Friday, November 23, 2012

Afghani Squash Casserole

I was looking for something new to offer as a Thanksgiving side dish when I remembered a recipe for Afghani Squash Casserole I had pulled out of the November 2003 issue of Vegeterian Times. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I have not had much success with recipes I have found there and I had been always at a little bit of a loss to explain, even to myself, why I continued to subscribe since I had yet to find a viable recipe, I now have my answer.  This recipe rocks! The combined flavors of the concentrated tomato sauce, tangy mint and scallion-flavored yogurt and sweetness of the squash work in harmony to provide a complexity of taste and texture that would make this a memorable accompaniment to the traditional turkey, dressing and yes, even the ubiquitous green bean casserole.

I missed the opportunity to post this in time for Thanksgiving, but it doesn't have to be a once-a-year Thanksgiving-only dish. It is a great way to take advantage of the abundance of winter squash at this time of year, and it could hold its own as the main dish for any evening meal served over couscous, rice or noodles.

The recipe as written calls for 4 cups of spaghetti sauce. Not being sure what that meant and not wanting to use a prepared sauce, I made a quick version of my Tomato Garlic Sauce and proceeded from there. The cinnamon and cloves married well with the thyme and basil. This would make a delicious pasta sauce on its own (on which more later).

Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes

Makes 6 servings

2 lbs winter squash, peeled and cut into 2-1/2-inch cubes
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 medium onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
3 14-oz cans crushed tomatoes (or 1 28-oz and 1 14-oz cans)
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried basil
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1-1/2 cups plain yogurt
1 tsp dried mint, plus extra for garnish
1/4 cup minced scallions, plus extra for garnish

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan over medium high heat.  Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute.  Add the tomatoes, thyme and basil and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.  Add the cinnamon and the cloves and continue to cook until the sauce is thick, about 30 more minutes.  This can be done up to 3 days ahead.

Combine the yogurt, mint, scallions and about 1/4 of a teaspoon of salt in small bowl and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375 deg. F.  Mix the squash together with the remaining tablespoon of oil and season with salt and pepper.  Spread out on a foil or parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and bake for 20-30 minutes, until just tender but not too soft.

Arrange the squash in a serving dish and spread the tomato sauce over it but do not completely cover the squash.  Layer the yogurt spread over the tomato sauce and garnish with scallions and mint.

Adapted from recipe found in Vegetarian Times, November 2003

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