Squash season is here!!! Did you know there are 23 different squash varieties!? Personally I had only cooked with a few of the usual suspects: butternut, summer squash, zucchini, and acorn. That ends today! I decided to branch out and try a new guy, enter Carnival Squash.
First of all, how fun is the name Carnival Squash? I don’t know about you, but the word carnival alone makes me want to try them. And luckily they live up to their name! Look how pretty awww…
These adorable orange-and-green speckled little squash are a hybrid of the sweet dumpling and acorn squash. After the squash is picked, the green on the surface will slowly fade with time to leave only cream and orange colors. When choosing a carnival squash, try pick one that is heavy and free of blemishes or soft spots.
So what do they taste like? Roasted simply with a little butter and brown sugar, they are nutty and sweeter than butternut squash. And my favorite thing about them is that they have a buttery, almost maple syrup-like flavor. This kind of flavor profile makes them a perfect vehicle for all my favorite fall ingredients.
First let’s start with the quinoa. Although not a typical “fall” ingredient, it will provide a healthy dose of protein, texture and 27 Science Backed Health Benefits (crazy right?!). Next the walnuts and blue cheese. C’mon, these are 2 perfectly matched ingredients that provide that crunchy and a tangy je ne sais quoi. Trust me on this.
Lastly bacon and maple syrup. Ok, so bacon is amazing. The fat of the bacon helps to flavor the stuffing and provides some yummy pork umami without overpowering the dish. Then the little bit of maple syrup helps enhance the fall flavors and sweetness of the squash.
A few tips when making this recipe:
- This meal will take some time. Since the squash needs to roast in the oven for at least 40 minutes, you have 2 options: a) Roast the squash the day before and simply make the stuffing and bake the day of OR b) Roast and prepare the entire recipe on the weekend vs a hectic weekday, when you have more time.
- Make sure you use a sharp knife when cutting the squash in two. And BE CAREFUL!
- This recipe saves beautifully. Simply reheat on a low temperature (300⁰F) , or if you are in a hurry, microwaving works great as well.
Check out your local farmers market/grocery store and give carnival squash a try! Inexpensive, hearty and absolutely delicious, they will make for a fun fall family meal.
Maple Bacon Stuffed Carnival Squash
Maple syrup, bacon, walnuts, and blue cheese all served up in a tender sweet tender squash bowl… are you drooling yet? These green and orange speckled carnival squashes are not only beautiful to look at but they are the perfect sweet little bowls to serve up fall ingredients! Give these fun squashes a taste and I promise they might become your new favorite.
- 2 Carnival squashes
- ¾ cup quinoa, cooked according to package
- 5 slices of thick cut bacon, chop into small pieces
- 1 tablespoons of maple syrup
- ¼ cup of crumbled blue cheese
- ¼ cup toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
Heat oven to 400⁰F. Please oven rack in the lower middle position. Slice squash in half from stem to root and scoop out the seeds and stringy insides. Place squash halves cut side down in a baking dish and poke a few holes with a knife on the skin of the squash. Then pour in enough water to fill the pan about ¼ inch. Cover the dish loosely with foil and roast in the oven for 30-50 minutes. Time depends on the size of the squash. Mine took about 40 minutes. When the squashes are ready, you should be able to poke the skin side with a fork and it should be very tender.
Preheat oven to 375⁰F.
Cook quinoa according to the instructions on the package. In a large skillet, place bacon pieces on cold skillet. Fry up the bacon pieces over medium heat until crispy and brown. Drain pan but reserve 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat in the pan. This will flavor the filling 🙂
Over medium heat toss nuts in the pan with the bacon fat and toast for 1 minute. Then pour in the quinoa, mix well and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in blue cheese crumbles, salt and pepper to taste, bacon, and maple syrup. Cook for 2 minutes.
Lastly stuff each squash half with the quinoa filling, place in the baking dish, cover with aluminum foil and bake for 10-15 minutes until hot. Top with a little extra blue cheese and serve immediately.
Notes: To make these vegetarian, simply omit the bacon and cook the filling in olive oil. Also feel free to add a bit more blue cheese to up the flavor!
These stuffed squashes save beautifully! Simply wrap in plastic wrap or foil and then reheat. They microwave great at work or if you have an oven, simply warm at 375⁰F for 10-15 minutes.