Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Squash and Onion Curry

I’m always looking for new ways to use the abundance of winter squash we get in our CSA boxes this time of year. For many recipes, I use the different varieties of squash pretty much interchangeably. Butternut, buttercup, red kuri, kobacha, acorn, little delicata and sweet dumpling, and of course the familiar pumpkin (and there are probably others I’ve omitted.) They vary subtly in flavor and texture, but most of the time, each roasts, sautés and simmers much like the others. (Spaghetti squash is a strong exception, especially when it comes to texture.) And so I knew that I could use the small, smooth-skinned butternut squash in last week’s CSA box in the pumpkin curry recipe I’d been eyeing.

The original recipe was loaded with coconut in the form of coconut milk and coconut cream. While I had no doubt that the sweet coconut would complement the sweet squash very well, Harry won’t eat coconut unless it fits into the category of “safety coconut,” which usually includes spicy dishes with a little coconut milk. I had the feeling, however, that the coconut cream wasn’t going to make the cut.

I took the opportunity to replace all the coconut-ness with a yogurt sauce that I had worked on at least once before. In the past, I had thickened such a sauce with ground almonds, but since the original pumpkin curry recipe called for cashews, that’s the nut I ground for the sauce. I also stirred plenty of cashew pieces into the dish for a nice crunchy contrast to the creamy squash and yogurt sauce.

The spices were another important part of this dish, and I opted to make a sort of curry powder by toasting and grinding whole spices. A good commercial curry powder could be used, but I find it more economical to make a blend out of more versatile spices as needed. I know that jars of cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cardamom pods, or other spices will stay potent as long as I need them to, and I can use them individually in many applications. A ground curry powder might lose its flavor before I can make enough curries to use it all.

One of the spices I used in this dish was new to me, and that was fenugreek seed. After seeing it in plenty of Indian recipes and finding it quite inexpensively at a local store, I decided to put it in my spice blend. I have to say that its unique flavor just makes me think of Indian food, plain and simple. It seems to be the seasoning that makes curry powder taste like I’ve come to expect it to taste. If you can’t find it, however, the other spices can manage just fine without it.

The squash and onions soften and cook down into the consistency of a very thick stew. The way I made it with two dried chile peppers was very spicy, which we enjoyed. If you like things less spicy leave at least one of them out. Just don’t leave out the squash. Not only is it the star of the show (its name is the first words of the recipe title), but you have no excuses not to find some kind of winter squash to fill that starring role.

Winter Squash and Onion Curry with Yogurt Sauce
Inspired by a recipe in Bon Appetit magazine.

Two dried chile peppers makes this dish very spicy. Use just one to make it moderately spicy or omit them entirely for a mild dish.

2 (6-inch) cinnamon sticks
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
6 whole cardamom pods
1-2 dried red chile peppers, stems removed
½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
½ teaspoon brown mustard seeds
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 cup roasted, salted cashews (pieces or coarsely chopped), divided
½ cup plain yogurt (I used low-fat)
1 teaspoon honey
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
3 cups (about 1 pound, weighed after peeling and chopping) chopped butternut squash, about 1-inch cubes
2 small red onions, cut into thin wedges
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup water
1 tablespoon lime juice
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems

1. Place the cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cardamom pods, chile peppers, fenugreek seeds, and brown mustard seeds in a medium skillet. Heat over medium-low to medium heat for just a few minutes, until the spices are very fragrant.

2. Remove the cinnamon sticks and bay leaves and set aside. Place the remaining toasted spices in a spice grinder (or a coffee grinder that will not be used for coffee) and grind to a fine powder. Remove the ground spices to a bowl with the cinnamon sticks, bay leaf and ground turmeric. Set aside.

3. In a food processor (I used a mini-processor) process ¼ cup cashews until finely ground. Place the yogurt in a small bowl. Add the ground cashews, honey and ground cinnamon and whisk together until well-combined. Set aside.

4. Heat the canola oil in a large skillet (one that has a lid) over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger and cook about 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add the squash, onion and salt. Cook 5 minutes, or until just beginning to brown, stirring frequently.

5. Add the set-aside spice mixture and cook, stirring frequently, 1 minute more. Stir in the water and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and cook 10 minutes, or until the squash and onions are tender. Lift the lid occasionally to stir.

6. Remove the lid and add the remaining ¾ cup cashews, cashew-yogurt mixture, lime juice and cilantro. Stir well and continue cooking until warmed through. Remove the cinnamon sticks and bay leaves. Remove from heat and serve with rice.

Makes about 4 servings.

Another recipe like this one: Pasta with Cauliflower and Cashew Sauce

Some other winter squash recipes: Quinoa Stuffed Squash, Roasted Winter Squash Puree, Pasta with Squash Puree and Blue Cheese Sauce, Grandmama’s Pumpkin Pie

1 comment:

  1. this looks fantastic. i was just going to make a soup, but i may do this instead!