Middle Eastern Twice-Baked Acorn Squash
with ground beef / couscous / feta
Tender baked acorn squash is stuffed with fragrant spiced ground beef, couscous, and feta in this fun, flavorful meal. Pita chips are great on the side to scoop up and enjoy all of the elements together.
Smarts #1: You can eat the peel of the acorn squash if you'd like - it gets very soft when baked.
Smarts #2: To prepare this meal ahead, assemble the squash with filling up to 3 days before baking.
- Stock, any type - 1 cup (sub water)
- Salt - 1/4 tsp
- Butter - 2 Tbsp
- Couscous, uncooked - 3/4 cup
- Onions, medium - 1/2, diced
- Acorn squash - 2, halved and seeds removed (if using large squash estimate half a squash / serving; if using smaller squash, use one whole squash / serving)
- Mint leaves - 6, chopped
- Oil, cooking - 1 Tbsp
- Beef, ground and lean - 1 lb
- Baby kale - 4 oz (sub baby spinach or regular kale with stems discarded, leaves chopped)
- Cooked couscous (ingredients listed separately) - 1 1/2 cups
- Cheese, feta - 3 oz, crumbled
- Pomegranate seeds - 1/4 cup (look for these removed from the pomegranate shells in the produce section; sub chopped nuts or skip)
- Yogurt, plain or Greek - for serving
- Pita chips (opt) - for serving
- Paprika, smoked - 1 tsp (sub regular paprika)
- Cumin, ground - 1/2 tsp
- Coriander, ground - 1/2 tsp
- Salt - 1/2 tsp
- Black pepper - 1/4 tsp
- Cinnamon, ground - 1/4 tsp
- Turmeric, ground (opt) - 1/4 tsp
- Make couscous - (Skip if made ahead for Tuesday; if prepping right before cooking, get oven heating first.) Combine stock, salt (portion for couscous), and butter in a saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Stir in couscous and cover with lid. Let stand for ~5 minutes before fluffing with a fork. (Can be done up to 5 days ahead)
- Make spice blend - Combine paprika, cumin, coriander, salt (portion for spice blend), black pepper, cinnamon, and turmeric. (Can be done up to 5 days ahead)
- Onions / Acorn squash - Prep as directed. To help the acorn squash sit upright as it bakes, slice a small sliver off the top and bottom before slicing in half horizontally. (Can be done up to 5 days ahead)
- Mint - Chop mint.
- Heat oven to 400F / 204C.
- Brush a sheet pan with some oil. Place squash halves cut-side down on sheet pan and roast until tender enough to pierce with a fork, 20 to 25 minutes.
- While squash roasts, heat a skillet or saute pan with oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and saute until tender, 3 to 4 minutes.
- To onions, add ground beef and spice mix. Saute, breaking beef apart, until browned, 8 to 10 minutes.
- When beef is nearly finished cooking, stir in baby kale.
- Combine beef with couscous and crumbled feta (you can do this in the skillet if there is room, or transfer to a mixing bowl). Taste filling and season with some salt and pepper, if needed.
- When squash is tender, remove it from the oven and set aside until cool enough to handle. Flip squash halves and season the insides with some salt.
- Spoon filling into squash halves, mounding it over top and pressing it down gently if needed.
- Return squash to oven and bake for 10 minutes more to let the flavors come together.
- Top squash with mint and pomegranate seeds. Serve with yogurt and pita chips for scooping. Enjoy!
Wow, this was great! I wasn't sure my daughter would go for it, but she really liked it. The pomegranate is a must!2 Helpful
One kid doesn’t like squash, so he just scooped out the filling. Everyone else liked it. Didn’t have mint (made week early) and that would have been nice. Was tasty, but got higher marks for looks than taste. It just looked SO COOL!0 Helpful
Would have been better with pomegranate seeds and more mint, I did not have any.0 Helpful
I really enjoyed making this one and the flavors are just delicious!0 Helpful
The flavors all came together really well.0 Helpful
I made mashup of versions using feta, pistachios, cauliflower rice, and impossible ground beef and served with harissa green beans. Added about half more seasoning. Delicious!0 Helpful
Tasty - definitely needs the added salt it mentions at the end of making the ground beef mixture. I found the amount of feta to be unnoticeable - I'd probably double next time. I also think it would be must tastier with sausage instead of ground beef. We used Israeli couscous because we were out of regular and it was delicious - I'd make the same switch if I make it again.0 Helpful