Hi Vegetarian Carnivores! I asked you on social media if it was too dang early for fall recipes and the majority of you said heck no! So I said aiiiittteeee, let’s go! Fall begins the time of year where everything slowly gets into my favorite ingredients and spices. I just restocked all the fall essentials in my pantry so I can have easy access to nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, pumpkin puree, cornmeal, and a bunch of other fall and winter goodies that are going to really come in handy. If you’d like a blog post detailing my essential fall and winter pantry haul, leave me a comment below and we can make it happen. For today, I’d like to share a recipe that I have made in a couple different forms. The main ingredients are butternut squash, some kind of large whole grain, and a cheesy sauce. We’re making my butternut squash grain bowl in this post.
Why you’ll love this grain bowl
This cheesy butternut squash dish is full of complex flavors and textures that are sure to blow your mind. It is super wholesome and nutritious as well, so at least for me that is a major plus point. It doesn’t even necessarily taste like a health food, but it pretty much is. And the best part is you can use any whole grain! I recommend farro, because it is one of my all time favorite grains, but I would imagine that bulgur or another large grain would work just as well.
Disclaimer: I know that butternut squash is technically a fruit- it has seeds. Blah Blah Blah. It just feels beyond weird to refer to it as a fruit. So for ease of communication I will be referring to them as vegetables. You’ve been warned.
We’ve got some lovely baked butternut squash to caramelization. We are going to fold it into broth and herb infused farro over medium high heat to slightly char the farro to the pan and create a very slight bite. And then to really take the flavors to the crazy flavorful side, we’re mixing in some vegan cheddar to add a bit of a sharp flavor and silky texture. The cheese melts completely in and incorporates really well.
Our Star Ingredients
Butternut squash- Butternut squash is a staple in my home especially during the holidays, but even on the off season sometimes! It is one of the most versatile and flavorful pieces of produce. It can stand out on its own as the main ingredient of a recipe, like in my butternut squash soup, or support a recipe with sweet undertones, as it does in this recipe. For this recipe, we are going to bake and then subsequently broil our butternut squash halves to really draw out the natural sugars in the vegetable and caramelize into a dark brown and slightly crispy crust. It is quite difficult (from my experience) to over bake butternut squash, but a healthy cook time is between 50-55 minutes for baking, and then I broil for an additional 5-7 minutes. It really depends on your squash though. Thinner squashes will be done faster and fatter squashes will take more time.
Farro- Farro is such a healthy grain. It is chock full of gut health promoting fiber, protein, carbs, and antioxidants. I also like using it because it absorbs a lot of water when it cooks, which means it does a great job absorbing all the flavor in the surrounding broth. We’re going to be infusing a ton of lovely fall herbs and spices into the broth and make the farro taste incredible.
Vegan broth- This one is important. I highly recommend a mildly flavored stock for this, to let the natural flavors of the butternut squash and herbs shine through. I used my favorite: Better than Bouillion No Chicken Vegan base. It has a great defined flavor but it is not overpowering. I don’t recommend their vegetable base for this because, as much as I love it for other purposes, it is incredibly pungent and would just kick any other flavors to the curb. So choose a mildly flavored broth that you like. I have used Swanson brand before and have liked it, and I’ve heard good things about Imagine brand, but have not used it myself.
Vegan cheddar- This is completely optional but I am including it in the ingredient highlights because we covered flavor with the butternut squash and texture with the farro. The cheese is here to bind the two together and tie the dish together with a nice big bow. It is meant to be silky smooth and lend an extra luxurious texture to the dish. But if you don’t like cheese very much, you can leave it out and I’m sure the dish will be just as delicious.
Ingredients (4 servings)
- 1 cup Italian farro, dry
- 1 medium onion, sliced into strips
- 1 tbsp oil or vegan butter
- 2 tbsp Better than Bouillion Vegan Chicken stock, or equivalent
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp dried sage
- 1 tsp dried rosemary
- 3 cups water, divided
- 1/4 cup vegan cheddar shreds, or 2 slices vegan cheddar
- Cracked black pepper, to taste
- Parsley, to garnish
- 1 medium butternut squash
- 1 tsp avocado or olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Slice the butternut squash lengthwise and remove the seeds. If the butternut squash is difficult to cut, you can either oil your knife and try cutting, or make small hash marks with your knife and pop the squash in the microwave for a couple minutes. Once you have halved the squash and removed the seeds, lightly oil and salt the insides.
- Bake it for 50-55 minutes until a fork can easily pierce through. Then turn the setting to broil and broil for 5-7 minutes, until a visible dark layer has formed on top of the squash. This is what is going to really give the beautiful caramelized flavor. When it is done, scoop out the flesh and roughly chop into bite sized pieces.
- While the squash is in the oven, prepare your farro. In a heavy bottom saucepan over medium high heat, heat oil or butter and saute onions for 2-3 minutes until translucent.
- Add farro and toast for an additional 3-5 minutes until the farro has slightly browned.
- Add in dried sage, rosemary, and thyme and give it a good stir.
- Add 2/3 of water-bouillion mixture and stir. Cover with lid and turn down the heat to medium low for 15 minutes.
- After 15 minutes, some farro should be sticking to the bottom of the saucepan, so scrape it and give it a good stir. Add butternut squash chunks and the remaining broth and cover again for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes, melt in vegan cheddar and mix well. Garnish with parsley.