You know, a whole head of roasted garlic and a buncha mushrooms inside a squash. Photos by Claire Lower.
I don't think vegetarians feel they are "missing out" on the experience of eating big roasts, but I do think they miss out on some of the decadent pageantry.
The most dramatic meat centrepiece one can serve is probably the turducken, as three boneless birds stuffed inside each other does make for quite the presentation. Not wanting my veggie friends to miss out on the foods-shoved-inside-other-foods shenanigans, I created the garsquashroom, which is (obviously) a whole head of roasted garlic and a bunch of roasted mushrooms served inside a beautiful roasted kobocha squash.
To make this kinder, gentler edible centrepiece, you will need:
- 1 kabocha squash
- 8 ounces baby shiitake mushrooms
- 1 teaspoon chilli flakes
- 1 head of garlic
- 1 large shallot, sliced into thin rings
- 1 green, tart apple, chopped into half-inch cubes
- 2 sage leaves, minced
- 2 sprigs of marjoram, leaves stripped from stem
- 2 sprigs thyme, leaves stripped from stem
- 4 carrots, sliced into ribbons with a vegetable peeler.
- 4 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Parmesan cheese or vegan cheese substitute for topping (optional)
Carefully slice the top (the part with the stem) off the squash and hollow it out. Coat it with a tablespoon of olive oil, season it with salt and pepper, then get it (but not the lid) in a 190-degree oven for 30 minutes. Slice the top half inch off a head of garlic, drizzle it with a teaspoon of olive oil, and wrap it in foil and get it in the oven too.
In the meantime, toss your mushrooms with another tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and one teaspoon of chilli flakes. Roast those on a sheet pan until they have wonderfully crispy edges (about half an hour). Also take this time to cook the (salted) shallot slices down in a skillet over medium heat with another tablespoon of olive oil until they are caramelised. Add the apple and herbs, and continue to cook until the apple starts to soften and brown.
Once the mushrooms are done and the squash is a bit soft, take everything but the garlic out of the oven and let it cool until it's touchable. Mix the mushrooms with the apple and shallot mixture, and scoop a little into the squash. Place some of the carrot ribbons around the edge of the squash, then add a little more filling. Repeat by placing more carrots around the border of the squash, adding more filling as needed to prop them up.
Once the head of garlic has been in the oven for at least 40 minutes, take it out, unwrap it from the foil, and nestle it down in the squash among its fungal friends.
Pop it back in the oven - along with the lid - for another half hour to 40 minutes, until the carrots are cooked to your liking. (I left a little crunch in mine for textural purposes, but feel free to take them to a more deeply-roasted place.)
Now comes the pageantry. Remove the squash from the oven, place the lid on top, and set it on the table.
Remove the lid with a flourish, revealing the medley of roasted plant parts within.
Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves into to the squash, give everything a toss, then top with Parmesan cheese (or a vegan substitute) and fresh thyme.
Serve everyone a wedge of squash with the savoury, garlicky filling, offering them more Parm if they so desire.