On our trip to the wilds of western Maryland a couple weeks back, I found a couple of these little beauties stashed away in a cardboard box labeled 'Sweet Dumpling 75¢'
They are so pretty you would be forgiven for thinking they were decorative squash, but it would be a pity to use them only as decoration, because they are delicious.
The flesh is orange, creamy in texture, and as mild and sweet as the better-known butternut. Unlike the butternut, however, they are small and easy to cut up.
Most of the recipes I found for sweet dumpling squash called for treating them the same way many people treat acorn squash -- split open, cleaned out, and baked with butter and honey/maple syrup/brown sugar. At least one recipe suggested baking them in this way and serving them as a 'light dessert.'
I don't know about anyone else, but if someone served me a baked squash as dessert, I'd feel cheated. Squash is a fine thing, but it is squash. It is not dessert.
I'm also of the opinion that the whole sweet winter squash genre (like the candied sweet potatoes with marshmallows genre) is tired. I prefer to cook my winter squash into savoury dishes and then have cake, or ice cream, or pie, for dessert.
I baked my sweet dumpling squash with a simple quinoa-based onion and sage stuffing.
2 sweet dumpling squash
1 cup cooked quinoa
2 tbs olive oil or butter (or 1 tbs of each)
3 green onions
1/2 medium yellow onion
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1 tsp coarse kosher salt
10-12 good twists of the black pepper grinder (about 1/2 tsp)
1/2 tsp rubbed sage
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp chile powder (or to taste; I usually use ancho chile powder)
Batterie de cuisine: knives, frying pan, spoon or spatula for cooking, mixing bowl, baking dish
Note: The directions on my package of quinoa render about 4 cups of cooked grain. I packaged the extra 3 cups for the freezer. You could substitute cooked brown or wild rice for the quinoa, but I think I prefer the quinoa here.
Method: Preheat oven to 350 F.
Split the squashes open and scoop out the seeds. Brush the cut surfaces with a little olive oil. Place them, cut side up, in a baking dish.
Place the cooked quinoa in a mixing bowl.
Slice the white and light green parts of the green onions and dice the yellow onion.
Heat the oil or butter in a skillet and add the onions. Cook over medium low heat until translucent and just beginning to colour. Add the chopped walnuts and cranberries and cook a little longer, until the walnuts are lightly toasted. Scrape the contents of the skillet into the bowl with the quinoa. Add the seasonings and toss to combine.
Fill the squash with the stuffing mixture. Cover the pan and bake until the squash is easily pierced with a fork, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Serve hot.
Jonathan Swift (very hard to find a poem today. more poetry about curcubits, please)