Nov 022011

I was wandering the aisles of TJ’s last week (that’s Trader Joe’s in case you didn’t know, but we’re on a nickname basis at this point).  Anyway, I was in the produce section at Trader Joe’s, stocking up on the usual items–carrots, apples, spinach–when I spotted this little festive-looking acorn squash.  I had no idea what you do with an acorn squash.  Was it decoration?  Can you eat it?  How do you cook it?  Intrigued, I threw him into my cart and brought him home.  After much contemplation, I decided to roast it, and stuff it with some delicious mushroom barley pilaf.

If you’re looking for a festive way to present a side dish around the holidays, I think we have just found it.  The flavor of the squash was relatively neutral–not as sweet as butternut but especially tasty on the roasted parts.  The star of this dish though is the filling. This deceptively healthy barley that I first made in my food science class a few weeks ago has already become a favorite.  It’s savory and filling, and gets richness from the mushrooms.  I would eat it in a squash, I would eat it in a bowl.  I would eat it here or there, I would eat it anywhere!  (See what I did there?)

Nutritional highlights:Say farewell to white rice and hello to barley.   A cup of barley has HALF of your days requirements for fiber.  Fiber does more that just what it’s famous for…it also helps lower cholesterol–Hooray!  This dish gets all it’s flavor from the onion, garlic, mushrooms, and herbs, not from fat.  It’s a filling and hearty dish.  If you decide to put it in the squash, Acorn Squash, like all our other winter squashes, is a great source of Vitamin A (via beta carotene), plus vitamin C and potassium.  When we’re eating so many rich things around the holidays, this might be a great addition to help fill us up without filling us out.  And more good news–this dish is vegan and vegetarian!

Roasted Acorn Squash


  • 1 Acorn Squash, halved and seeds removed
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • salt and pepper
Directions:  Preheat oven to 425.  Once you’ve cut and cleaned out the acorn squash, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Place face down on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 30 minutes or until tender and caramelized.  

Mushroom Barley Pilaf:

  • 2 cups cold water
  • 1/2 cup barley
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onion (about 1/2 a large onion)
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 8 ounces sliced cremini mushroom (baby portobello)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 small scallion, minced
  • Fresh thyme
1.  Bring water to a biol in small saucepan over high heat.  Stir in barley and salt and bring back to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat to simmer, continue cooking for 45 minutes or until barley is tender.
2.  Meanwhile, heat olive oil in large skillet over high heat.  Add onion, reduce heat to medium, and continue cooking and stirring until union has wilted (about 3-5 minutes).
3.  Mix in garlic and dried herbs, cook and stir for 2 minutes.
4.  Add mushrooms and water to onion mixture, cover and cook on low heat for 10 minutes.
5.  Add soy sauce and shallot, cook and stir for 2 minutes.
6.  Add barley to the mixture, cook and stir until heated through.  Stir in some fresh thyme leaves for color and sprinkle a few more on top.
7.  Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

If stuffing in an Acorn Squash, spoon the barley into the squash and serve!

  2 Responses to “Mushroom Barley Pilaf in Roasted Acorn Squash”

  1. Marissa — had to comment on this one…it looks absolutely gorgeous! I’m sure it’s as delicious as it tastes.

    Hope all is well!!

  2. This reminds me of grammy. “barley shape”

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