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Today's Special: Acorn Squash with Kale Tabbouleh

Alon Shaya, chef-owner of Shaya in New Orleans | Portrait courtesy of Marianna Massey

In winter squash season, it seems butternut gets all the love while acorn squash gets passed by. Alon Shaya, chef-owner of Shaya in New Orleans and winner of the 2015 James Beard Best Chef: South award, understands why: "The skin is tough, and that's what turns people away," he says. "They try to peel it, and it's got all these creases and nooks that are impossible to get into."

Roasting acorn squash with the skin on not only solves that problem, but it also makes it even more delicious. "Like cooking a whole fish skin-on, it keeps it moist and intensifies the flavor," says Shaya. "The skin adds more depth and just a little bit of bitterness to balance the natural sweetness." Shaya loves that acorn has more vegetal, earthy flavor than butternut, ideal for complexly flavored dishes like this one.

Shaya celebrates modern Israeli cooking at his restaurant, and his pomegranate-kale tabbouleh is the perfect example of an updated riff on the centuries-old classic parsley and bulgur salad. Pomegranate arils and molasses add sweet-tart acidity, while hardy kale keeps its chew when dressed. In his original version, Shaya uses baharat, an Israeli spice blend with warm, floral notes, but he says pumpkin pie spice is a good sub.

"All of the produce in this dish can be found at fall farmers' markets," he says, adding that the stuffed squash is impressive at dinner parties. Try his original dish in November at Shaya in New Orleans.

Acorn Squash with Pomegranate and Kale Tabbouleh

Acorn Squash with Pomegranate and Kale Tabbouleh Hands-on: 25 min. Total: 1 hr. 40 min.

This is a fun dish to "carve" at the table, as each person gets one wedge to enjoy as a side dish. For an entrée take, give each person half a squash.

2 acorn squash 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, divided 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided ¼ cup boiling water 2 tablespoons uncooked bulgur 5½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1 cup thinly sliced stemmed green kale 1 cup thinly sliced stemmed red kale ½ cup pomegranate arils ¼ cup finely chopped red onion 3 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted ½ cup tahini 1 garlic clove, minced 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Slice tops off squash, and reserve. Scoop out seeds and membranes; discard. Brush insides of squash evenly with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle insides with ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice and ½ teaspoon salt. Place squash and squash tops on a baking sheet; bake at 350° for 55 minutes or until tender.

3. Combine ¼ cup boiling water and bulgur in a small bowl; cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let stand 20 minutes. Fluff bulgur with a fork.

4. Combine ¼ cup lemon juice, remaining ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, remaining ½ teaspoon salt, pepper, and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add kale, bulgur, pomegranate arils, red onion, and toasted almonds to bowl; toss well to coat.

5. Combine tahini, remaining 1½ tablespoons juice, and garlic in a small bowl. Spread tahini mixture evenly around insides of cooked squash. Divide kale mixture evenly between squash. Drizzle evenly with pomegranate molasses.

SERVES 8 (serving size: ¼ stuffed squash) CALORIES 250; FAT 14.4g (sat 1.9g, mono 7.4g, poly 4.4g); PROTEIN 5g; CARB 29g; FIBER 3g; CHOL 0mg; IRON 2mg; SODIUM 257mg; CALC 104mg

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