Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm
Stuffed Summer Squash
Adose of nature and solitude can add a delicious ingredient to any meal.
Nearly 20 ago, we chose Boulder, Utah, as the location for our business because of its location: nestled in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, one of the country’s most dramatic, untrammeled landscapes. As former Grand Canyon river chefs, we knew the power of a good meal in the wilderness, and Boulder was perfect for that alchemy.
Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm thrives because of the monument. People from the entire world come to dine with us and experience an increasingly rare sense of awe and peace from the quiet, the dark skies, the astonishingly beautiful red cliffs, and the centuries-old piñon-juniper forests.
Still, this land is more than just backdrop; our restaurant is deeply connected to it. We own a 6.5-acre farm where we grow more than 20,000 pounds of produce annually, all of which is lovingly prepared and served in our dining room. We buy our meat from local ranchers, and our menu highlights the region’s history, with a blend of Western Range, Pueblo and Southwestern flavors.
Running a busy restaurant in one of the nation’s most remote towns is already a massive undertaking, and now we both have a second full-time job we never expected: fighting to defend our beloved monument from the ravages of resource extraction.
It’s overwhelming, but this work is profoundly meaningful to us. We who live in this sacred place have a responsibility to be stewards. We owe it to our business, our employees, our community, the earth, and future generations seeking the healing and inspirational experience of true wilderness.
Piñon-Sage Stuffed Summer Squash
Featured in our new cookbook This Immeasurable Place: Food and Farming from the Edge of Wilderness.
At the height of summer when we’re juggling squash, we do everything we can with them, including using our famous black pepper biscuits as the basis for this seriously yummy stuffed version. We call them Zuke-Canoes! If you don’t have a batch of biscuits on hand, substitute 1½ cups breadcrumbs with ½ teaspoon each of salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Ingredients (for 6 servings)
6 medium-large summer squash (approximately 8 inches in length)
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon salted butter
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup onion, diced
½ cup piñons, toasted
1½ cups biscuit crumbs, toasted
½ cup white wine
2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1¾ cup Monterey Jack cheese, grated
¼ cup cream cheese, cut into ¼ inch chunks
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a shallow baking dish.
Lay the squash flat on a chopping board. Create “boats” to stuff by cutting ¼ off lengthwise and scraping the seeds and most of the flesh out of the remaining 3/4. Set aside. Finely dice the squash “lids,” the seeds and flesh.
Place the squash boats cut-side down in a baking dish and add 2 tablespoons of water. Roast the boats in the oven for 15 minutes, to soften.
Meanwhile, sauté the diced squash lids and guts with the butter, salt and onion over medium heat for 15-20 minutes until quite soft.
Once the squash boats are cooked, remove them from the oven, remove the water from the dish, and flip them over. Cool 30 minutes.
When the diced squash and onion mixture is cooked through, remove it from the heat and add the piñons, biscuit crumbs, white wine, sage, nutmeg, and ¾ cup of the grated Monterey Jack cheese. Stir until combined. Add the cream cheese chunks at the end and stir gently. It’s lovely for people to find a cream-cheesy bite, so don’t combine all the way!
Divide filling among the 6 squash boats in your baking dish, and top with the remaining grated cheese. Cover the baking dish with foil, and bake covered for 10 minutes. Uncover and cook for an additional 10 minutes, until the cheese is browned.