Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Flavors of fall


It’s a game people play.

It’s a thing people do to bugs.

It’s a food that’s taken over the Internet.

Guess which squash I’ll be talking about today? Yup, you guessed it: the kind you can eat.

You can’t go to a food blog these days and not see an explosion of winter squash recipes. Sweet or savory. Side dish or main dish. Acorn squash or butternut squash or pumpkin. They’re literally taking over the world.

This butternut squash looks harmless, but it’s got evil thoughts…

As much as I like squashes though, I wouldn’t say I go crazy for them as much as everyone else seems to. I think it’s their sweetness that doesn’t totally do it for me. In general, I’m not a fan of the savory/sweet combination. (As my friend Liz would say, “you’re weird.”)

So while most recipes play up the squash’s sweetness, I prefer to contrast it with spices. (Unless of course I’m eating squash for dessert and it’s covered in butter and brown sugar. Then I say “bring on the sugah!”)

But when I’m making a squash to eat for dinner, I don’t even want a dash of sugar getting anywhere near it. Which is why when I first made this Moroccan butternut squash recipe years ago I was hooked.

Spices galore: turmeric, ginger, cayenne, paprika, 
cumin, coriander and pepper.

Years later and it’s still my favorite way to prepare butternut squash. It’s a bold, spicy and hearty dish; perfect for cool fall evenings.

Butternut squash, carrots and tomatoes with quinoa

And it satisfies my need for comfort food without being heavy or greasy or make you feel ‘bleh’ after eating a bowlful.

Plus, it’s uber healthy. No meat, lots of veggies, and quinoa as accompanying grain. But lest anyone think quinoa makes this dish fru fru, this ain’t no wussie dish! I can pretty much guarantee this will be a dish loved by carnivores, omnivores and herbivores alike.
Fresh mint and cilantro really brighten up the flavor

And for anyone that has never had or made quinoa before, I'd definitely suggest giving it a try. It reminds me a bit of couscous in texture. Plus it's super simple to make and is ridiculously good for you.

Raw quinoa with it's teeny tiny seeds

So give in to butternut squash's evil plans to take over the world. It's really not a bad thing after all...

Buen Provecho,

Moroccan spiced butternut squash stew with quinoa, from Epicurious


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion, ~1/2 large onion
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons Hungarian sweet paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (I used ~1/4 to 1/2 the amount, but that's only because I'm weird)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup water
1 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained and liquid reserved
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 cups 1-inch cubes peeled butternut squash, from ~ 1 1/2-pound squash
2 cups 3/4-inch cubes peeled carrots, ~2-3 carrots

1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion, ~1/4 large onion
1/4 cup finely chopped peeled carrot
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 cups water

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint, divided


For stew
1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion; sauté until soft, stirring often, about 5 minutes.
2. Add garlic; stir 1 minute.
3. Mix in paprika and remaining spices.
4. Add 1 cup water, tomatoes, and lemon juice. (You can also add some or all of the reserved tomato liquid at this point. It wasn't in the original recipe but I felt it was pointless to throw it all away so I added some, to taste.) Bring liquid to boil.
5. Add squash and carrots. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat until vegetables are fork tender, stirring occasionally, about 20-30+ minutes.
6. Season with salt and pepper.

For quinoa
1. Melt butter with oil in large saucepan over medium heat.
2. Add onion and carrot. Cover; cook until vegetables begin to brown, stirring often, about 10 minutes. 3. Add garlic, salt, and turmeric; sauté 1 minute.
4. Add quinoa; stir 1 minute. Add 2 cups water. Bring to boil; reduce heat to medium-low. Cover; simmer until liquid is absorbed and quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes.

To prepare
Stir in half of cilantro and half of mint into the stew. Spoon quinoa onto platter, forming well in center. Spoon stew into well. Sprinkle remaining herbs over.


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