This Sukkot, Celebrate the Fall Harvest With Stuffed Squash

The Festival of Tabernacles is about showing the bounty of the year’s final harvest. In the United States, squash are a classic symbol of that.

Stuffed baby butternut squash.
Stuffed baby butternut squash. Vered Guttman

Unlike most Jewish holidays, there are not many culinary traditions connected to Sukkot, besides making dishes that can can be easily schlepped from the kitchen to your sukkah. 

One culinary tradition associated with Sukkot is stuffed vegetables. Those were served during Sukkot throughout the diaspora, maybe as a nod to Sukkot being the Festival of Ingathering and to show the bounty of the year’s last harvest. In Israel, the fall harvest would consist of olives, figs and grapes. But if you want to celebrate harvest season in America, winter squashes come to mind.

There’s no need to convince any Middle Eastern cook to stuff vegetables (or fruit.) So if you need some inspiration for stuffing onions, eggplants, zucchini, cauliflower or the classic cabbage, we have it. And here’s a new recipe for stuffed baby butternut squash, a perfect vessel for stuffing with rice and dried fruit.

Stuffed baby butternut squash

Baby butternut squash is available at Trader Joe’s, some chain supermarkets and farmers markets. Other baby edible winter squashes are suitable.

Pomegranate molasses is available at Whole Foods, Middle Eastern markets and online.

Serves 6

Ingredients

1 cup jasmine rice, washed
6 baby butternut squash
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
2 tablespoons sour cherries
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For the stock

2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2/3 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
2 teaspoons kosher salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit (165 degrees Celsius). Grease an oven-proof pot that can hold the squash standing side by side.

Put washed rice in a medium bowl and cover with 3 cups boiling water. Set aside.

Wash squash on the outside, and remove a very thin slice from the bottom of each squash to help them stand upright. Remove the top 1 inch from each squash, but keep as a cover. Use a melon baller to scoop out flesh and seeds from squash, leaving 1/3 inch walls on sides and bottom. Keep the flesh, discard seeds and set aside.  

Chop about 1/2 cup of squash flesh. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat and sauté onion for 5 minutes until translucent. Push onion to the sides of the pan and add tomato paste to the center of the pan and fry without stirring for one minutes, then add rosemary leaves, sour cherries and chopped squash flesh and cook for another 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Transfer to a medium bowl. Strain rice and add to onion mixture along with 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Mix well.

Stuff each squash 3/4 way up and cover with its top. Arrange squash in pot and put leftover squash flesh around them. If there’s too much extra room in the pot you can add peeled potatoes and put them between the squash.

Put all stock ingredients in a pot and bring to boil. Pour stock into each squash all the way to the top, and gently pour the rest between them. Put pot over medium heat and bring to boil. Cook for 5 minutes in low simmer them cover pot with one layer of parchment paper and two layers of aluminum foil and transfer to oven.

Cook squash for 1 hour, then remove aluminum foil, check and add more stock to each squash, if needed, and return to oven, uncovered, for another 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until squashes are very tender and rice is fully cooked. Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes. Gently transfer each squash to a serving plate, drizzle liberally from the stock in the pot into the rice and serve.