Sausage and Quinoa Stuffed Squash for Supper

Chilly days and long dark nights demand warm, hearty suppers.  But your main dish does not have to be expensive or fattening, it can be gluten free and still tasty.  This recipe is naturally gluten free. No flour in it or bread products needed.

I had some hot Italian sausage left over from the package I bought to make my turkey stuffing.  I had a sweet dumpling winter squash and a big red bell pepper.  Some quinoa grain and an onion and I was in business to throw together a homey flavorful main dish.  Add a salad on the side and it is a well balanced supper that can be baked and then seconds enjoyed for lunch.  This makes 3 servings, can double the recipe easily, just bake it in a bigger pan.

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a plate of stuffed dumpling squash. Not that pretty to look at but the sausage makes it very flavorful.

I had the sweet dumpling on hand but I have made this same recipe with an acorn squash and with a delicata squash.  A delicate is a small oblong squash with orange and green stripes on yellow skin.  All three are great vessels for this riff on stuffed peppers.  I happened to have a big red pepper and stuffed it as well.

delicatasde

delicata squash; can be pale cream with green stripes too.

sweet dumpling squash

sweet dumpling squash

Ingredients:

1 sweet dumpling winter squash

1 large red pepper

2/3 cup plain quinoa, rinsed well

1 medium onion, diced

2 hot Italian sausage links (gluten free of course!)

1 tbsp EVOL (extra virgin olive oil)

1 garlic clove, minced

Directions:

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the squash from the tip to the blossom end. You probably should cut off that stem bit first; makes the cut easier.  Scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff.  Spray a small rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray and place the cut squash halves cut side down.  Roast 30-45 minutes; check by piercing with a fork; remove when tender enough to stick the fork in but don’t cook it so far that it collapses.  After the squash has been in 15 minutes add the red pepper squash which you have cut the lid off, emptied the seeds out and cut up the top third into small dice.  Reserve the dice for later. The lower two thirds is a tasty vessel to hold more quinoa sausage filling.

Meanwhile, as the squash and pepper bake…. Heat 1 and a 1/3 cup of water, ½ tsp. salt and then add the quinoa, cover and cook 14-15 minutes.

While that cooks….put the EVOL in a frying pan, add the links which you have liberated from their skins.  Cook 4-5 minutes, chopping them up as they cook.  An alternative is loose sausage meat; 1/3 to a half pound should do it.  Stir them up, flip to cook all sides.  Should be browned but not burnt.  After you flip them over add the chopped onion, cook about 3-5 minutes stirring often.  Add the minced garlic and the top 1/3 of that red pepper cut into small cubes.  Keep stirring and when the onions and red pepper bits are softening add the quinoa. Leave any liquid in the pan.

stuffed squash 12-14 001

Stir the quinoa/sausage/veggie mixture.  Heap it into the squash halves and the pepper half.  Mound half the extra filling into a small 1.5 quart round baking dish.  Place the three stuffed veggies on top and pour over the rest of the filling as well as any quinoa liquid in the pot.  Cover with foil and bake at 400 degrees for 35-40 minutes. The veggie filling should be bubbling when it is done and the squash is tender to a fork.

Enjoy with a side salad.  I reheated some of the leftovers for lunch the next day.  It gives you something much better than something cold for your mid day meal.

If you don’t like red pepper; make it with 2 small winter squash and just leave the chopped pepper totally out.   You could sub in half a chipped carrot for the red pepper bits.  Use a mild Italian sausage if you prefer it less spicy or leave the sausage out to make the dish vegetarian. I am guessing you could try to bake it in your crock pot; maybe like 2 hours on high. If you try that let me know how it turns out. It is a versatile recipe for sure!

I saved my seeds, rinsed and dried them to toast for snacking: waste not want not!

