copycat squash vindaloo with cool ranch raita

Last weekend my husband and I had a stay-local date night at one of our favorite spots in the neighborhood, Thistle Hill Tavern. Some of their menu items change seasonally, and there was a new side dish that I knew I had to try the second I read it: squash vindaloo with cool ranch raita! It was every bit as good — or better — than it sounded. It arrived in a clay hotpot, this glorious piping hot bowl of Indian-spiced squash and a cool yogurt sauce with a kick to it. The server even brought us some thick slices of toasted bread to swipe up every last morsel from the bowl. I’m a copycat when it comes to my favorite restaurants, and I’ve stolen (attempted to recreate at home) some side dishes from their menu before, like their buffalo cauliflower with gorgonzola, so after one bite I said I wanted to try to make this one. So here goes!

IMG_6230Dice 2 medium sized yellow onions and sauté them until translucent in 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp coconut oil in a large heavy pot. While the onion is cooking, mix your spices together in a small bowl: 1 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp coriander, 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground cloves. Add the spices and 1 large minced garlic clove to the onions and cook about 1 minute. next add a 28 oz can of diced tomatoes with the liquid (my go to brand is San Marzano), and about 4 cups of cubed butternut squash. I was lazy with the squash today and bought pre-cubed squash at Whole Foods because it’s such a pain to chop. They didn’t have pre-cut acorn squash though, so I bought a whole one, poked some holes in it, microwaved it until it was soft enough to cut (about 6 mins), de-seeded it, and scooped the squash out. Finally, add the acorn squash, 1 tbsp tomato paste, 1 tbsp red wine vinegar, 1/2 tsp minced ginger, 1/2 cup water or broth, and 1 tbsp coconut sugar (you could use brown sugar instead) to the pot, cover it, and let simmer until the squash is soft, about 30-40 mins. At the very end, add salt to taste, about 1/2 tsp.

While your squash is cooking, make your yogurt sauce. I used about 4 oz plain greek yogurt and mixed in 1 1/2 tbsp fresh chopped dill, 1 tsp of a dill/onion/lemon/garlic/pepper seasoning mix called “it’s a dilly” (you could just use onion powder and some pepper), 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp paprika, and 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice.

Assemble your bowl of squash vindaloo with yogurt on top and a little dill or parsley garnish, served with a warm toasty slice of bread or naan, or on top of rice. The verdict? It’s no Thistle Hill, but it was really delicious. And a complete hearty vegetarian meal (vegan if you skip the yogurt) for cool fall nights, packed with flavor (and vitamin A)!

 

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squash & sweet potato tagine

Fall veggies – I could eat them all year long. Sometimes I think if everything contained butternut squash, the world would be a better place (the fact that trying to chop a butternut squash almost cost me a finger once doesn’t deter me). It just tastes like hearty sweet nutritious comforting perfection to me. So when we got butternut squash, acorn squash, and sweet potatoes in our CSA bag this week, I was really excited to get cooking! I came across this recipe for a vegetable tagine, which didn’t include acorn squash but I figured I could throw it in anyway. I also didn’t have a tagine, which is sort of a traditional Moroccan clay pot, or a dutch oven or terra cotta substitute, but I do have a beautiful Le Creuset french blue stoneware baking dish that my dad and stepmom got me for my birthday and I don’t get to use nearly enough. So I prepped the first part of the recipe in a pan and transferred it to the Le Creuset for the baking part, which seemed to work out just fine!

If you also don’t have a tagine, or something similar that can go from stovetop to oven, do this: Preheat the oven to 375. In a pan, saute one chopped onion in 2 tbsp olive oil until it turns golden. Then add 2 cloves of minced garlic, 1 tsp ground ginger, 1/8 tsp crushed saffron threads, and a pinch of cayenne pepper, and cook for another minutes. Then transfer this to your baking dish with 1 butternut squash, 2 sweet potatoes, and 1 acorn squash (chopped into cubes) or any ratio of these veggies you want (I personally would have gone with more butternut and less sweet potato if I did it again). You could also add carrots. Slowly stir in 2 cups of hot vegetable stock, top with a 1/2 cup of raisins, and drizzle with 1 tbsp of agave (or honey). Stick a cinnamon stick in the middle, cover and bake for an hour. Remove the cinnamon stick, sprinkle with cilantro leaves, serve on its own, with bread for dipping, or over brown rice or cous cous. Now I have to admit (and I LOVE cilantro), I was skeptical of how the cilantro would taste with this… but it was great! Such a nice flavor contrast. Definitely don’t skip it (if you tolerate cilantro). We ate it as a main course over brown rice (Lundberg, my favorite) with sauteed snap beans. Delish…

Squash and sweet potato tagine right out of the oven

Tagine with brown rice and snap beans

 


pumpkin (and-unexpectedly-peanut) soup

I really have no excuses for this recipe. I didn’t make pumpkin pie for thanksgiving and have lots of leftover cans of pureed pumpkin. I didn’t have real pumpkins lying around. I didn’t go to the farmers market. It’s just fall and I wanted pumpkin soup for lunch!

Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkin soup is super easy, especially if you used canned pureed pumpkin (if you’re going this route, make sure you get just plain pureed pumpkin, not pumpkin pie mix!). If you feel like roasting, scooping out, and pureeing a whole fresh pumpkin, go for it. Whichever way you get your pureed pumpkin, take about 4 cups of it and throw it in a pot with 6 cups of chicken stock (yes, homemade would be nice, but a nice store bought kind works if you’re pressed for time). Add a roughly chopped onion, a clove of garlic, 5 or 6 whole peppercorns, and 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of fresh thyme. Bring it to a boil, then reduce and simmer for 30 minutes. Take it out in batches and puree it, or use one of those handy hand blenders right inside the pot if you have one. Then simmer for another 30 minutes and add any other spices you want to taste – salt & pepper, maybe a pinch of nutmeg, cloves, and ginger, or curry or cayenne. This soup can go many different ways. You can also add a splash of half and half, milk, or cream at the end, if you want a creamier soup. I’ve also heard of adding peanut butter to make a peanut pumpkin soup… hmm, and WHY haven’t I tried that yet?! I don’t normally run back to the kitchen mid-post, but let’s do this right now.

Ok, I just separated a small batch of the soup, added a touch of peanut butter (the all natural unsalted organic kind, where the only ingredient is peanuts), took one bite, and added some pb to the rest! I didn’t go overboard – probably 1/3 cup of peanut butter went into the soup pot. I was a little worried that the thyme would clash with the taste, but it actually made it a much more interesting flavor. Doesn’t peanut butter make everything better?