Ecosalon Recipes: Conscious Eating: Butternut Squash Coconut Curry


Michael Pollan summed it up pretty well when he said, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." The message being, eat real, unprocessed food in reasonable portions and eat lower on the food chain more often than not.

There are both environmental and health reasons for eating lower on the food chain. Environmentally, it’s more efficient to produce plants for food than animals, so eating more plants and less meat uses fewer resources. And that’s not even considering most of the troubling aspects of large-scale industrial production of animal protein: toxins accumulate the higher up you go in the food chain, so eating more vegetables, particularly organic ones, means you’ll ingest fewer environmental toxins.

However much we may love vegetables and vegetarian dishes, the challenge for many who were raised with the traditional American dinner plate triumvirate of meat, starch, and vegetable, is that eating lower on the food chain involves rethinking what dinner is and developing a new repertoire of recipes.

You’ll see many more vegetarian and vegan recipes here as time goes on. Get started with this spicy, exotic, easy dish.

Butternut Squash Coconut Curry

Serves 4-6

2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon tamarind pulp
1 medium butternut squash
3 tablespoons mild, high temperature cooking oil, such as safflower or peanut oil
1 large shallot, peeled and sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2-1/4 inch thick coins of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1 jalapeño chile, chopped with seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
2 small, dried red chilies
1-14 oz. can coconut milk
1/2 can water
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
Cilantro for garnish
Cooked brown rice for serving

In a small, dry skillet, over medium heat, toast the cumin, coriander and fennel seeds. Set aside to cool.

Soak the tamarind pulp in 2-3 tablespoons of hot water.

Meanwhile, peel and cut the squash into bite-sized chunks. Set aside about 5-6 cups of squash cubes, saving any remaining squash for another use.

In a spice grinder, or with a mortar and pestle, grind the toasted spices. Break up the tamarind pulp in the water with your fingertips, discarding any fibrous chunks or seeds.

In a large Dutch oven or soup pot, over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the shallot, garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, until soft and wilted. Add the Jalapeno chile, turmeric, cayenne, and dried red chiles. Stir to release fragrance, cooking for 2-3 minutes.

Add the squash, coconut milk, water, tamarind paste and salt. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer for about 45 minutes, until squash is tender and just beginning to break down. The squash will thicken the sauce. Serve over brown rice garnished with sprigs of cilantro.

Image: sfllaw

Note: Recipe Copyright Vanessa Barrington 2008

Vanessa Barrington

Vanessa Barrington is a San Francisco based writer and communications consultant specializing in environmental, social, and political issues in the food system.