Stuffed Acorn Squash with Barley
2 small acorn squash, halved and seeded
3/4 cup pearl barley, rinsed and drained
1 fennel bulb, tops discarded, halved, cored, and chopped fine
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1. Adjust the oven racks to the upper middle and lower middle and heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and lightly spray with vegetable oil spray.
2. Brush the cut sides of the squash with 1 teaspoon of the oil, season with salt and pepper and lay cut side down on the baking sheet. Roast on the lower middle rack until tender 45 to 55 minutes. Remove and increase oven to 450 degrees.
3. Meanwhile, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Stir in the barley and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Return to a boil, then reduce to simmer and cook until the barley is tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain and set aside.
4. Wipe the saucepan dry and add the remaining teaspoon oil, onion, and fennel. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, thyme, and coriander and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
5. Off the heat, stir in the cooked barley, 3/4 cup of the Parmesan, parsley, pine nuts, and butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
6. Flip the roasted squash over and scoop out the flesh, leaving a 1/8 inch thickness of flesh in each shell. Gently fold the squash flesh into the barley mixture, then mound the mixture into the squash shells (about 1 cup of filling per shell).
7. Sprinkle with the remaining 3/4 cup Parmesan. Bake on the upper middle rack until the cheese is melted, 5 to 10 minutes. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and serve.