I’m part of several online cooking communities, and I’ve noticed more and more posts around the holidays stating, “Help! I have a vegan coming to dinner and I have no idea what to serve!”
I wanted to create something lovely and filling for the vegan or vegetarian guest that would also serve as a nice side dish to accompany the main meal.
I chose farro for the grain because it’s filling and it’s also low glycemic. I previously published a recipe with farro and got wonderful reviews from people who had never before cooked with it. Fresh sage is used in the filling mixture — a personal favorite.
This recipe will be much appreciated throughout the winter, but I wanted to share it especially ahead of Thanksgiving.
1 large acorn squash
1 cup farro
½ of a large onion
2 tablespoons plus two teaspoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons fresh chopped sage
¼ cup chopped pecans
¼ cup dried cranberries
1½ teaspoons salt divided, plus a sprinkle for the raw squash
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Set your oven to 375 F and place the wire rack in the middle position.
Wash and dry the squash before cutting it lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds. Place the two squash halves into a baking dish, brush each half with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
Bake for 40-50 minutes or until a fork easily pierces through the flesh of the squash.
While the squash is baking, measure one cup of plain, whole-grain farro — not the quick-cook version — into a pot and cover it with about 2 inches of water.
Add ½ teaspoon of salt and bring the pot to a boil before reducing the heat to a low simmer. Cook uncovered for about 30 minutes or until the farro is cooked through. It’s OK if some water remains in the pot with the farro, but if your pot is running dry of liquid, add a half-cup of boiling water to the pot and reduce the heat.
Farro has a chewy texture, so don’t expect it to be soft like pasta. Just be sure that the center of the grain is fully cooked before straining it in a colander and rinsing it with cold water.
Set the farro aside and prepare the rest of the filling.
Dice half of a large onion and sauté it over medium heat in a pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, stirring the onion every few minutes until it’s translucent, about 15 or 20 minutes.
Chop the fresh sage and pecans by hand.
Add the fresh sage to the onions over low heat and sauté for about one minute, or until fragrant.
Add in the pecans and cranberries, 1 teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of black pepper. Sauté for another 2 or 3 minutes.
Add the cooked farro to the pot, mix well and set aside.
Stuff the cooked squash evenly with the farro mixture and bake it for another 10-15 minutes in the oven to bring the flavors together.
The pecans add a beautiful texture and nutty flavor, and the dried cranberries add a bit of sweetness and color to the mix.
You can make this a day ahead; just cover it and reheat it before dinner.
One-half of the squash serves as an entrée, but you can halve or quarter each side to serve as a side dish.
Enjoy and bless your hands! PJC
Jessica Grann is a home chef living in Pittsburgh.