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Afghan Butternut Squash Curry

Posted Feb 09 2012 5:18am

Last week, I had the opportunity to try out a new (to me) restaurant, here in Charlottesville. After accidentally going to the wrong Afghan kabob shop–because there are apparently not one, not two, but at least three here in town (who would have thought?)–I found myself at Afghan Kabob Palace , perched rather unfortunately in the middle of the Econo Lodge parking lot. While this is an Aladdin-eqsue “diamond in the rough” situation–the warm, flaky Afghan naan is alone worthy of a return trip–I’m not here to review the restaurant…I’m here to review the Butternut Squash Curry.*

*It looks a little more Day-Glo in the photo than it actually was. Blame it on my mad(ly awful) editing skills.

In short, it was incredible, and not just for the fact that I ate it regardless of the yogurt on top and suffered no ill-fated lactose-induced results. Sweet and spicy, with flavors I couldn’t pinpoint but wanted to eat as much of as possible, I searched for a recipe online…but of course, ended up just making my own.

They key spices were cumin, coriander, and turmeric, with the heat of some chili powder sweetened with a dash of sucanat (although you could use any brown sugar). Combining fresh–OK, bottled, pre-minced–ginger with garlic and onion provided a rich aromatic base.

Why yes, those cubes of butternut are rather precise for a lazy cook who prefers the term “chunked” to “cubed.” And yes, in fact,  those are ice particles you see.

Why not use frozen squash?

It certainly tasted just fine to me.*

*Maybe even better, because I didn’t have to waste all that precious time (and stir up bitter frustration) peeling and hacking away (with my admittedly dull knives) at the stubbornly difficult squash?

Veggie broth and tomato sauce created the smooth, soupy too-thick-to-be-called-broth in which the butternut stewed until tender.

I allowed it to simmer, cook, reduce until thickened. [Although I did add extra vegetable broth to the Tup-faux-ware when I stored it int he fridge.]

I imagine serving it with a side of rice and chickpeas–like they did at the Kabob Palace–would be just fine and dandy.

 But when Popeye is on clearance at Kroger…

…well, you should probably make like (another) Sarah and “put some spinach on it.”*

*Or in this case..under it. 

Afghan Butternut Squash Curry 

[Makes about 4 cups]

  • 1 1/4 cup diced sweet onion (about 1/2 large onion)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. minced ginger
  • 4 cups cubed fresh or frozen butternut squash
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 3/4 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp. chipotle chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. sucanat (or other brown sugar)
  • 1-3 cups vegetable broth (depending on how thick you want it)
  • 1 8-oz. can no-salt-added tomato sauce
  • rice, chickpeas, spinach (for serving)
    1. Saute onion, garlic, and ginger in a bit of olive oil (or steam in water) until softened.
    2. Add butternut squash and spices, stirring well to coat squash.
    3. Cook 5-10 minutes, until very fragrant and squash is beginning to soften.
    4. Add broth and sauce to the pan.
    5. Bring up to a simmer and cook until squash is tender, adding broth or water if needed.
    6. Serve with a side of rice and (garbanzo) beans, or on top of a bed of spinach!
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