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Summer Tomatoes Stuffed with Lemony Quinoa Salad

Tomatoes stuffed with salad, I know: very old school but I made a modern take on it the other week for company.  A gluten free version I might add! Everyone raved about the fresh flavor of the dish.  So I am posting it here so you can try it; one caveat; only use local tomatoes.  Do NOT make this with those pale imitation supermarket tomatoes. It is not possible to create something tasty if you start with bad ingredients and those plastic flavored “tomatoes” just will not work.

You can serve the filling as a side salad and I will give those directions after the tomato version. I served the salad style at a picnic last week and my sister Karen had seconds. She was not a big quinoa fan until she ate that salad!

Tomatoes Stuffed with Quinoa Salad

Makes four servings.

Ingredients:

½ cup raw quinoa, plain pale yellow type (not red or black)

1 cup water

½ a veggie  bullion cube

4 medium to large tomatoes

2/3-3/4 cup small dice burpless or European cucumber

½ cup small dice zucchini

1/3 cup small dice red onion

2 tbsp. fresh mint or parsley, diced finely

1 lemon

3 tbsp.  EVOL (extra virgin olive oil)

1 tbsp. red wine vinegar

Sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste.

Directions

Put the quinoa in the water.  If it doesn’t say rinsed you should put it in a strainer and rinse it for a minute to get off any coating which can be bitter.  Add the half bullion cube, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook 15 minutes.  Let cool to room temperature before continuing.

Using a sharp paring knife cut the top off of each tomato, reserve it for a lid.  Scoop out the tomato guts using a spoon. I like to use a serrated edged grapefruit spoon but almost any spoon will work.   You can use the insides for something else; in a soup, a salad or a stew?  I turn the hollowed out tomatoes upside down to drain briefly to be sure I got all the wet stuff out.

Place the cooled quinoa In a mixing bowl.  Top it with the finely chopped veggies.  You can use less veggies than I suggested; up to you. I like lots of veggies.  Make sure they are cut very small though.  Sprinkle the fresh herbs on top; even fresh chives chopped fine or basil will work great.   Use a zester or a very fine grater and get as much zest off the lemon (wash the lemon first); you can zest right into the quinoa mixing bowl.  In a small mixing bowl put the juice of that same lemon, the EVOL and red wine vinegar.  If you have more than 3 tbsp of lemon juice add a bit more EVOL and whisk to combine; add in up to ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp freshly grated black pepper.  Pour ¾ of it over the quinoa and veggies and stir to combine.  Taste and adjust seasoning and add the rest of the dressing if it is needed.  Use a large spoon to fill the hollowed out tomatoes.  Top each one with the reserved lids.  I put mine finished tomatoes on a platter and refrigerated for a few minutes so I could make the rest of the meal; no more than 1 hour.  You can serve each on a bed of lettuce or just by itself.   stuffed tomato

This is a great side dish or, if you have a vegetarian visiting, it is a substantial main dish choice as quinoa has a lot of complete protein in it. I served it with some zucchini yeast bread and some gnudi dumplings as a delicious meal for my vegetarian god daughter.

The salad filling can be served all on its own as a salad; I added a bunch of cherry tomatoes halved to it and it was ready to go.  So simple but the combination of fresh lemon juice, lemon zest, red wine vinegar and EVOL makes a great salad dressing.  If your filling seems wet; you added too much dressing.  Add more tomatoes and diced zuke and cuke.  Do not cook the zucchini – if it is fresh and tender it is fantastic raw in a salad.  If you can’t get one of those European cucumbers use a small regular one and peel the skin off it before dicing. If the seeds are large do not use the center with the seeds.  Your salad will not be as pretty if there are sloppy cucumber seeds in it.   I do cut the veggies larger for a salad; diced is fine.  But I suggest you keep the red onion bits very fine.  And start with a fresh red onion. Onion does not keep well; gets bitter so peel a new onion to make your salad if you want the best tasting results.

quinoa salad 8-14

Quinoa salad will keep a few days in the fridge, if it lasts that long! Try it with different fresh herbs. I would never make this in the dead of winter as it just won’t taste the same without the fresh summer veggies.  I try to eat seasonally and this is definitely a summer treat!