Sunday, March 30, 2014

Butternut Squash and Pea Curry

I'm a little hesitant to make any recipe with the word winter in name right now, but just because I've grown tired of winter weather doesn't mean I've lost love for everything bearing that moniker. Be it November or March, the sweet creaminess of butternut squash is a perfect mate for curry, and I won't deny myself one of my favorite veggies just because of its seasonal name. A squash by any other name would taste as sweet...

Mark Bittman specializes in bringing good food, in terms of flavor and nutrition, to the masses. I've been lucky enough to see him speak, and his palpable passion for sustainable, healthy, flavorful food combined with pragmatism is what I think has made his approach resonate with so many people. This recipe is a prime example of that enthusiastic, yet practical approach, tons of flavor and nutrition packed into an inexpensive meal that is prepared quickly and freezes well. There's no special twist or magic to this recipe, just a classic combination of ingredients with an undeniable affinity for each other, that I've made even more flexible. The hearty base squash or sweet potato base eagerly soaks up aromatic curry spices and rich coconut milk, happily punctuated with verdant peas or beans for a well-rounded collection of vegetal flavors.

Even in its simplest form, this is a flavorful vegan dinner, but I encourage you to dress it up to your heart's content. Plain yogurt, hot sauce, and fresh cilantro are my finishes of choice, but particularly ravenous diners may also want to include grilled chicken or tofu. Whether mixed into a bowl of rice, or messily scooped with naan or pita, you'll leave this meal feeling healthy and satisfied.

Butternut Squash and Pea Curry
serves 4

2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 to 4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 pounds butternut or other winter squash, peeled and roughly chopped (or sweet potatoes, or a combination)
1/2 to 1 cup fresh or frozen peas (or green beans)
1 to 1 1/2 cups coconut milk, stock or water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Red pepper flakes, to taste (optional)
Rice, naan, or pita, for serving (optional)
Chopped fresh cilantro leaves, for serving (optional)
Sour cream or yogurt, for serving (optional)
Hot sauce, for serving (optional)

1. Put the oil in a pot or deep skillet with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. When hot, add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the curry, ginger, and garlic and cook until the onion just starts to brown, about 2 minutes.

2. Add the squash and coconut milk and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste. Bring to a boil, cover, and turn the heat down to low. Cook, stirring periodically, until the squash is just tender, about 20 minutes, checking periodically to make sure there is adequate liquid; if the squash is done and there is still a lot of liquid, remove the lid and turn the heat to medium-high until it’s thicker than stew. Add frozen peas and cook until warmed through. Taste and adjust the seasoning, and serve hot or warm over rice or naan with choice of garnishes.

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