Stuffed Moroccan-Style Acorn Squash

Candy Cap mushrooms I received from I have lived on the East Coast my entire life with few regrets until I tried the Marx Foods. My introduction started in my mailbox. When I opened it, I was bombarded by the heady aroma of … butterscotch? With startled curiosity, I opened the package and the aroma erupted, filling the whole room with a wonderful nutty-maple scent. Imagine my surprise to find that a small plastic bag filled with dried mushrooms was imparting such an abundance of fragrance! Perhaps the potpourri industry should consider using these little gems.

Candy cap mushrooms (Lactarius rubidus) which are indigenous to the West Coast, primarily coastal California, can be used fresh, however, they are primarily harvested for use in dry form because they are far more flavorful when dried, and can keep their flavor for years.

Visions of sugar plums danced through my head while considering a recipe in which to highlight the candy caps. While strolling through the market, my gaze fell upon two gorgeous acorn squash and I knew exactly how I would use the unusual and unique fungi to underscore their unequaled soft, honeyed flavor.

Moroccan Stuffed Acorn Squash
  • 2 medium acorn squashes, halved and seeded
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ ounce dried Candy Cap mushrooms, chopped
  • ½ medium onion, finely chopped
  • ½ lb. ground beef (or lamb)
  • 1-2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-2 teaspoons Kosher salt, to taste
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup white or brown rice, cooked
  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup

Preheat oven to 400oF. Wash acorn squash to remove the waxy exterior coating and cut them in half horizontally. Using a tablespoon or ice cream scoop, remove seeds and make a nicely shaped hole in each half. If the squash halves will not stand steadily on their bottoms, then cut a small portion of the bottom off to make an even surface. Season the four cavities with salt and pepper, then brush with olive oil before placing them cut side down on a parchment-lined cookie sheet or shallow pan. Bake squash until tender which should take about 35 to 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, rehydrate the Candy Cap mushrooms by placing them in a ½ cup of boiling water and allow them to sit until the water is cool. Strain the mushrooms and use the reserved mushroom water to cook the rice according to the package instructions. Chop the mushrooms and them set aside.

Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add onion, and cook until slightly translucent, about 5 minutes. Then add ground beef, chopped Candy Caps, a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring frequently until meat is browned and cooked through which should take about 5 to 7 minutes. If there is an excess amount of fat, drain before adding rice. Add rice and sauté until rice is fully coated with pan juices.

Once squash halves are done (a knife inserted through the flesh meets no resistance,) turn upwards and add the rice mixture to the empty cavities, then drizzle the tops with pure maple syrup and place back in the oven for 10 minutes until warmed through and the tops are browned. Allow to cool slightly (they retain heat) and serve with a spoon. Scoop spoonfuls of tender squash with the aromatic filling and prepare your tastebuds for an amazing taste sensation.

As the filling was cooking the whole house smelled of maple and cinnamon! It was like a warm comforting cloud that enveloped us, making us crave the finished creation. We all dove into dinner with reckless abandon. (Even our oldest, who is not a big fan of squash, decimated his portion down to the skin!) The intensity of the candy caps shone through and truly complemented and accentuated the flavors of the filling and squash. I may be willing to consider a move to the West Coast!