Cooking Together

Cooking Together – Butternut Squash and Brussel Sprouts Curry

Nani Kobi  Ne Kola Nu Shak  (Butternut Squash and Brussel Sprouts Curry)

By Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff

Butternut squash and Brussel sprouts are in abundance in the fall and winter when our bodies need them. They both contain nutrients needed for the cold season.

Butternut squash is rich in important vitamins; vitamins A, Bs and C, in minerals and in disease-fighting antioxidants. This low-calorie, fiber-rich winter squash can protect us against conditions such as cancer, heart disease and mental decline. Brussel sprouts are high in fiber, vitamins A, K and C, and minerals. These nutrients can reduce inflammation, protect bone health, support digestion and improve blood sugar levels. Using both of these super vegetables, I created a festive dish for the holidays.

This recipe was inspired by my sister visiting from India who created a dish when she saw the cute Brussel sprouts for the first time. My version is a fusion of her Indian techniques with some Thai ingredients, adding a thick spiced sauce made of butternut squash and coconut milk.

This recipe requires several steps, but the creation is very rewarding. The various steps can be done ahead of time and assemble in the last step right before serving.

The process includes steaming or baking the squash to separate its flesh and cutting it into chunks;  making a sauce with coconut milk; boiling some potato cubes; skillet frying tofu and Brussel sprouts; assembling all ingredients with herbs and finally covering them with the sauce. This is a substantial, colorful and delicious vegan centerpiece for your holidays.

1 medium-size butternut squash (you will need 3 cups when cut into chunks after cooking)

1 cup coconut milk (not cream; low fat coconut milk is OK)

1 teaspoon each cumin, turmeric and coriander powder

1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 twig of lemon grass, cut into 2” pieces (optional)

1 Yukon gold or red potato, peeled and cut into small chunks to obtain 1 cup

2 tablespoons oil

1 cup firm tofu, cut into small cubes

12 -16 Brussel sprouts, snubs trimmed and halved (to measure 1 cup when cut into halves)

1 tablespoon oil

3-4 tablespoons finely chopped scallion or spring onion with some of their greens

2 cloves of garlic minced

1 tablespoon grated ginger root

A few strips of red bell pepper

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro with its stems

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice

Chopped cilantro for garnish

Cook the squash by baking or steaming. To bake the squash, preheat the oven at 350 degrees and bake it for 45 minutes. To check doneness, insert a fork and if it comes out easily it is done. You do not want to over-bake the squash as it will cook more in later steps. For this recipe I prefer the butternut squash steamed, because steaming is faster and more easily controlled for doneness. Steamed squash is easier to peel than either raw or baked squash.

To steam the squash, place the halves with the cut side down in a steamer basket. Put 2 cups of water in a saucepan that is large enough to fit the basket. Cover and steam for 15 minutes. Then, uncover, insert a fork in the flesh; if it comes out easily, the squash is done, it should not be too mushy.

In a separate small pot filled with 3 cups water, parboil the potato cubes for 10 minutes or less until they are cooked but still firm.  Drain and set the potato cubes aside.

While the squash and potatoes are cooking, spread one tablespoon of oil on a skillet and heat it over a medium flame. Lay tofu cubes in a single layer and fry them on one side for several minutes till they change color. Turn to cook the second side the same. Remove the tofu and set it aside.

Next, add a tablespoon of oil on the same skillet and lay the Brussel sprouts halves in a single layer with the cut-up side down. Cook for several minutes until they start changing color. Turn to cook the second side for 2 minutes.  Set the sprouts aside.

Next, check the squash. Allow the cooked squash to cool, then peel it. Cut the squash into bite-sized pieces and set aside one cup of chunks. Place the rest of the squash (2 cups) into the jar of a blender or food processor. Add the coconut milk, 1/4 cup water, powder spices and salt. Blend into a sauce. Place the sauce into a pot and cook it gently for 5 minutes over a low flame. Add the lemon grass twigs to the sauce and set it aside.

In a large sauce pan or a wok, place  2 tablespoons of oil. Add the scallion, garlic, grated ginger, bell pepper strips and cilantro. Stir fry for a few minutes to wilt the herbs. Then add tofu, Brussel sprouts, squash and potato chunks and stir fry gently for several minutes.

Reheat the sauce, over a low heat and take out the lemon grass pieces and discard them.  Pour the sauce over the stir-fried ingredients. Cook the mixture over a low heat while stirring for 2 minutes. Add the fresh lemon or lime juice in. Top the dish with cilantro and serve it hot with rice and/or roti (bread).

Squash curry

hantai is a Sunset District resident and the author of “Cooking Together” and “Flavors of India,” both available at Other Avenues Food Co-op at 3930 Judah St., in the Outer Sunset District, Green Apple Book Store in the Richmond District and Rainbow Grocery Co-op in the Mission. Shanta writes recipes and articles on food and nutrition. She also teaches vegetarian and vegan cooking classes and shares her recipes via videos on YouTube.

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