By Rodney Bowers

Makes 4 main course servings

Roasted squash:
2 acorn or pepper squash (1 to 1 ½ pounds each),
halved through the stem and seeded
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
12 large sage leaves, left whole
4 cloves garlic, smashed

Stuffing:
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 pound ground pork
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 carrot, coarsely grated
1 stalk celery, coarsely grated
1/4 pound oyster or cremini mushrooms, julienned (cut into
very thin strips)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp ground cayenne
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp kosher salt, plus more if needed
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more if needed
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh sage leaves
1 1/2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 apples, peeled, cored and diced
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 Tbsp minced chives
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp maple syrup

Roast the squash: Line the bottom of a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Brush the olive oil evenly over the cut sides and cavities of the squash. Sprinkle evenly with the salt and pepper. Divide sage leaves into 4 portions of 3 leaves each. Place each portion on its own quarter of the baking sheet. Top each portion of sage with one clove of the smashed garlic.

Cover each portion with one squash half, cut-side down. (The flavours of the sage and garlic will infuse the squash as it roasts.) Bake in a 400°F oven until the squash is tender when pierced with a paring knife but still holds its shape, about 35 to 45 minutes. Remove the squash from the oven. Turn over the squash halves. Discard the sage leaves and smashed garlic.

Make the stuffing: In a large skillet or sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the ground pork and cook until lightly browned, stirring occasionally to break up the meat, about 5 minutes. Transfer the pork and any drippings to a colander set over a large bowl to drain.

In the same skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally and scraping up any brown bits, for 4 minutes. Stir in the carrot, celery, mushrooms, minced garlic, cayenne, thyme, salt, pepper and chopped sage and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir until combined, about 1 minute. Stir in the apples and cook, stirring occasionally until the apple is just beginning to soften, about 2 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Stir in the drained, browned pork, bread crumbs, parsley and chives. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Stir in the egg.

Make the stuffed squash: Fill each squash half with one-quarter of the stuffing mixture. Drizzle each squash half evenly with the maple syrup.

Bake in a 400°F oven until the meat mixture is lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Serve hot, accompanied by a salad and some crusty artisanal
bread.

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