Caribbean Comfort Food

Here’s something I tossed together this morning, by way of fixing something good to eat that will last through several future meals. It has Caribbean roots — a friend who ran a charter boat there for several years brought the recipe back to Arizona. The idea is to stuff a winter squash (such as an acorn squash, a pumpkin, a banana squash) with a mixture of hamburger and the squash’s cooked meat plus a variety of tasty additions.

What gives this savory dish an exotic touch is that you sweeten it with a liberal dose of honey. It’s extremely simple to make, feeds a lot of people cheaply, and can be extended with any number of additions to provide future “leftovers” meals.

Normally you would bake a squash, then scoop out the golden flesh and add it to the hamburger slumgullion. Today I happened to have a bag of frozen squash in the freezer, and since I wasn’t entertaining anyone, I used that instead. This makes for even simpler preparation.

You need:

  • hamburger (1/2 to 1 pound)
  • chopped onion (1/2 to 1 onion, depending on taste
  • celery, chopped (1 stalk will do)
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped pretty finely
  • ground cinnamon to taste (about 1/4 to 1/2 tsp)
  • ground clove (pinch)
  • a handful nuts (pecans, walnuts, pistachios — whatever you have)
  • about 1/2 apple, chopped (optional)
  • honey (to taste; I used about 1/4 cup)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Sauté the onions and celery until softened; when they’re almost done, add the garlic. When the vegetables are softened and barely beginning to brown, remove them from the pan and set them aside.

Put the hamburger in the pan over medium high heat. Stir to break it up and cook evenly. Add the chopped apple, if desired, while the meat is cooking. Add cinnamon and clove. When the hamburger is about halfway cooked, add the frozen squash.

When the hamburger is cooked through so it’s no longer pink and the squash is defrosted and hot through, add the honey and nuts. Turn down the heat to medium or medium low; stir to combine ingredients and flavors well.

Et voilà! An easy one-dish meal. It’s great with some crusty French bread, or it can be served over rice or pasta.

This catch-as-catch-can dinner is related to the “Slumgullion” whose recipe appears in 30 Pounds/4 Months, except that slumgullion is flavored with tomato sauce or canned tomatoes rather than honey and sweet spices, and it usually contains macaroni. The beauty of either is that you can add any number of vegetables — think peas, chard, spinach, carrots, kale — and also extend it with ingredients such as macaroni or rice. You also can use ground lamb, ground turkey, or ground pork, alone or in combination with hamburger.

Served inside cooked squash shells, this Caribbean version amuses children and makes guests think you’ve gone to a great deal more trouble than you really have. 😉