No matter how you celebrate the holidays, chances are there is some bready, savory stuffing on your menu. This straightforward, almost-classic dressing gets its edge by being baked in a pumpkin and is a healthy, nutrient-rich recipe swap. Any bread would do, but the flavors, texture and nutritional value of the dish really get amped up when you use a hearty, whole-grain bread. If you aren’t keen on apricots or plums, substitute dates or figs. When choosing a pumpkin, use a medium-sized white or buff-skinned pumpkin or a large kabocha squash (ask your grocer for a good eating pumpkin!) Lastly, the recipe takes a couple of easy preparatory steps which are best completed the day before you bake the stuffing. That way, you can assemble and bake just in time to serve with the turkey.
Ingredients for servings
1 cup dried apricots
1 cup dried plums pitted
1 cup apple juice or white wine
1 loaf of good quality whole-grain bread
1 large onion diced
1 or 2 stalks of leafy celery, diced leaves not included
1 tbsp dried whole-leaf sage
0.25 cup butter melted
Vegetable stock as needed
Tamari sauce to taste
A small amount of dried leaf basil and oregano to taste (optional)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 medium-to-large pumpkin preferably with buff-colored skin, or kabocha squash
4 tbsp brown sugar for prepping the inside of the pumpkin
Stuffed Pumpkin Dressing For Your Healthy Holiday Table
Cut off and reserve a lid. The dressing will be easier to serve later if you score the pumpkin all the way around with a knife, about 1–2 inches down the side of the pumpkin from the stem. Then slice the top right off. Then, scoop out the seeds and fibers. Put an inch or two of water in a large pot. Place the pumpkin, cut side down, in the water, cap wedged in near it. Bring to boil over high heat. Cover tightly and steam for 10–15 minutes to precook slightly. Then, remove the pot from the heat and let cool. When the pumpkin is cool, remove the pumpkin from the pot. Since the pumpkin will be eaten with the stuffing, season the inside by rubbing salt, pepper, a little tamari and brown sugar into the exposed interior of the pumpkin flesh.
Now, you’re ready to start making the stuffing.
Place the apricots and plums in a small, heatproof bowl. Place the apple juice in a small saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Immediately, pour the juice over the dried fruit. Let stand for at least 2 hours (overnight is fine, too.) Drain the dried fruit, reserving both the fruit and the soaking liquid. Coarsely chop the fruit and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190ºC), then turn it down to 200°F (93ºC). Next, prepare the bread crumbs. Slice the bread into small cubes. Place the cubes on two baking sheets in the preheated oven and bake, stirring often, until the bread is hard, crunchy and dry all the way through but not browned. This will take 45–60 minutes, but we advise setting the timer at 20-minute intervals to help you check the toast! Pull the sheet pans from the oven and let the bread cool.
Once cool enough to handle, crumble the bread into a large bowl. Add the onion and leafy celery; toss to combine. Measure the sage (starting with the a smaller amount) into your hands and rub the leaves back and forth in your palms until they crumble (this releases the volatile essential oils). Add the sage to the bread mixture. Pour the melted butter over the mixture and toss well to combine. Add the soaked dried fruit and toss again. The stuffing should still be dry. Begin adding the the vegetable stock and the reserved fruit soaking liquid, employing more stock than juice and adding just enough liquid to make the dressing moist, but not soggy. Keep tossing, adding stock as needed. Next, add tamari, starting with about 1 tablespoon. Add plenty of salt and pepper and then taste and adjust the seasoning. Add a little of the dried basil and oregano if you like. The stuffing can be prepared up to this point and stored, covered and refrigerated, overnight.
On the day you plan to stuff the pumpkin and bake it, preheat the oven to 375°F (190ºC).
Prepare a baking pan (large enough to accommodate the entire pumpkin) with cooking spray or a little bit of olive oil.
Stuff the dressing into the cavity of the prepared pumpkin, topping with the pumpkin’s cap. Place the stuffed pumpkin in the prepared baking dish. Place in the preheated oven and bake until the pumpkin is slightly brown and looks a bit collapsed in on itself, about 40 minutes. Serve whole, at the table with all of your friends, family and other fixings!