Sunday, February 10, 2013

Luscious, Meatless and Fun: South Indian Butternut and Squash Stew

I am having a “Crockpot” Renaissance. I wake up in the morning, scheming about what to plop in the pot so we can have dinner together at a decent hour during the week, (not to mention eating really deliciously and well.) So here’s one of my latest creations, one that I served up at a recent class of appreciative eaters! Not only is it gorgeous with brilliant colors of orange, yellow and red, it's a great way to make a meatless meal that is so hearty no one even misses the meat. The leftovers freeze great, and a pita pocket stuffed full with the stew and a little shredded Napa cabbage makes a super lunch the next day.

Make it as spicy as you like. The recipe is redolent with the warm aroma of Garam Masala, an Indian spice blend including coriander, turmeric, pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon, but you can add more!  We are “pepperheads” in my family, so I add additional Garam Masala and a ½ Tsp of Cayenne to the big pot.

South Indian Butternut and Squash Stew

            1 Cup Dried Chickpeas, soaked overnight*
            2 ½ LBs Butternut Squash, peeled, seeded and chopped
            2 Large Carrots, peeled and chopped
            1 Large Red Onion, chopped
            1 Cup Red Lentils**
            4 Cups Vegetable Broth
            2 TB Tomato Paste
            1 TB Grated Fresh Ginger
            1 Tsp Cumin
            1 Tsp Garam Masala
            1  Tsp Sea Salt
            ½ Tsp Turmeric
            1/4 Tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
            1/4 Cup Lime Juice
            6 Cups Cooked Basmati Brown Rice
            1/2 Cup Chopped Roasted Cashews
            1/4 Cup Chopped Cilantro

Combine the soaked chickpeas through the black pepper in a 6-quart slow cooker. Stir, cover, and cook on low until the chickpeas are tender and the lentils have begun to break down, 5 to 6 hours.  Stir in the lime juice. (Why lime juice? I don’t have to add as much salt. Citrus juice is a great substitute for salt!) Sprinkle with cashews and cilantro and serve over the basmati brown rice.

*Quick soak method:
Place beans in a large pot with enough water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat and let stand for 1 hour. Drain when ready to use.

**Can’t find red lentils? Red lentils are a traditional “dal”, used in Indian cooking. “Dal” is the word used to describe lentils, peas and beans in India. I like them in this recipe, because they not only add golden color, (they turn from red to yellow when cooked), but they also break down easily, so the flavor incorporates beautifully into the dish. If you can’t find the reds – just use ordinary brown lentils from the grocery store. Your stew will still taste delicious!

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