Arabian squash, like Arabian nights…

Butternut Squash

Photo by Flickr user VancityAllie. Used under a Creative Commons license.

This one’s straight outta Katzen, which is sort of like being straight outta Compton, except a lot less intimidating-sounding. Also, one of my most favorite things to cook/eat ever. Also pretty, which is kinda rare for a casserole, which makes me sad that I don’t have a photo. Humph and alas.

Arabian Squash Casserole (or Bake, if you hate the word Casserole, or heck, call it a Cassoulet, ’cause no one really knows what that is anyway)
Serves… oh, a lot

2 medium butternut squash
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 large-ish onion
2 mid-sized red bell peppers
6 or so cloves of garlic
1 tsp salt (or maybe a tinch more)
1 to 2 tsp ground cumin (feel the noize)
A fat pinch of ground cayenne pepper, or maybe a teaspoon or so of red pepper flakes–you know your heat tolerance better than I do
Lots of ground black pepper
1 cup plain yogurt, preferably whole-milk
1-1/2 cups (or whatever you have on hand) crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup sunflower seeds or chopped walnuts, divided (optional but Oh So Good)

Preheat the oven to 350. Split the squash lengthwise down the middle, scoop out the seeds, and place them facedown on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until nice and tender. Take them out, let them cool, scoop out the flesh and mash the hell out of it with a potato masher. (Or: wimp out and put it in the food processor.) You’ll need 6 cups, and you’ll probably have about 8 cups, which means… woo-hoo! Two cups left over for butternut squash risotto! Or freeze it, or put it on pizza, or whatever. (You can prep the squash early in the day, or even the night before, thereby leaving yourself plenty of time to ride bikes or paint your nails or something.) Put 6 cups mashed squash in a very large bowl and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and peppers and cook, stirring frequently, until tender and onion is translucent, about 6 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, cayenne, salt and pepper; cook, stirring, a couple minutes more. Remove from heat and add to the bowl with the squash. Stir well.

Add yogurt, feta and half the sunflower seeds (or walnuts). Stir well. Taste and correct seasoning, and then remind yourself that you should probably not keep on tasting it perhaps quite so enthusiastically, because you want some left over to serve to your friends/family/self.

Spoon into a baking dish; I use my trusty oval gratin dish, which holds a little less than a standard 9×13 Pyrex baker but looks oh so pretty. If you have more left than will comfortably go into the dish, you can bake it separately in a small dish or save it to bake later or even to toss with some hot cooked pasta. Sprinkle the remaining sunflower seeds (or walnuts) over the top.

Bake at 350 for half an hour or so, or until nice and hot and beginning to bubble.

This is particularly lovely paired with a spinach salad with homegrown tomatoes, just as Mollie Katzen suggests.

About Molly Newman

Writer, cook and trivia/spelling bee hostess, living it up in North Portland.
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2 Responses to Arabian squash, like Arabian nights…

  1. Kendra says:

    I completely impulse-bought an acorn squash yesterday, and I randomly discovered that I have a thing of coconut milk yogurt that needs to be eaten soon – this seems like a forgiving recipe that could stand the substitutions. You think??

    • Molly Newman says:

      Kendra, I think that would work famously well with the acorn squash. I don’t know much about coconut-milk yogurt, but I imagine that as long as it is not at all sweet, you should be able to substitute it fine. From a brief Googling, it looks as if it will hold up in cooking. I say go forth and try it! (You could halve this recipe very easily–I’ve made it in lesser quantities fairly often.)

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