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Don't Forget the Frosting

Warming up the season with an international, vegetarian dish

All Photos by Ashleigh Fox/THE CHIMES

One of my close friends and neighbors in elementary school was Pakistani. Walking into her house was like entering a foreign land. Curry powder and other exotic, pungent spices permeated the air. When we returned from school in the afternoon, her mother often greeted us with food, ranging from sticks of raw jicama to delicious homemade dishes with unpronounceable names. It was my first introduction to Eastern cooking — my gateway food.

As time passed and we moved away, I saw less of my friend and her family’s cooking. Cravings for Pakistani fare led to exploring Indian food. Both cuisines use sultry spices that give way to a slow-burning, flavorful heat, though I should note they are distinct from one another. However, the high Indian population in my area led to more restaurants, so I adapted my cravings according to availability. Befriending an Indian food vendor at a farmers market, who graciously supplied me with large servings of curries and samosas on a regular basis, helped too. I also discovered that cooking Indian food at home is not difficult either, even if you are completely unfamiliar with the cuisine. Packed with flavor and often vegetarian, Indian food is an easy and inexpensive way to eat healthy without eating boring food.

This week’s recipe features butternut squash, which is the reason I look forward to autumn each year. Combined with chickpeas, cauliflower and curry powder, this dish is fantastic as a meal on its own, or as a side dish to chicken. The creamy and tart yogurt sauce balances out the spices well. If you are not friendly with spicy foods, only reduce the amount of cayenne pepper, leaving the curry powder alone. Curry powder is more flavor than heat and is central to the dish’s identity.

Curry-Roasted Butternut Squash, Cauliflower and Chickpeas with Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

Adapted from:

1 large butternut squash – roughly 2 pounds
1 3/4 cups, or 9 ounces, canned chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans
1 small head of cauliflower
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 1/2 teaspoons mild curry powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper

Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

1 1/2 cups plain whole milk yogurt
Heaping 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Peel the butternut squash with a vegetable peeler. Cut in half lengthwise and remove the seeds with a spoon. Place the halves flat side down on the cutting board and cut in one inch cubes.

Cut the head of cauliflower into quarters. Cut the clusters on the top off from the main stem, leaving about an inch of stem on. They should fall away as individual pieces, known as florets. Save the florets and discard the main stem of the cauliflower.

Drain the can of chickpeas, rinse them off with cold water and dry with a paper towel. 

Toss the butternut squash, chickpeas, cauliflower, olive oil, curry powder, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper in a large bowl until all the vegetables are evenly coated. 

Spread onto a cookie sheet and roast in the oven for one hour, or until the squash is tender. Pierce the squash with a fork to check for doneness; if it is firm, continue roasting. The squash should be soft, but not mushy, when done.

Mix yogurt, cilantro, lemon juice, salt and pepper in medium bowl. Place the yogurt sauce in the refrigerator until the vegetables are finished roasting.

Serve the curried vegetables with yogurt sauce drizzled on top or on the side. Explore these new flavors with friends — unless, of course, you are very hungry.

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