Acorn Squash with Vegetable Chili

from Remington Camp Cooking by Charlie Palmer 
yields four servings

What sets this vegetable chili apart is the bulgar wheat soaked in orange juice.  Adding it in the final step gives the chili the weight and mouthfeel of protein, and the mild acidity of the absorbed citrus juice plays well against the richness of the cooked spices.

Palmer Pointer:  When cutting winter squashes, use a firm, stable cutting surface.  Acorn squash can be quite hard, with a tough external surface that is difficult to penetrate.  Oftentimes you will have to cut, point down, into the flesh as deeply as possible and then carefully withdraw the knife only to reinsert the blade in the groove, this time using enough downward pressure to cleave the squash into halves.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup bulgur wheat
  • 1 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 cups diced onion
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons coarse salt
  • 1 tablespoon mild chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
  • 2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and diced (about 2 cups)
  • 1 eggplant, trimmed and diced (about 3 cups)
  • 2 small yellow squash, trimmed and diced (about 2 cups)
  • 2 small zucchini, trimmed and diced (about 2 cups)
  • 1 ½ pounds mushrooms, quartered (about 4 cups)
  • One 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes, with their liquid
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1-16-ounce can chickpeas, drained
  • O1-16-ounce can kidneybeans, drained
  • Crumbled goat cheese, for garnish

Method

In a bowl, soak the bulgur wheat in the orange juice until the liquid is fully absorbed, about 45 minutes.

In a 4-quart stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the onion and garlic. Cook until the onions just begin to wilt, about 3 minutes. Add the bay leaves, salt, chili powder, cayenne, cumin, coriander, and oregano, and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring to thoroughly incorporate all of the ingredients.

Add the vegetables, the canned tomatoes with their juices, and the tomato paste and stir carefully to combine all of the ingredients and prevent the paste from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Cover the pot, decrease the heat, and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring once or twice during the cooking process. This method allows the liquid from the various vegetables to escape, creating a kind of vegetable stock in which they simmer.

Stir in the chickpeas, kidney beans, and the orange juice–soaked bulgur wheat. Cover and simmer for another 25 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Serve the chili topped with crumbled goat cheese.

Acorn Squash

  • Handful of coarse salt, for the baking sheet
  • 2 acorn squash, halved engthwise
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Sweet paprika, for sprinkling
  • At least 4 cups warmed
  • Vegetable Chili (above)
  • Crumbled goat cheese, for garnish

Method

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Make 4 small mounds of the coarse salt on a baking sheet to help hold the squash halves upright during baking. This will also prevent the skin of the squash from resting on the hot pan and scorching.

Nestle each squash half, skin side down, in a mound of salt. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and a sprinkling of paprika. Bake until the flesh is fork-tender, about 25 minutes. Mound the warmed chili into the squash “bowls.” Top 1 each serving with crumbled goat cheese.