Stuffed acorn squash Credit: Sandy Oliver / BDN

A bumper crop of acorn squash in the garden this year presents quite a challenge: how many ways can I cook them? An obvious choice is to cut them in half, then stuff them full of something delicious and bake them until they’re tender.

Actually all kinds of hollow things can be stuffed: think peppers, for instance. Chickens and turkeys, of course, are stuffable as well. And if something isn’t hollow naturally, one can always hollow it out like baked potatoes, or even tomatoes and zucchini after you scrape out the seeds.

The fun comes when concocting the stuffing. This is one of those times when you don’t really need a recipe in order to get the job done. You can take the most expedient route and use packaged stuffing from the store made according to the directions. Or you can enhance it with onion, garlic, celery, a little cooked sausage and additional herbs as you might do at Thanksgiving.

If dedicated meat eaters live at your house, almost any ground meat will work: ground turkey, beef, pork, or mild or spicy sausage. Mix the meat with onions, peppers and a few crumbs or cooked rice. Or not. Think meatloaf or meatballs packed into the hollow.

Or think of a semi-meat route. I remember my mom mixed finely chopped ham with rice for stuffing peppers. Or you could try bacon with a grain. Add cheese, especially if you are stuffing a potato or zucchini with the cooked vegetable you scraped out in the first place.

If you go the meatless route, some combination of easy to do grains like rice, barley, quinoa or farro mixed with good old onions and garlic. Add lentils, corn or chopped nuts or seeds. Your choice of spice might be herbal, or more Tex-Mex, or something like ras el hanout or garam masala.

If you make more stuffing than the hollow will hold, grease a little baking dish and finish it off in that to serve as a side. Easy peasy. No fret.

A stuffed vegetable becomes a main dish in one fell swoop. Vegetable, meat and starch all in one. Add a salad and call it a day.

Stuffed acorn squash. Credit: Sandy Oliver / BDN

Baked Stuffed Acorn Squash

Serves 2

Olive or other vegetable oil

1 medium acorn halved

Small onion, chopped

Short piece, four or five inches, of celery, chopped

6-8 oz ground meat

Optional add-ins:

bread crumbs

grated parmesan

cooked corn

rice or other grain

finely chopped red or green pepper

Seasoning of your choice:

Salt and pepper

Sprinkle of chili powder or cumin

Sprinkle of oregano, marjoram or thyme

Chopped parsley

Sprinkle of ras el hanout or garam masala

Set the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds and lightly oil the cut face of the squash.

Lay it hollow side down on a baking pan and bake for about 30 minutes or until the squash feels a little soft when you press it with your finger.

Put a bit of oil in a saute pan and lightly cook the onion and celery just until a little soft.

Mix together the meat, cooked vegetables and other filling choices and seasonings.

Pack into the hollow of the squash and return to the oven for 35-45 minutes, or until the meat is cooked through.

Sandy Oliver, Taste Buds

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working...