Stuffed Squash:
- 1 medium butternut squash , (about 2 3/4 pounds)
- olive oil, as needed
- salt and freshly milled pepper, as needed
- 1/2 cup uncooked millet, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup water
- 1 medium yellow onion, peeled, halved, and diced
- 1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, rinsed briefly, trimmed, and sliced , (3 cups)
- 1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves
- 1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, plus extra for garnish
- 2 tablespoons white wine or vegetable broth
- 4 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled , (about 1 cup)
- 2 ounces gruyère cheese, grated, plus 2 more ounces for the tops , (about 1 cup total)
- toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds, for garnish
For the Kale Pesto:
- 2 cups lightly packed, torn kale leaves (no stems)
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts
- 1 large garlic clove
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan
- about 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- a squeeze of lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream (optional)
Roast the squash:
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375ºF.
Use a large, sharp chef's knife to slice the squash in half lengthwise, leaving the seeds in for now. Drizzle a bit of olive oil onto a rimmed baking sheet, and use the cut side of a squash half to rub it around. Place both halves cut side down. Roast in the oven until the long, skinny part is tender when pierced with a paring knife, about 45 minutes.
Scrape the seeds and strings from the squash and discard. Next, carefully scrape out some of the squash flesh from the shaft and cavity, leaving a 1-inch border all around. Reserve the scraped squash meat. Lightly salt and pepper the squash halves, and set aside.
While the squash roasts, make the millet:
In a small, lidded saucepan, combine the rinsed millet, 1 cup water, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Set over a medium flame and bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to very low, cover the pot, and let the millet steam until tender and all the water has been absorbed, about 15 minutes. Add more water and continue to steam if the millet isn't cooked enough for your liking; it should have the chewy-soft texture of brown rice. When the millet is cooked, remove it from the heat and let stand, still covered, for 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork. Measure out 2 cups, and reserve the rest for another use.
Meanwhile, cover a wide skillet with a film of olive oil, and warm over a medium flame until it shimmers. Add the diced onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms, chile, sage, thyme, and a few pinches of salt, and saute until the mushrooms are very tender, about 10 minutes. Add the wine, and cook until the pan is dry, 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat.
In a large bowl, stir together the 2 cups cooked millet, the mushroom mixture, and the reserved squash flesh. Stir in the goat cheese, 2 ounces of the gruyère, and salt and pepper to taste.
Make the kale pesto:
Bring a kettle of water to a boil. Place the kale in a wire mesh sieve, and pour the boiling water over the kale to wilt it. Rinse with cool water until cool enough to handle, then firmly squeeze the kale dry. Combine the wilted, squeezed-dry kale in a food processor with the pine nuts, garlic, and parmesan, and process until ground to a paste, adding the olive oil little by little to make a thick sauce. Add enough salt and lemon juice until you like the flavor, and the heavy cream if you wish – I found it helped to smooth the flavors a bit. The pesto may taste slightly bitter, but it will pair well with the sweet squash. Scrape the pesto into a small bowl or jar, cover, and chill until needed.
Stuff and bake the squash:
Divide the millet mixture between the cooked and hollowed squash halves, packing it in and mounding it gently. Top with the remaining grated gruyère. Return the squash to the oven and bake until the cheese is melted and the squash and filling are heated through, 10-15 minutes.
Eat the squash!:
Slice each squash half diagonally into fourths, and serve the wedges topped with thyme leaves, pumpkin seeds, and a dollop of pesto on the side.
Leftovers will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days – reheat before serving.
Inspired by my good friend Amelia DiPrimo.
As I mentioned above, this recipe takes a few steps, much of which can be done a day or two in advance: roasting the squash, making the pesto, cooking the millet, and making the stuffing. (If you already happen to have cooked millet on hand, you'll need 2 cups for this recipe.)
I can imagine a lot of fun variations on this recipe, such as a late summer version made with quinoa, corn, poblanos, jack cheese, and cilantro pesto.
You can easily make this vegan by omitting all the cheeses and using firm tofu, grated on the large holes of a box mixer, in the filling.
Nutritional values are based on one of four servings.
Calories: 471kcal | Carbohydrates: 52g | Protein: 21g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 34mg | Sodium: 318mg | Potassium: 1147mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 23855IU | Vitamin C: 84.7mg | Calcium: 412mg | Iron: 4.3mg