Spicy Stewed Butternut Squash

Put an exotic twist on a fall favorite. With harissa or a mix of common spices you can find at your grocery store, you can make a spicy, Spanish-style vegetable dish that’s great as a side but also filling enough to be a meal with crusty bread.

One of my favorite restaurants in Portland is Toro Bravo, a Spanish tapas place. The food here is so good that you sometimes face a two-hour wait to get a table. I order pretty much every vegetarian item on the menu — grilled padron peppers, tortilla Espanola (potato omelet), seared cauliflower with cracked olive — the entire menu is bursting with flavor. But my favorite dish is the harissa stewed butternut squash. It is a decadent, spicy dish of butternut squash cubes cooked in cream and harissa, a north African chili paste.

I often make my version of the stewed butternut squash at home during fall. When I don’t have harissa on hand, I simply use a mixture ground cumin, coriander, chili flakes and tomato paste.

I like to serve this dish with a good seeded baguette. It also tastes great over steamed brown rice, with cooked fettuccine pasta or with some warm pita bread. However you serve it, I promise you will love this decadently creamy dish.

Stewed Butternut Squash

Serves 4 to 6

2 pounds butternut squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili, or according to taste
1/2 tablespoon tomato paste, optional
1/2 cup heavy cream

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Peel the butternut squash using a sharp knife, then cut it in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and membrane. Cut the squash into cubes.
3. Toss the squash with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread it out on a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 45 minutes or until the squash is soft inside and browned outside.
4. While the squash is baking, work on the onions. Heat butter in a wok or large skillet. Saute the onions on medium heat until they are browned. Then stir in the chopped garlic, cumin and coriander powders and the chili flakes.
5. Add the baked squash, tomato paste, cream and 1 cup of water to the onions. Gently simmer for 5 minutes or until most the liquid is absorbed. Serve the squash warm with a baguette.

Photo credit: Sala Kannan