Chris Williams loves squash. Growing up, the chef and owner of Lucille’s in Houston was introduced to the winter produce in a way many Southerners first meet it: smothered in brown sugar in a casserole. Since then, Williams has come to appreciate squash for its subtle yet pleasing qualities. “I like it on its own now,” Williams says. “I like any type of squash. You can grill it, salt it, and then serve it.”
Williams’s recipe for roasted acorn squash stuffed with collard greens and quinoa showcases the fruit (yes, squash is a fruit!) without drenching it in butter and dusting it with sugar.
“This dish in particular was born out of my father’s heart issues,” he says. “He had to go on an all-vegan diet. I’m used to my father being a staple in my restaurant—he’s always there. And then when he went on this diet, he wasn’t there.”
This change in his dad’s dietary needs inspired Williams to adjust his thinking about the way he cooks.
“When my dad was put on this diet, I started coming up with ways to get him back into the restaurant safely and responsibly,” Williams says. Lucille’s touts Southern staples like steak smothered in gravy and fried catfish with grits. “I was thinking about flavors that he likes and things that he was eating and trying to figure out a way to put it all together in a way that was refined and delicious. That’s what the dish was born out of. He embraced the challenge of finding new and delicious things to eat that make him happy, and this hit all the marks for him.”
Williams says this recipe is the third iteration of the original version he made for his dad. The dish is vibrant and delicious—a perfect addition to your table during cooler months in Texas.
Roasted Acorn Squash Stuffed With Collards and Quinoa
- 2 acorn squashes, halved and seeded
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 teaspoons curry powder
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- ¼ cup canola oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 1 bunch collard greens, cleaned and roughly chopped
- 2 Anjou pears, peeled and diced small (hold in water with lemon after dicing)
- 2 cups cooked red quinoa (hold chilled after cooking)
- ¼ cup cooked chickpeas
- 1 tablespoon kuchela, a hot Trinidadian relish (or more, to taste)
- 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
- ¼ cup pomegranate seeds
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 cup red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, and chopped
- 2 ounces almonds, roasted
- ¼ cup curly parsley, chopped
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- ½ cup olive oil
For the squash:
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk all ingredients together except for the squash.
- Cut across the bottom of each squash half to create a flat base. Coat squash halves in liquid mixture, then place them flesh side up on parchment paper, and place pan in oven.
- Roast for 20–30 minutes or until fork-tender.
For the stuffing:
- Heat oil in large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and collard greens to oil.
- Once greens have wilted, add pears, quinoa, chickpeas, and kuchela. Stir for 3 minutes, then deglaze with sherry vinegar.
- Remove pan from heat and spread mixture onto a sheet pan, then fold in pomegranate seeds.
- Allow mixture to cool on sheet pan.
For the romesco sauce:
- In a food processor, blend garlic first, then add every other ingredient except for the olive oil.
- Once the paste develops, slowly add the oil to emulsify, until smooth. This mixture should hold refrigerated for about 2 weeks.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line sheet pan with parchment paper.
- Fill squash halves with stuffing until compact and even.
- Place stuffed squash flesh side up on parchment paper–lined sheet pan, and cover with foil. Heat for 25 minutes.
- In the center of your plate, create a circle with the romesco sauce. Once ready, place warmed squash in the center of the circle. Top squash with seasoned bread crumbs (can be store-bought or homemade) and a drizzle of romesco sauce.
- Garnish with fresh herbs of your choice and a draw of olive oil.