Although I love summer's glorious produce, I can be equally rhapsodic about the fruits and vegetables that arrive in our markets during the cold-weather months. Once the temperature starts to drop, I put away recipes for eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes and focus instead on delectable winter choices, such as squashes and parsnips, rutabagas and other root vegetables. Carrots, shallots and baby red skins drizzled with olive oil and roasted until golden-brown are always a winning trio. And a rich satisfying soup made with diced sweet potatoes and chopped leeks simmered in chicken stock, then pureed and enriched with cream, proves irresistible.
Recently, a couple from California shared this delicious recipe for cranberry-filled acorn squash. These squash halves mounded with cooked cranberries would make a festive accompaniment for a roast loin of pork or a baked ham. You could also serve the cranberries as a garnish to roast turkey, chicken or duck.
Cranberry-Orange-Filled Acorn Squash Halves
2 cups fresh cranberries, divided
6 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon grated orange zest
3 acorn squash, about 1 1/4 pounds each
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted (see note)
several thin julienne orange peels for garnish, optional
Place half the cranberries, sugar and 2 / 3 cup water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir until sugar dissolves and berries pop, 4 to 5 minutes. Add remaining cranberries and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture thickens and becomes translucent. Stir in orange zest. Remove from heat. (Cranberry mixture can be prepared 2 days ahead. Bring to room temperature before using.)
To prepare acorn squash, cut thin slices from both ends of squash and discard slices. Halve squash (through middle, not the stem ends) and scrape out and discard seeds and strings. Place halves, cut sides down, in a very large roasting pan (or use 2 large roasting pans) and fill pan(s) with 1/4 inch of water.
Bake on center rack of 325-degree oven until flesh is very tender when pierced a sharp knife, 50 to 60 minutes. Remove pan from oven and set aside. Squash can be prepared 4 hours ahead. Cool and leave at room temperature.
When ready to serve, divide cranberry mixture evenly and mound into squash halves. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake on center rack of 350-degree oven until hot, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Garnish each serving with a sprinkling of pecans and, if desired, with 1 or 2 orange strips.
Note: To toast pecans, spread on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in 350-degree oven until lightly browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove and cool.