Sunday, February 3, 2008

Recipe: SasSquash Curry - Dark Days Challenge

Don't ask me what I was thinking when I bought this monster last October.

It was a lovely fall day. I was running around one of the the last Farmer's Markets of the year with my little hand-truck piled high with boxes of Idaho Russett potatoes, pumpkins, and squash of all types. All the normal-size squash I bought that day have already been used up. Not this one. After I lugged it home, I realized - too late - that because I'd bought the silly thing, that meant I'd someday have to cut it up and cook it. I've been avoiding looking it in the eye ever since.

But earlier this week I decided that I was tired of seeing it squatting like a gargoyle on a shelf in the storage room, sticking nearly a foot out into the walkway, mocking me for my impulsive purchase every time I walked in. I noticed the skin was starting to mottle, which told me the behemoth was beginning to age a bit. I still didn't really want to mess with a ton of squash, but I also didn't want to waste it. So I figured it was probably time this weekend to buckle down and finally deal with the SasSquash.

Off to the Internet I went, searching for and bookmarking winter squash recipes as I found them, and trying to decide just how I was going to use some of this for a meatless Dark Days Challenge meal this week. We love Indian food, so a squash curry recipe sounded promising. But then there was that lovely lentil dish... And I still had a pint and a half of homemade sour cream sitting in the fridge. And a monster white carrot left over from this fall that we found in the garden while we were outside earlier in the day...

By the way, this picture has absolutely nothing to do with this recipe, except that my usual "kitchen crew" was hanging around at my feet the entire time I was cooking, begging for squash chunks. So I snapped a picture of them while they were on break.

This recipe is an amalgamation of several that caught my eye with a few extra touches thrown in for good measure. It actually turned out quite well - the tastes are very complex and unexpected. It's also pretty nutritious, with the rice and lentils forming a complete protein, plus the squash, onions and carrot for vitamins and minerals, and the sour cream for calcium and creamy dairy goodness. The sour cream also helps cut the spice a bit, mellowing the dish out. If I'd had some spinach ready, I would have tossed that in as well at the last minute for even more flavor and nutrition. Maybe next time - I definitely plan to make more of this. My family wants me to make more TODAY. Since I have plenty of ingredients left, I will probably do just that. Because that's how you eat a SasSquash - one meal at a time.

Serves 4-5

4 cups cooked, cubed winter squash
1 cup dry lentils
1 cup wild rice
1 large or two small carrots
1 large or two small onions
2 Tbsp butter or olive oil
Curry Powder or Indian vegetable masala powder, whatever you prefer
Mild or hot red pepper flakes
Sour cream or yogurt
Chopped chives, green onions, or shallot tops for garnish
Salt to taste

Dealing with SasSquash: Cut whatever winter squash you are using into largish chunks, and scoop out the seeds. Don't worry about taking out all the seed cavity fibers - you can remove those after it's baked and it's a lot easier to do it then.

Place the chunks into a baking pan, add an inch of water, and bake at 350 degrees until the squash is tender enough to stick a knife into, but still firm enough to cut into solid chunks. Just keep poking a knife into the skin side now and then until it goes in without too much effort. Remove the pan from the oven and let the squash cool enough to handle without burning yourself. Peel the skin from each piece, remove the inner strings, and cut the squash meat into 3/4 inch cubes. Set aside four cups for this recipe, and if you have a very large squash, put the rest of the meat into freezer containers for other meals. We'll come back to it - I promise. We have to. I now have nine bags of leftover squash sitting in my freezer.

Here are the main ingredients: clockwise from high noon - bowl full of SasSquash chunks, Idaho grown organic wild rice, onions, a large carrot (yes, I know it looks a lot like a daikon radish, but it's really a leftover white carrot from the Rainbow Carrot seed pack we planted last year) and a jar of dried green lentils from our storage room.

While you are finishing up with the squash, start the 1 cup of wild rice in a saucepan on the stove, following the directions on the package. Make sure the rice is fully cooked as it won't be cooked again later. This should take about 45 minutes. Rinse the lentils, and place them in another saucepan with water to cover and simmer for about 30-45 minutes. You want the lentils to be tender, but still firm enough to be slightly chewy. Keep them covered with water until they reach that point - they don't take long to cook because they are so thin. When they are fully cooked, remove them from the stove and rinse them in cool water, draining the excess, and set them aside in a bowl for later.

While the lentils and rice are simmering, cut the carrot(s) and onion(s) up into bite-size chunks. Sautee these in melted butter until the onion begins to become transluscent. Add about a cup of water, and simmer until the carrot starts to soften, about 10 minutes. Add more water if necessary, but only a little bit at a time. You want enough water to cook the carrot to tenderness, but not so much that it turns into a soup. When the carrot is crispy tender, add your seasoning to taste, then add the squash and gently simmer until all vegetables are fork tender but still firm enough to hold shape. Allow the water to cook away towards the end so you have a very chunky, thick mass of vegetables in the pan. Taste and adjust seasonings, and turn the fire off. Ok, we're almost finished!

To serve: place about 3/4 cup of wild rice in the bottom of a bowl or on a plate. Spoon about half a cup of the cooked lentils on top of that. Mound about a cup of the squash mix on top of the rice and legumes, then spoon a couple of tablespoons of sour cream or yogurt on top of the squash, letting it melt and trickle a bit down the sides of the squash mound. Sprinkle everything with chopped onion greens, then the dried red pepper flakes. Serve immediately, with more sour cream if anyone wants it to cut the spicyness a bit more. Wimps.

Totally local, and meatless (or vegan, if you used olive oil and forgo the dairy on top) as well. And very, very tasty!


Dotty Doodles said...

You are UH-MAZING. Awesome blog. I would read more than the five pages I scrolled through but I just finished my lunch and have laundry waiting for me. I can't wait to see what you're up to next!

Green Bean said...

Oh my god! I am a veg and consider myself a now-expert on how to unload my overly-abundant pantry full of winter squash on the unsuspecting family and I have never thought of this. Looks absolutely yummified delicious! Thanks for the inspiration.

Idaho Locavore said...

Hi Dotty and Green Bean! Thank you! I'm thrilled that folks are enjoying the recipes and nattering. I'm having a lot of fun documenting everything, and trying to learn to do better photos.

GreenBean, let me know if you decide to try this - I hope your family likes it as much as we did. And, like you said, an extra squash recipe or two sure doesn't hurt. ;-)