Awaken your palate with sweet and sour squash
Last week I ate the last tomato from my garden. It was a sorry looking little red orb that I had picked green and let ripen. I added it to a BLT where it was more a valedictory to summer than a taste sensation.
My tribute to the end of fall will be a festive dish with my last butternut squash.
For ease of preparation, most people either roast butternut squash or use it for soup. While I enjoy both of those methods, my favorite butternut squash recipe is a sweet and sour Indian version where the squash cubes are braised in a fragrant sauce. Braising brings out a depth of flavor in much the same way as it transforms meat.
One of the main spices in the sweet and sour squash dish is fenugreek seeds. Both the seeds and the leaves are an important spice in Indian cooking. Fenugreek has a slightly bitter, slightly sweet taste sometimes compared to maple syrup.
Aside from its culinary applications, fenugreek has long been a part of the herbal pharmacopoeia. It is known to lower blood sugar levels, boost testosterone and increase milk production in nursing mothers.
Because of its unique flavor, there is really no substitute for fenugreek. It is not usually available in supermarkets, but you can find it locally at Kramer’s Spices & Teas at the New Eastern Market or at Sonnewald Natural Foods.
If you are suffering from winter squash fatigue, awaken your palate with the bright, fresh and intense flavors of sweet and sour butternut squash.
Sweet and Sour Butternut Squash
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne (or to taste)
- 1 medium butternut squash (about 2 pounds), peeled, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
- 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
- Juice from one lime
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
In a large (12-inch), deep frying pan over medium flame, heat the oil. Add the fenugreek seeds and cook until they start to sputter. Reduce the heat to medium-low and mix in the turmeric. Add the onion and sauté until it softens, about 8 minutes. Add the ginger and cayenne, and cook for a minute more.
Add the butternut squash and salt, then cover and cook until the squash is tender, about 30 minutes.
Stir in the tomatoes, lime juice and brown sugar. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook 5 minutes, allowing the flavors to blend. Remove from the heat.
Taste for salt. Garnish with cilantro and serve warm.
— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section. Reach her with questions and comments at email@example.com.