Squash Stuffed with Cherry Apple Almond Couscous (vegan, gf)

I was lucky enough to receive a new cookbook in my Vegan Food Swap package last month! It is called Vegan Yum Yum, written by Lauren Ulm. Lauren is also the founder of veganyumyum.com (a vegan blog with beautiful photos and clever, delicious recipes). I couldn’t wait to test a recipe from the book! So I chose one called Delicata Squash Stuffed with Cherry Apple Almond Couscous. Not only does it taste as good as it looks (better, even), but it’s also a cinch to prepare and takes only 30 minutes to make! Winner, winner! It can also be made gluten-free by using gluten-free couscous.

As Lauren notes in the book, this is a wonderful dish to make for the holidays. It makes enough side dishes for eight people and goes well with other holiday foods. Best of all, the beautiful presentation makes you look like a culinary genius.

YIELDS 8 SIDE DISHES (1 squash half/person)
or 4 MAIN DISHES (2 squash halves/person)

***

INGREDIENTS:

4 delicata squashes, about 5 to 6 inches long (or other similar-size sweet squash)*
salt
1¾ cups water
1 cup dried cherries
¾ tsp. salt
1 Granny Smith apple (I used two since mine were small.)
⅓ cup sliced almonds
1 tsp. Earth Balance margarine (optional)
1 cup couscous
3 Tbsp. agave nectar
3 Tbsp. mustard (stone-ground or Dijon style)
¼ tsp. plus 1 pinch salt

*NOTES:
As Lauren notes in the book, delicata squash is sweet, beautiful, quick-cooking and easy to cut in half. However, if you need a substitute, you can use butternut, acorn or carnival squash. I used acorn squash.

STEP 1
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.

STEP 2
Halve the squashes lengthwise. Scoop out seeds with a spoon and discard. Sprinkle lightly with salt, then place cut side down on prepared cookie sheet. (Note – I only used 2 acorn squashes because I wasn’t feeding an army.) Bake squashes for 30 minutes.

STEP 3
Meanwhile, choose a pot with a tight-fitting lid. Place the water, cherries, and salt in the pot; cover, and bring to a boil. Then, turn off the heat.

STEP 4
Dice the apple into approximately ¼” chunks. Add the apples and almonds to the pot; cover and let stand for 5 minutes, until cherries are plumped and apples are softened.

STEP 5
Be sure to read this sentence all the way through before you begin this step: Strain out cherries, apples and almonds and place them in a large bowl, RESERVING THE LIQUID. The liquid should be reddish and equal to 1¼ cup now. If not, adjust by pouring some off or adding water.

STEP 6
Add the liquid back to the pot; cover and bring to a boil. Add margarine, if using. When the liquid boils, pour in the couscous, give the pot a little shake, cover and turn off heat. Let stand for 10 minutes or until you’re ready to stuff.

STEP 7
Meanwhile, prepare the dressing by whisking together the agave nectar, mustard and salt.

STEP 8
When squashes are done baking, leave them on the cookie sheet for the stuffing process (it can be a little messy). Fluff the couscous with a fork; add it to the fruit/nut mixture and combine well. Mix in half of the dressing. Spoon mixture into the squash cavities, plate them and then drizzle remaining dressing over the top, if desired.

Serve immediately.

Move over Martha, this girl’s got skills.

Why yes, I did slave over these pretty little things all day (not).

In case you were wondering, Hubs really liked this dish and so did my taste-tester friend, Amanda ;) The squash pairs perfectly with the fruity, nutty couscous. I had just one stuffed squash half and was FULL! They are more filling than you might think.

I’m thinking these will make a repeat appearance next month at Thanksgiving dinner. Thanks again to Lauren Ulm, author of Vegan Yum Yum cookbook and blog, for this very tasty recipe!

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