Acorn squash are full of flavor, and they pair well with the other flavors of Autumn - wild rice, walnuts, apples, and the last of the sage. This particular variety of winter squash has elements of sweet and savory flavors when baked, and we can exploit that in this dish.
I've been looking for a good use for wild rice. Wild rice (or Mahnoomin) is a North American grain. It's actually a grass, and no relation to regular rice. Unlike many crops, it does very well in the marshes and swamps of the North Central Midwest (both in Canada and Minnesota), and was a staple for the Ojibway and Cree Indians. It's flavor is nutty and it's full of B vitamins. In this dish it works as a savory element alongside the savory elements of the squash flesh and the sage.
The apples, celery, brown sugar, maple syrup, and even the white rice by contrast, combine to bring out the sweet aspects of the squash flesh without being cloying or overwhelming the savory.
You might have seen this kind of combination before. It's very similar to many Thanksgiving stuffings, only with rice instead of breadcrumbs.
One stuffed squash half is probably enough for most people. Remember that the rice will seem to grow in your belly, and those eating two of these halves will waddle away from the table only to lie on the couch groaning quietly about how full they are fifteen minutes later.
A nice rich dark green like a lightly wilted spinach or steamed kale with lemon would complement the dish well, as would a roasted beet and goat cheese salad. For dessert, an apple tart or tarte tatin - especially nice when your wife made the tart and served it with a (very) small scoop of vanilla ice cream...
Acorn Squash Stuffed with Wild Rice, Apples, Sage, and Celery
2 acorn squash, halved top to bottom, seeds and strings removed
3 cup cooked white rice, cooked with vegetable/chicken stock instead of water
2 cup cooked wild rice (about 1/3-1/2 cup uncooked) cooked in vegetable/chicken stock
3 apples, peeled, cored, diced to 1-2" pieces
2 stalks celery, sliced thinly
2 tablespoons dry sage or 15 fresh minced sage leaves
enough olive oil to brush or drizzle on squash lightly
20-30 walnut halves (no shell)
4 tablespoon butter, divided
2 teaspoons brown sugar
4 teaspoons maple syrup
Cook the uncooked white rice as you would normally, using stock instead of water. Use 2 cups stock to 1 cup long grain white rice.
Boil uncooked wild rice in 2 cups simmering stock for about 30 minutes or longer until tender. Drain.
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Put the squash cut side up on a cookie sheet and brush or drizzle with olive oil lightly. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Bake for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium high heat, melt two tablespoons of butter, and sautee the apples, celery, walnuts and sage. After about five minutes, add the brown sugar and toss to coat. Continue to sautee until the celery and apples begin to soften. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Mix the skillet contents with both rices in a big bowl. Scramble the egg, slice into thin strips and mix with rice. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Pull the acorn squash out of the oven after 10-15 minutes. Fill the squash with rice stuffing and put 1/2 tabelspoon of butter on top of each half and return to oven for 10 minutes or until a knife goes easily into the flesh of the squash along the top.
If any rice mix is left you can bake it in a separate bowl or heat it in a skillet and serve alongside.
Pull the squash out, drizzle just a very little maple syrup on top and serve to what will no doubt be an appreciative audience.
You can make the rice stuffing beforehand or even pre-bake the squash in advance leaving the final 10-15 minute bake before serving.