Sunday, February 12, 2012

A romantic meal for 2: Borscht and Stuffed Squash

My colleague and his wife recently had a beautiful baby, and are busy being first time parents. A number of us in the office have signed up to bring over home-cooked meals to help. It just so happens I got this week, and I started thinking of something that could be reheated but still romantic for the new parents. I have a plethora of beets and squash from my Featherstone Farm's winter share, so they seemed like a good base for planning the meal. And, because today is the last day of my Engine 2 challenge, these are no oil, low salt plant-based recipes.

For the starter course (or one meal if they want to spread it out), borscht seemed like the perfect dish. I love this stuff with the sweetness of the beets and the sour lemon and fresh dill. The romantic purplish red hue doesn't hurt, especially when you stir in the tofu sour cream and fresh dill turning it a beautiful pink. I modified two recipes (Mark Bittman's and Simply Recipes) to make a plant-based version.


8 cups low sodium vegetable broth
1 small onion (red or yellow)
6-8 roasted beets
1-2 potatoes (should be about a cup)
1 large carrot
1/4 small cabbage head (purple is nice, but not necessary)
1/2 lemon + zest
1/4 cup fresh dill
black pepper
Tofu sour cream and fresh dill to garnish

Roast the beets with skins on wrapped in tinfoil in the oven at 350 degrees for 45 mins. When the beets cool, peel them and dice them. You can do this the night before and store them in the fridge overnight. In a soup pot, add vegetable broth, diced carrots, diced potatoes, diced onions, diced beets, and black pepper. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 20-30 mins. Add 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill, zest from a whole lemon, juice from half a lemon, diced cabbage, and a pinch of salt. Let the soup simmer for another 15 mins. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and fresh dill.

For the main course, I liked the idea of stuffing individual delicata squash with wild rice, cranberry and pecans. I liked it so much, I decided to double it for me and the fiance as well.

Wild Rice Stuffed Squash
Makes 4-5
Takes 2 hours

4 squash (I used delicata)
2 1/4 c wild rice
1 box Vegetarian Wild Mushroom Gravy (2 cups)
1/4 c unsweetened dairy alternative
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1/3 c dried cranberries
1/2 onion
1 large carrot
1-2 stalks of celery
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp thyme
3/4 cup pecans
salt and pepper to taste
crushed red pepper flakes to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. To make the wild rice stuffing add the dairy alternative, vegetable stock and mushroom gravy to the wild rice in a big bowl and mixing in the garlic powder and black or crushed red pepper and salt. In a non-stick pan, saute the diced onions until they carmelize and add diced carrots and celery and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add in cranberries and thyme, and let it all combine for a minute. Add the vegetables to the bowl of soaking rice and stir. Using a 9x13 cake pan, add the vegetable/rice mixture and stir in pan evenly distributing the rice and liquid. Cover with tinfoil and cook in the oven for 45 minutes. Meanwhile, cut and clean the squash. Depending on the size you may want to stuff halves or whole squash by cutting off the lid. The rice is done when all visible liquid is gone (it will be slightly wet looking, but that's okay because it will finish baking in the squash.) Stuff the squash with the wild rice and sprinkle on crushed red pepper and cover with the tinfoil from the cake pan (way to reuse!). The squash will need to cook for up to an hour. Remove the tinfoil for the last 20 mins to let the squash and rice brown. While that's cooking, pan toast the pecans and give them a rough chop. The squash is done when a fork can slide easily into the flesh (with a delicata squash, you can eat the skin and the fork should pierce through easily.) Garnish with chopped, toasted pecans. Serve room temperature or hot out of the oven.

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