Presenting food prettily has never been my forte. I think it stems from a belief that good food doesn’t need good presentation.
Of course, this belief is totally bogus! Some of the best restaurants in the world pay just as much attention to presentation as they do to the taste of the food. In fact my trip to Meadowood really showed me that amazing food deserves and is enhanced by amazing presentation.
Ways to Make Your Food Look Prettier
I’ve experimented with several methods of enhancing the prettiness of my food (I think it should be called food vanity):
buy pretty plates,
buy pretty place settings,
buy pretty cutlery,
decorate the plate with different garnishes.
I’m pretty bad at all of these methods, so I wanted to try a fifth method – making use of the natural beauty of the fruits and vegetables in the dish (to make the dish more colorful and to use them to hold the foods).
And so, for this amazingly delicious recipe, I used the acorn squash as both the food and the decoration. I really love the autumn colors in this dish (the dark green of the acorn squash skin, the dark yellow of the acorn squash flesh, the green of the collard greens, and the dark red of the beef bacon). In case you’re not familiar with beef bacon, there’s more on that next.
I was oblivious to this delicious bacon until a few weeks ago, when Wellness Meats emailed me to tell me they’d like me to be their December Featured Chef (lots of thanks to Russ Crandall at The Domestic Man for recommending me!). I was scrolling through their website picking out what I’d like to buy when bacon entered my computer screen. I just couldn’t resist 🙂
Although beef bacon tastes different to pork bacon (it’s leaner but that makes it even better for this recipe), you can generally cook it just like pork bacon (I put the beef bacon tips into a saucepan so that it wouldn’t splatter too much – if you buy the beef bacon slices, then you might want to cook it with a broiler as Bill and Hayley suggest).
Start with splitting your acorn squash in half – be careful as the skin can be tough. I made 4 acorn squash bowls (4 servings total) with a 1lb pack of beef bacon.
Remove the seeds from the squash and roast the halves in the oven for 40 minutes (until you can easily scoop out the squash) or in the microwave for 3 minutes. (You can also bake or microwave the squash before cutting it in half.)
Cook the beef bacon tips in a pot on medium-high heat until crispy (no need to add anything else to the pot). Stir regularly to make sure it doesn’t burn.
Boil 10oz of collard greens (chopped up) for 40 minutes (while the beef bacon and the acorn squash are both cooking).
When the acorn squash is soft, scoop out the insides but don’t get too close to the skin. That way, you’re left with a nice bowl to hold everything in. Place the bowls back into the oven to dry out a bit.
Place the scooped out acorn squash into the pot with the bacon, add in the cooked collard greens, add in half a navel orange (finely chopped), and a pinch of saffron (optional – note that you’ll need to steep the saffron in a bit of warm water for 20-30 minutes and add the saffron with the water to the mash). Don’t add any salt as the bacon is already salty.
Mix everything together and cook for 5-10 minutes until a soft mash forms. Remove the “bowls” from the oven and spoon the mash into the bowls.
This was a huge hit – the sweetness of the acorn squash along with that hint of orange worked amazingly well with the saltiness of the beef bacon. And it looked amazing in the bowls.
pinch of saffron (Optional – crush and soak for 30 minutes in warm water)
Preheat the oven to 400F.
Halve the acorn squash and remove the seeds. Then soften the inside of the squash by baking on a baking tray in the oven for 40 minutes at 400F (200C) or microwave on high for 3 minutes.
Cook the beef bacon tips in a pot until crispy.
Boil the collard greens in a pot of boiling water for 40 minutes until tender.
Scoop out the inside of the acorn squash when it’s tender, and place the remaining “bowl” made of the squash skin back into the oven to dry out. Note – don’t scoop too close to the skin so that the bowl will hold its shape. Place the soft scooped-out acorn squash flesh into the pot with the beef bacon and the collard greens.
Add the orange and saffron (optional) to the pot and cook on a low heat until the acorn squash forms a mash consistency (5-10 minutes).
Remove the acorn squash bowls from the oven and divide the “mash” into the 4 acorn squash bowls to serve.
Serving Size:an acorn squash bowl
Disclaimer: Wellness Meats provided the Sugar-Free Beef Bacon Tips to me so that I could develop this recipe. I received no other compensation. Links to Wellness Meats and to other websites may be affiliate links.
PS – Eileen over at Phoenix Helix started an AIP (autoimmune protocol) recipe round up that I joined: http://www.phoenixhelix.com/2013/12/04/paleo-aip-recipe-roundtable-5/