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Monday, October 24, 2011

October Comfort Food

Cool weather + autumn colors = lots o' squash for me.

The butternut squash makes me laugh... it looks like Mr. Potato Head, but with all of his weight moved down to his butt.

Though it is a prosaic-looking vegetable, its taste more than makes up for it. In one word, it is DELICIOUS. Best of all, in multiple ways. I've used butternut squash for soups, stews, pasta sauces, and even filling for enchiladas. Friends have used it for the obvious - baby food - and also for desserts. Its texture, taste and color are simply wonderful.

I had used half of a baked one this weekend for a pasta dish (shoot, I'm realizing I haven't posted that recipe yet...) and had the other half looking at me every day in the fridge. What to do, what to do... it was another cool and foggy day here in Santa Barbara town, so I felt like making some stew. All I had to do was google butternut and stew, and found a wealth of options. Fortunately, I chose well, because tonight's meal was splendid. Even better, it was so easy.

The key to keeping this meal prep easy is to bake the squash ahead of time = if you have never done that, go here. The directions on this page however, say to pour 1/4 c of water. I would say to pour enough water to have the squash sitting in 1 inch of water.

Serves 6-8

1 cup yellow split pigeon peas (toor dal) (OK, I call these yellow lentils. Not sure why they need to call them pigeon peas. That name sounds creepy.)
1 pound butternut squash, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 2 1/2 cups)
1 Roma tomato, diced
1/2 cup fresh, frozen, or dried shredded coconut
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
4 cups vegetable stock or water, or enough to cover

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon brown or black mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (I used a few drops of my favorite hot sauce)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon honey
1 lime, juiced
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves

Steam a pot of white or brown rice.

Rinse the pigeon peas (LENTILS!) in a couple changes of water.

In a large soup pot, combine the squash, drained pigeon peas, tomato, coconut, turmeric, cumin, and enough stock to cover. Bring to a boil, and then simmer, covered, 20 minutes. Remove the cover and simmer another 10 minutes.

To temper: In a small skillet, warm the canola oil until shimmering. Add the mustard seeds and when they stop popping, add the red pepper flakes, garlic, and salt. Swirl the skillet so the contents cook evenly, and cook another 10 seconds. Then pour the contents of the skillet into the soup, along with the salt. Spoon a ladleful of soup back into the skillet (it will sizzle, be careful!), and pour back into the soup pot.

I topped the stew with a little honey, lime juice, raisins, yogurt, peanuts and cilantro. Adjust the seasonings, to taste, and enjoy filling your belly with some tasty, warm, salty and sweet stew that might end up making you look a tiny bit more like a butternut squash!


  1. YUM!! i am obsessed with squash (really, i do get laughed at at times :)) ..this looks delish!

  2. My goodness - it has been posted all of 3 minutes. Thanks for tuning in! YOU WILL LOVE THIS DISH. So will your household. It makes the house all cozy and smelling tasty.

  3. Do you think the shredded coconut is a MUST for this recipe? Any substitution ideas?

  4. Oh Madeline. No, the coconut is not a must, though I like the slightly nutty, sweet taste that they provide. I would perhaps put in some raisins instead, then top with a few peanuts, cashews or slivered almonds?

  5. just made this recipe AGAIN.
    just as good.
    just as easy :)