Acorn squash entrée a good choice for beginning cooks

Mollie Katzen’s latest cookbook, “Get Cooking: 150 Simple Recipes to Get You Started in the Kitchen” (HarperStudio, $24.99) urges beginners to take on her challenge with easy recipes, such as this acorn squash entrée.

Use plain raw almonds, not roasted or salted, Katzen writes, and don’t chop them too fine.

You can cook the rice and bake the acorn squash at the same time.

Acorn Squash Stuffed with Apple-Almond- Cherry Basmati Pilaf

Adapted from “Get Cooking: 150 Simple Recipes to Get You Started in the Kitchen”

1 cup brown basmati rice

1 1/2 cups water

2 acorn squash (about 2 pounds each), halved, seeded

1/2 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon butter

1/2 medium red or yellow onion, minced

1/3 cup chopped almonds

1/4 teaspoon minced garlic

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 apple, unpeeled, cored, chopped

1/4 cup dried cherries, halved

Combine the rice and water in a medium-size saucepan. Heat to a boil; cover. Reduce heat to simmer. Cook until tender, 40 minutes. Meanwhile, heat oven to 400 degrees. Place the squash, cut side down, on a greased, foil-lined baking pan. Roast until you can easily insert a fork into the skin side, 35-40 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add butter; swirl until it melts. Add onions; cook, stirring often, until the onion becomes golden, about 10 minutes. Add the almonds; cook, stirring often, until the almonds give off aroma, 5-8 minutes. Stir in the garlic and salt. Cook 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat.

Add the onion-almond mixture to the rice in the saucepan; toss to combine. Add the apples and cherries; mix well. Turn the squash halves over. Remove squash from the oven when done. Reduce heat to 300 degrees. Divide the rice mixture among the squash cavities, packing down the filling and mounding the top. (Leftover filling can be used as a side-dish-refill component of the meal.) Cover the squash loosely with foil; return to oven. Bake to heat through,10 minutes.

Yield: 4 servings

Nutrition information: Per serving: 499 calories, 14 percent of calories from fat, 8 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 3 milligrams cholesterol, 104 grams carbohydrates, 9 grams protein, 159 milligrams sodium, 19 grams fiber

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