Growing up I remember that my Mom often referred to herself as frugal...and sometime as a frugal French housewife (although she is pure Irish as far as I know) probably because she rarely let anything go to waste. Dry bread ends were cut into cubes and frozen, to be resurrected later as part of stuffing or bread pudding. The drippings of bacon grease in the pan after the bacon was cooked were saved and used later to flavor steamed green beans or grits. Similar economies were practiced daily. It's a fine quality to have as long as it doesn't go too far. Fortunately she never made head cheese.
For Thanksgiving I purchase an assortment of small, colorful squash and sugar pumpkins for decorations. Once fall turned into the Christmas season I decided to emulate my Mom and use the squash for eating now that it had done its thing as decor. This actually happened over a week ago...but it has been busy people!
The squash were each cut in half, seeds and goop scooped out, laid cut side down on an oiled piece of foil which was placed in a large baking sheet. The lot were roasted in a 425 degree F oven until tender. Once cool, I peeled the skin off each and then cut the squash meat into a small dice.
Great...very thrifty...but now what? Well, the prepared squash sat in the fridge a few days waiting for me to be inspired. Fortunately inspiration came before the squash got tired of waiting.
Rice pie...similar to Easter time savory rice pie eaten in Italy...or at least that was the inspiration.
So this totally yummy way to make good use of cooked winter squash combines rice, meatballs, milk and eggs, cheese, onions, garlic and a pie shell...and the squash. It is hearty, savory, and delicious. I served it with steamed spinach and a bowl of seasonal fruit the first time, then with a large green salad the second time...both worked really well.
You can actually make this with winter squash that you have just purchased, too. It might even be better...but not as frugal. *grin*
Savory Rice Pie with Winter Squash
½ onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive or grapeseed oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 cup cooked rice (I cooked mine in chicken broth, but plain is fine)
1 cup evaporated milk, undiluted
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon dried basil
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups roasted squash, seeds and skin removed, diced
8 oz. meatballs – I used chicken pesto meatballs, but any kind
of prepared meatballs…or your own…are fine. They do not need to
be cooked meatballs…they cook in the pie
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 unbaked pie shell
Heat oil in a skillet and cook onions over medium-high heat, stirring often, until translucent, about 5 minutes. About one minute before the onions are done, add the garlic and stir to combine with the onions. After onions are translucent, remove from heat and cool. Once mixture is just warm, spread it in the bottom of the unbaked pie shell. Set aside.
In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs. Add the rice, milk, salt, basil, pepper, nutmeg and Parmesan cheese. Stir to combine. Gently stir in the squash until just combined. Set aside.
Place the meatballs on top of the onion mixture in the bottom of the pie shell, distributing evenly. Cover with the rice mixture. Use a spatula to even out the mixture. Sprinkle liberally with the cheese.
Bake in preheated 425 degree oven for 10 minutes, then reduce heat and bake at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes, or until set. Cool on a rack for 5 minutes, then serve.
Makes 6-8 servings.
For a vegetarian version, cook the rice in water and omit the meatballs. Add a ½ lb chopped mushrooms and another ½ tablespoon oil to the onions after the onions have cooked 2 minutes and stir well. Continue to cook the onion mixture as described. Otherwise continue to cook the recipe as written.