Shanta’s Butternut Squash and Brussels Sprouts Curry
By Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff
Butternut squash and brussels sprouts are in abundance in the fall and winter when our bodies need them. They both contain nutrients needed for the cold season. Butternut squash is rich in important vitamins A, Bs, and C, minerals, plus disease-fighting antioxidants. This low-calorie, fiber-rich winter squash can protect us against conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and mental decline. Brussels sprouts are high in fiber; vitamins A, K, and C; and minerals. These nutrients can reduce inflammation, protect bone health, support digestion, and improve blood sugar levels.
Using both of these super vegetables, I created a festive dish for the holidays. This recipe was inspired by my sister visiting from India who created a dish when she saw the cute brussels sprouts for the first time. My version is a fusion of her Indian techniques with some Thai ingredients, adding a thick spiced sauce made of butternut squash and coconut milk.
This recipe requires several steps, but the creation is very rewarding. (The various steps can be done ahead of time and assembled in the last step right before serving). The process includes steaming or baking the squash to separate its flesh, and cutting it into chunks; making a sauce with coconut milk; boiling some potato cubes; skillet-frying tofu and brussels sprouts; assembling all ingredients with herbs and finally covering them with the sauce. This is a substantial, colorful, and delicious vegan center piece for your holidays.
1 medium-sized butternut squash (you will need 3 cups when cut into chunks after cooking)
1 Yukon gold or red potato, peeled and cut into small chunks (to measure 1 cup)
4 tablespoons oil
1 cup firm tofu, cut into small cubes
12 to 16 brussels sprouts, stubs trimmed and halved (to measure 1 cup when cut into halves)
1 cup coconut milk (not cream; low-fat coconut milk is okay)
1 teaspoon each cumin, turmeric, and coriander powders
1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 stalk of lemongrass, cut into 2-inch pieces (optional)
3 to 4 tablespoons finely chopped scallion or spring onion with some of their greens
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 tablespoon grated ginger root
Few strips of red bell pepper
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro with its stems
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
Chopped cilantro for garnish
Rice or roti, to serve
Cook the squash by baking or by steaming. I prefer steaming because it is faster and more easily controlled for doneness. Steamed squash is easier to peel than either raw or baked squash. To steam the squash, place the halves with the cut-side down on a steamer basket. Put 2 cups of water in a saucepan that is large enough to fit the basket. Cover and steam for 15 minutes. Then uncover, insert a fork in the flesh; if it comes out easily, the squash is done, it should not be too mushy.
Alternatively, to bake the squash, preheat the oven at 350 degrees and bake the squash for 45 minutes. To check doneness, insert a fork and if it comes out easily it is done. You do not want to over-bake the squash as it will cook more in later steps.
In a separate small pot filled with 3 cups water, parboil the potato cubes for 10 minutes or less until they are cooked but still firm. Drain and set the potato cubes aside.
While the squash and potatoes are cooking, spread 1 tablespoon oil on a skillet and heat it over a medium flame. Lay the tofu cubes in a single layer and fry them on one side for several minutes till they change color. Turn to cook the second side until lightly browned. Remove the tofu and set aside.
Next, add 1 tablespoon oil on the same skillet and lay the brussels sprouts halves in a single layer with the cut-up side down. Cook for several minutes till they start changing color. Turn to cook the second side for 2 minutes. Set the sprouts aside.
Next, check the squash. Allow the cooked squash to cool and then peel it. Cut the squash into bite-sized pieces and set aside 1 cup of chunks. Place the rest of the squash (2 cups) into a jar of a blender or food processor. Add the coconut milk, 1/4 cup water, powder spices, and salt. Blend into a sauce. Place the sauce into a pot and cook it gently for 5 minutes over a low flame. Add the lemongrass to the sauce and set it aside.
In a large sauce pan or a wok, place 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the scallion, garlic, grated ginger, bell pepper strips, and cilantro. Stir fry for a few minutes to wilt the herbs. Then add tofu, Brussels sprouts, squash, and potato chunks and stir fry gently for several minutes.
Reheat the sauce, over a low heat and take out the lemongrass pieces and discard them. Pour the sauce over the stir-fried ingredients. Cook the mixture over a low heat while stirring for 2 minutes. Add the fresh lemon or lime juice in. Top the dish with cilantro and serve it hot with rice and/or roti (bread).
Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff is a resident of the Sunset District of San Francisco. Shanta is a co-founder of Other Avenues Food Cooperative, where she worked for over three decades. Currently retired from that job, Shanta now writes recipes and articles on food and nutrition. She demonstrates vegetarian recipes and teaches cooking classes in SF.
She is currently doing backyard cooking videos with her daughter Serena to share her recipes with the community. Shanta is the author of the cookbooks Cooking Together and Flavors of India and a local food co-op history book, Other Avenues Are Possible: Legacy of the Peoples Food System of the San Francisco Bay Area. Shanta’s cookbooks are available in San Francisco at Other Avenues Food Cooperative, Rainbow Grocery Cooperative, Green Apple Books, Folio Books, Omnivore Books, Book Passage, and in Sausalito at Driver’s Market. You can also order her books through books.google.com, greenapplebooks.com, or instacart.com/rainbow-grocery.