Squash Stew (or, How I Learned The Importance Of Carefully Reading A Recipe)

SQUASH SOUP

SQUASH STEW

You know the old saying –  ‘haste makes waste’?  Well, what with daylight saving time, I was hurrying to make dinner after I looked at the clock and realized it was already 6:00.  I’d planned on making Squash Stew in order to use up some leftover hominy I had from several days ago.  As you know, I hate waste (aka, CHEAP!) so I often plan meals around leftover bits and pieces.  Squash stew is not a complicated recipe and I had everything I needed.  But, as I said, I was in a hurry and when I read ‘sesame seeds’ in the recipe, I went to the fridge (that’s where I keep my nuts and seeds) and pulled out the sunflower seeds.  My brain then made the mental change that even though I knew I was holding sunflower seeds, that was what I needed.  My brain obviously needed rebooting.

What I needed to do with the sesame seeds (in this case ‘sunflower’ seeds) was to toast them with some slivered almonds, and then grind them in the food processor.  As they were toasting,  I was chopping and stirring and blending and trying to get 10 things done at once.  When I went to throw the seeds and almonds in the food processor I realized my error.  BUT, my husband was waiting for dinner.  I was starving.  Time was a-wastin’!  Then I thought of another old saying –  ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’.   So I carried on with the sunflower seeds thinking how bad could the switch be?  Oh! –  it be bad!  Not SO bad that it was inedible, but – let me put it this way:  I won’t be making that mistake again.  Yeah – nothing was gained from THAT venture.  Besides the taste being a little off, there was an unappealing smell to it.  Which brings me to the last old saying of the day –  ‘live and learn’.

What follows is the actual recipe, which is fabulous!  By the way, if you’re unfamiliar with hominy (I was), it comes in a can and is in the hispanic foods section of my market.  And, remember:  sesame seeds, sesame seeds, SESAME seeds!!!

SQUASH STEW – serves about 4 people, depending on how hungry everyone is

  • 1 ½ cups cubes butternut squash
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • ¾ tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 T chili powder
  • 4 mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 ½ cups liquid (water, vegetable stock, or tomato juice from the canned tomatoes)
  • 1 ½ T sesame seeds
  • 1 ½ T slivered or sliced almonds
  • 1 lb canned tomatoes, chopped (I buy the 1lb 12 oz can and save the unused tomatoes for future use)
  • 1 ½ cups cauliflower, cut into ¾” pieces
  • 1 cup hominy
  • ½ cup peas
  • optional:  drained yogurt to dollop on top (Line a sieve with a coffee filter and pour in the yogurt. Let drain ½ hour)

First thing to do is peel the squash.  The easiest way to do this and keep your fingers intact,  is to wash and dry the squash (so it’s clean when you slice it), then microwave it for a total of 3 minutes – you don’t have to pierce the skin.  Half way through the 3 minutes, stop the microwave and turn the squash over so it cooks evenly.  Now it will be really easy to peel.  Slice the neck from the bulb.  The neck is the sweeter part, so just use that for this recipe.  (Butternut squashes are big, so if you want to use the whole thing, double the recipe. )  Slice the skin off with a knife, cut them into ¾” circles, then cut the circles up into ¾” cubes.  IMPORTANT NOTE:  When slicing the squash, cut don’t stack the circles – cut one layer at a time.  The squash is still hard and when you start slicing, the top layer can slip which can cause a nasty cut.  I had read this tip, but forgot about it.  And, indeed, the top layer slipped and I cut into my fingernail.  Fortunately, no blood was drawn – but it could have been bad.  In this case, don’t live and learn.  Learn from me, instead.

In your toaster oven, on the little cookie sheet, toast the sesame seeds and almonds until they’re golden brown.  Keep an eye on them – they brown up suddenly.  Unfortunately, they blacken up soon thereafter. Fair warning!  If you don’t have a toaster oven (which you really should), you can toast them on a skillet (stirring often) or use your regular oven.  Set them aside to cool.

Heat the oil in a very large saucepan or dutch oven,  and sauté onions for a few minutes.  Add in the garlic, cumin, oregano,  and chili powder.  Sauté another couple of minutes.  Add in the squash, mushrooms, salt, and the liquid.  Bring to a boil, lower heat,  cover, and simmer until the squash is softened (about 15-20 minutes).

Grind the toasted sesame seeds and almonds to a powder in your food processor.  (If you don’t have one, start saving up to buy one – they are indispensable!)  You’ll have to chop them as best you can, if you don’t have one.  Add the powder to the saucepan along with the cauliflower, hominy, and tomatoes.  Continue cooking another 10 minutes.  Add in peas and cook until the cauliflower is tender.  Add extra seasoning (salt, chili powder, whatever), if desired.

I like to add a dollop of drained yogurt to each bowlful – not only is it pretty, the yogurt adds a nice tang.

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