Thursday, October 23, 2014

Winter Squash Season Side Dish

Time just seems to be flying these days! Found something I think that you will want to try yourself. About a month ago Sweetie and I were at Costco and they had tastings of some new products, all Afghan recipes. I sometimes think that a raft of people only go to Costco on the weekends for the samples, not to actually buy anything. Is that possible?

Anyhoo, we fell in love with a butternut squash side dish that was savory, with a hint of sweetness and a touch of heat. Sweetie decided that we should try making it ourselves, so I researched online and found about six different ways to make it. One of the constants was onion puree. I usually chop or mince my onions for most dishes, but for this one I put the peeled and quartered yellow onion into the food processor and let it run until it was a puree. I found that the cooked puree not only flavored the squash, but it seemed to thicken the sauce a bit, or at least provide body to the sauce.

I ended up combining a few of the recipes. Most had a goodly amount of peppers for heat, but since I was going for the very mild heat that I prefer, I used a small amount of cayenne pepper. If you like your food hotter, you can add jalapenos or increase the cayenne. They often had more turmeric, too. I know that turmeric is good for you , but it is not my favorite flavor, so I used only a teaspoon, while some recipes used as much as a tablespoon. Try it with a smaller amount unless you know that you love turmeric. You can always add more.

One of the most time consuming parts of this kind of recipe is preparing the butternut squash. Sweetie got past that by buying already peeled and cubes fresh squash. Beyond that the part that requires some time is that during the cooking you need to turn the squash over in the sauce every 10 minutes and to keep an eye on it so that the sauce cooks down, but doesn't burn.

This makes a lovely side dish. Traditionally it is served with naan flatbread and yogurt, usually garlic yogurt, but I served it with grilled chicken and the yogurt topping was plain yogurt. The chunks of butternut squash were tender, but not falling apart. They had an aroma of turmeric and onion and tomato. Now that it is winter squash season, give this a try, either as part of a traditional meal, with some eggplant, too, or as a side dish. It would go well with pork or heaped over a serving of couscous with pine nuts. You can substitute another kind of squash, like kabocha, or pumpkin, too.

Afghan Squash

1 large yellow onion
1/4 olive oil
1 clove minced garlic
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 salt
1 1/2 - 2 cups chicken broth
4 cups peeled, de-seeded, and cubed butternut squash or pumpkin

Peel the onion and remove the stem end and the tip. Cut onion into four pieces. Place in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Process until pureed, scraping down the sides as needed so that all the onion is a puree. In a large skillet cook the onion puree in the olive oil for 10 minutes, stirring often. All of the squash will need to go into the skillet, preferably in a single layer, so make sure the skillet is large enough.

To the cooked onion add the garlic, tomato paste, turmeric (you can add more if you like...I've seen as much as a tablespoon used), minced fresh ginger, sugar and salt. Stir to combine, then add the chicken broth and stir to completely combine all the ingredients in the mixture. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat so mixture simmers. Add the prepared squash and stir to coat the squash with the mixture. As mush as possible, keep the squash in a single layer. Simmer for 10 minutes. Turn squash over so that top surface goes toward the bottom and is immersed in the sauce. Simmer another 10 minutes. Check squash for tenderness. You want the squash completely tender, but still holding together. Simmer another 5 or 10 minutes (or longer) if needed until squash is tender. Sauce will have thickens a bit. If squash is very tender, but sauce is too thin, remove squash with a slotted spoon, cover to keep warm, then simmer sauce some more until it is desired thickness. Put squash back into sauce and stir to coat with sauce. Serve at once, garnished with yogurt, or cover and refrigerate, then reheat the next day.

Speaking of time passing, we are just about a month away from Thanksgiving. Our neighbors have invited us for dinner and I think this year we will be enjoying a heritage turkey. It might be one of these blue faced toms. I snapped these shots as they tried to intimidate the dog. She is a sheep dog, but was having fun herding the chickens and turkeys, too.


  1. I've been making spaghetti squash - baked with Trader Joe's veggie meatballs, creamy with mushrooms and "bacon" and lots of cheese in kind of a spaghetti carbonata treatment; and the other day in more of a lasagna-style.

    Clearly, I have gotten stuck. This recipe is timely! ☺

  2. Next Sister Down7:58 AM

    I made this with butternut squash the other day, except that (being lazy) I didn't puree the onion, and I added a dash of sriracha for a bit of zip. The result was very tasty, and it has made for nice leftovers too. I am thinking of making it again as a side dish for Thanksgiving dinner (without the sriracha, since not everyone who will be there likes the heat).

  3. NSD, glad you liked the recipe. Next time try it with the pureed changes the dish in a nice way. I agree with the elimination of the sriracha for Thanksgiving, but you could bring it for folks to add. Tasting the finished dish I could see how those who like the heat would love it with sriracha.