Red Curry with Butternut Squash

I just want to emphasize that this is awesome and you all should make it.

I have tons of Indian cookbooks, recipes, spices, and enough experience with all of those things that I feel comfortable improvising. When we get into Thai food, though, I admit, I’m out of my depth. It’s something I’d like to get better at – I only have one Thai cookbook, and do not keep lemongrass or kaffir lime leaves around – so this recipe is a baby step in that direction. I had chunks of roasted squash in the fridge, which I had roasted intending to use them in some sort of tomato-squash curry, but then my co-worker Angelina and I happened to go to a market near our work on Friday and I picked up a couple bags of California chilies. Then Michael and I took advantage of another co-worker’s advice to take a look at the Asian supermarket at the corner of Herndon and Cedar, and lo and behold! I came out with a bottle of awesome chili-garlic paste. Then when I went to start cooking this evening, I went to get out the sugar, knowing that the homemade Chili-Tomato Sauce would need sugar, and hooray! Back there behind the sugar was a can of coconut milk! I could actually make something pretty Thai. I could hardly have done better if I had tried to coordinate this recipe.

All that said, it’s really an Indian recipe – Thai food ‘not so much’ with the tomatoes (as Debbie would say.) So this is living in the borderland. I know the chili-tomato sauce is kind of a pain to make, but guess what? You can use the extra for other things besides this recipe. It works great as a base for chili, and it could be used for other curries and soups too. You could even season it in a Mexican direction and use it as an enchilada sauce.

Chili-Tomato Sauce
3 oz. dried California Chilies
3/4 of a 28 oz. can of Muir Glen Roasted Tomatoes, drained

Place the chilies in a large bowl and cover with water, then weight down with a plate that fits well within the bowl. Place the bowl in the microwave and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from the microwave and let the chilies soak for at least a half hour. When they are soaked, remove them from the water, reserving it, and pull the stems off of them, taking as much of the seeds with them as you can. Place the chilies in a blender and add about 3/4 c. of the soaking water. Puree thoroughly (this may take a few minutes), then force through a wire sieve with a rubber/silicone spatula (this is important so as not to get recalcitrant chili bits in your finished sauce) into a bowl. Rinse out the blender. Place the tomatoes in the blender and puree thoroughly. Add to the chili paste already in the bowl.

Butternut Squash (can be done in advance)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Split the squash lengthwise. Careful with that knife. Scrape out the seeds with a spoon. Set them aside if you want to roast them later. They make awesome snacks and are super good for you. Peel the squash (I suggest cutting the skin off with a knife, as it is a beast of a job – again, careful with that knife), and cut the peeled squash into rough 3/4 in. cubes. Roast on a baking sheet, turning occasionally, until tender and browned around the edges. Takes an hour or less. Set aside.

Curry Sauce:
oil for sautéing
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. ginger, minced
1/2 c. cilantro, minced
2 T. ground coriander
1 T. ground cumin
1 c. Chili-Tomato paste
1 can coconut milk (stir well after opening)
3 T. prepared chili-garlic paste (mine is Chinese)
grated rind of one lemon (organic, if you can find it, is best for this)
2 T. sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large, wide saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, ginger, cilantro, coriander, and cumin and sauté until the spices darken a few shades and the garlic and ginger have lost their raw smell. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until blended. Add the butternut squash and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through. Serve over rice.

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