Stuffed Tex-Mex Yellow Squash

Who can resist beautiful food?  I try not to judge a book by its cover, but I’ll admit I was drawn to the Stuffed Tex-Mex Yellow Squash recipe in the September 2007 issue of Everyday Food by its good looks.  I love dishes with lots of color, and the mix of yellow squash, red pepper, and green scallions really caught my eye.

This isn’t a quick dish (it takes about an hour total), but the prep work isn’t too intensive.  Plus, you can use the 45 minutes of baking time to clean the kitchen and unwind before dinner.  I *so* prefer that to standing over the stove until the last minute!

The most labor-intensive part of the recipe was creating the squash boats.  I sliced 4 medium yellow squashes (about 8 ounces each) into halves and sliced a sliver from the rounded part of each half so it would sit flat.  (Don’t cut too much or you’ll have a hole in your boat!)  Next, I scooped the flesh out of each half, leaving a 1/4-inch border.  I roughly chopped the flesh and put it in a large bowl.  The squash boats needed to go into a shallow baking dish…  I couldn’t fit all 8 of them in my standard 9 x 13-inch baking dish, though, so I had to pull out a larger lasagna pan.  Once I had the squash arranged in the pan, I seasoned it with salt and pepper and set it aside.

In a large skillet, I heated 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat.  While the oil heated, I cut 1 red bell pepper into 1/4-inch dice and thinly sliced 2 scallions.  I added the chopped squash, bell pepper, scallion whites (save the greens for later), and 1 minced garlic clove to the pan and seasoned with salt and pepper.  I cooked the veggie mixture, stirring occasionally, until the pepper began to soften (4 minutes) and then added 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and 1 teaspoon of mild chili powder.  I cooked, stirring constantly, until the mixture was fragrant (1 minute) and added 1/2 pound of ground beef chuck.  I cooked the mixture, breaking the beef up with a spoon, until the beef was no longer pink (3 minutes).  I removed it from the heat, stirred in 1 cup of frozen corn kernels (thawed) and 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese, and seasoned again with salt and pepper.

I divided the mixture between the squash boats (for once, a recipe that didn’t have tons of extra filling!) and sprinkled 2 more tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese over the top.  I covered my dish with aluminum foil and baked until the squash was tender (35 minutes), and then baked it uncovered for 10 more minutes to brown the tops.  I finished the squash boats with my reserved scallion greens and served them with Spanish rice.

Stuffed Tex-Mex Yellow Squash

These turned out *beautifully*, but I wish I could say better things about the flavor!  The filling was so delicious, but the squash just tasted kind of water logged to me.  (It reminded me of the last time I made a stuffed pepper dish in the Crock Pot, actually.)  I thought I was pretty generous with the salt and pepper when I seasoned the squash, but apparently, I could have added a lot more.  If I give this another shot, I’ll probably also drizzle a bit of olive oil over the squash boats before I fill them for even more flavor.

If you’re willing to season (and perhaps double season!) the squash before you fill it, though, I would definitely recommend this recipe.  The bell pepper, scallions, and garlic added great flavor to the filling, and I loved that it was slightly cheesy.  The squash cooked up nice and tender, too.

TIPS:  If your squash halves won’t fit in a 9 x 13-inch baking dish, just go up a size or use a second, smaller dish to accommodate the rest of the squash.  My lasagna pan wasn’t particularly shallow, but everything still cooked fine.

Also, it can be a bit tricky to transfer the boats from the baking dish to the plate since the squash does become so tender.  I ended up using two large spoons – horizontally, with one on each side of the squash – to plate the boats.

Recipe link: Stuffed Tex-Mex Yellow Squash

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