Acorn squash, known in Costa Rica as ayote, is a delicious vegetable that seems too tasty to be healthy. Baked or boiled, sweetened or salted, the ayote is sure to become a fast favorite for any fan of pumpkin or butternut squash – the best part about it is its completely natural buttery taste, which comes right out of the oven (without the added fat of actual butter).
Ayote only has about 80 calories per cup of cubed baked pieces, and is high in vitamin C, B6, potassium, folate, thiamine, and magnesium. It is also loaded with beta-carotene, the precursor to Vitamin A – which is credited with improving eyesight and reducing the likelihood of lung cancer (although according to www.cancer.org , some studies say that long term use of high-dose supplements may actually increase the risk of lung cancer in smokers).
This summer squash comes in many different shapes and sizes – ayote sazon tends to be small, green and ribbed like a pumpkin, while golden acorn squash is larger with orange skin and a bulbous bottom-half and long neck. To get the most out of your ayote, try toasting the seeds like you would pumpkin seeds – with a little bit of oil or non-stick cooking spray and salt.
RECIPE: Stuffed Acorn Squash
1 golden acorn squash
2 large carrots
1 and ½ cup garbanzo beans
small red onion
1 red pepper
¾ cup raisins
1 ¾ tablespoons ground cumin
2 chicken broth cubes
1 ¾ cups water
1/3 cup water
1 cup uncooked couscous
Non-stick cooking spray
A few dashes of salt and pepper
½ tablespoon butter, optional
agave nectar, optional
a few dashes of cinnamon and sugar
Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds and pulp. Lightly spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Lay ayote face down (skin-side up) and put it in the oven for about a half hour, or until the ayote can be pierced very easily with a fork. When in doubt, is better overcooked than undercooked – undercooked it is a bit hard and stringy.
STEP TWO: Meanwhile, soften the celery, onion, carrots and pepper in a non-stick pan with about 1/3 cup water. Add raisins, garbanzo beans, cumin, garlic powder, salt and pepper and stir.
Pour the remaining water into the pan with the chicken broth cubes. Add couscous. Cover and turn heat to low or off while the liquid absorbs (this takes about 5 minutes).
Add cinnamon sugar/butter mixture to the orange flesh of the ayote in the oven. Then add couscous mixture to the middle. Drizzle with agave nectar if desired.
This delicious and impressive meal is ready in about a half an hour.