Probably not authentic, but definitely tasty, my Vegetarian Kofta Stuffed Acorn Squash with Masala Sauce brings Indian herbs and spices - chaat masala, cumin, turmeric, fresh ginger, and cilantro - to a pumpkin, chick pea, poha based "meatball" or "kofta." That lovely kofta stuffs half an acorn squash, and gets generously covered with a masala curry sauce!
Beyond Mere Sustenance is clearly not a vegetarian blog; however, my husband and I do #meatlessmonday, and a couple of my vegetarian recipes are consistently in my top posts: High Protein Vegan Breakfast Burritos and Curried Okra and Eggplant. Eating mindfully continues to be an important factor in my food choices at Andersen casa. Considering where food comes from and the impact its production has on our planet is only one component of eating mindfully, but it's so important. I want Beyond Mere Sustenance to be a reflection of the way my husband and I eat at home...
I have discovered over years of "meatball" making, the flavor and texture benefits of puréed onion. I think this technique (for me) goes back more than 20 years to the first time I made Persian koobideh (kebabs). Pressing the liquid from the onion results in a finer texture, and the flavor is amazing. I incorporate a puréed onion in my Super Healthy Turkey Burgers, and my Healthy Indian-Style Sausage Burger. It's definitely worth the extra step, especially with a vegetarian "meatball" as you have to work a little harder at getting it to all hold together...
I have used both canned and fresh pumpkin purée in this recipe. Either is fine. I also press some of the liquid from the pumpkin prior to adding it to the mixture. While the chick peas do get processed, they do not get puréed. You want to pulse until they resemble bread crumbs. Obviously, a food processor is important with this recipe. I process ingredients individually, and add them to a large prep bowl, then mix with MY HANDS. You just have to get your hands messy on this one! 😆
Poha or beaten rice is rice that has been parboiled, rolled, flattened and then dried to produce flakes. The flakes come in different thicknesses depending on the pressure used in the flattening process. If you are unable to find it, you can substitute quick oats.
Lastly, this kofta/meatball is very versatile. You can make smaller ones, and pan-fry and then cover with the masala sauce to serve over rice, serve them with toothpicks and sauce on the side as an appetizer, or use the mixture as a stuffing for other veggies. I think you'll find you won't miss the "meat." 😀 Pour a glass of wine, sit down at the table with your loved one(s), put your fork down between bites, converse. Eat. Mindfully.
Focus Ingredient: Masala
Masala is a combination of spices, either wet (a paste) or dry (ground). I have specified 2 masalas in this recipe - chaat masala for the meatball and garam masala for the masala sauce. Garam masala has become widely available in the US, but if you have trouble finding it, this recipe for a simple garam masala is easy to put together. Store in a glass jar. Chaat masala is not as widely available, though I can usually find it in McAllen (not exactly a huge metropolitan area).
Chaat masala is most often used as a condiment or finishing spice, but it's great in cooking too. If you are unable to find it, and willing to COMMIT, try this recipe. You could also substitute generic "curry powder." I won't tell. 😉 You'll still have a delicious kofta!
Vegetarian Kofta Stuffed Acorn Squash with Masala Sauce
Vegetarian Kofta Stuffed Acorn Squash with Masala Sauce brings Indian herbs and spices - chaat masala, cumin, turmeric, fresh ginger, and cilantro - to a pumpkin, chick pea, poha based "meatball" or "kofta." That lovely kofta stuffs half an acorn squash, and gets generously covered with a masala curry sauce!
- 2 acorn squash
- olive oil
- sea salt/fresh ground pepper
- 1/2 onion pureed and pressed (see notes)
- 1 cup cooked chick peas ground (texture of crumbs)
- 1 tbsp ginger and garlic minced
- 1 cup pumpkin puree (see notes)
- 1 cup cilantro leaves (see notes)
- 1/4 cup slivered almonds
- 2 eggs beaten
- 1 tbsp chaat masala (see notes)
- 1 cup poha, thick substitute quick oats
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp cumin
- fresh ground pepper
- 1 cup gluten-free flour as needed
- 2 tbsp coconut or olive oil
- 1 tbsp ginger/garlic minced
- 1 onion pureed and pressed
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/4 tsp cayenne (optional)
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 cup lite coconut milk (see notes)
- 1/4 cup slivered or sliced almonds processed until finely ground
- sea salt/fresh ground pepper season to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees (375 convection). Carefully slice off both stem and blossom ends of your squash. Slice the remaining piece into rounds from 1 1/2" to 3" - that may be 2 or 3 pieces. (see notes)
Place on a baking sheet, brush with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place in the center of your preheated oven for 15 minutes while you make the kofta filling.
To a large prep bowl: Add the pureed and pressed onion, coarsely ground chick peas, minced ginger and garlic, and pumpkin.
Pulse the cilantro leaves and slivered almonds to a mince (not a paste). Add to the prep bowl.
Add the remaining kofta ingredients to the bowl, then get your hands in there, and mix well! The flour is a binder, and the amount used will depend on the moisture content of your mixture. You'll probably need 1/2-1 cup to achieve a meatball that keeps its shape.
Form a generous kofta/meatball for each squash, and place in the center of each one. Brush lightly with olive oil, and return pan to the oven. Roast them for 25-30 additional minutes until the squash is tender, and the stuffing resists when pierced. While the stuffed squash roast, make the sauce
Puree the garlic, ginger, and onion, then press through a sieve to remove moisture. Add to the oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat.
Add the garam masala, cumin, turmeric, and cayenne (if using). Stir until the spices are fragrant, being careful to not burn them.
Whisk in the remaining ingredients. Reduce heat to a low simmer, cover, and simmer until ready to serve.
Plate a stuffed squash. Ladle a generous amount of the masala sauce over the top. Garnish with chopped cilantro if desired. Enjoy!
2 acorn squash will make 4 very generous portions. If you have really large ones, you may cut each one into 3 slices. If so, reserve the extra for another meal, or make 1 1/2 recipes of kofta mixture - leftovers are awesome!
If using fresh pumpkin, it must be cooked and puréed prior to using. I typically roast my pumpkin, but you can boil it, or cook it in the pressure cooker. Press visible liquid from the purée.
When I'm processing a large quantity of cilantro, I give it a good rinse, press it dry between towels, and then cut at the base of the leaves. Having some stems in the processor is fine.
"Lite coconut milk" is the milk from the coconut in a can, not the non-dairy milk replacement. Use full fat coconut milk if you prefer.
I strongly recommend doubling this recipe and freezing half for another meal. You can save it to fill squash again, or use it in another dish (patties for a sandwich, meatballs for a soup, etc.).
Macronutrients (approximation from MyFitnessPal): 491 calories; 13 g protein; 62 g carbohydrates; 19 g fat.