When treated with consideration, squash is a joy. Sweet, rich, and packed with vitamins, it yields to a variety of preparation methods and gets along with all types of flavors. Unfortunately, many of us first became acquainted with squash as it was scooped onto our school lunch trays: a cloying, orange, pre-macerated mush we had to swallow before going out to recess. Pairing naturally sweet squash with even sweeter cinnamon and sugar is a Crime Against Vegetables. Treat your squash right: give it something rich, something savory, and something spicy.
Here is a quick, lazy weeknight recipe that relies on store-bought red curry paste. If you have the ingredients, the time, and the knowledge, go ahead and make your own curry paste from scratch (and then by all means, brag about it!). The squash, coconut, and a touch of brown sugar work with the chili sauce to make each bite spicy up front with a mellow, lingering sweetness. Omit the tofu and turn this into a side dish, or substitute for the zucchini and summer squash any vegetables you like; red bell pepper and cauliflower come to mind.
Double Squash Red Curry2 tablespoons vegetable oil
16 oz. extra firm tofu, pressed and cubed
1 small winter squash (acorn, buttercup, or pumpkin), cut into in 1-inch cubes
14 oz. coconut milk
½ cup water
3 tablespoons red curry paste
1-2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 medium zucchini or summer squash, sliced (about 4 cups)
chili sauce (preferably Sriracha), to taste
cilantro Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Pan-fry tofu, tossing frequently until golden brown on all sides. Add cubed winter squash, coconut milk, water, chili paste, and sugar. Bring to a low simmer and reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, or until squash is softened but not mushy. Stir in summer squash and cook, uncovered, another 5 minutes, until summer squash is tender. Taste and add chili-garlic sauce or additional sugar if desired. Garnish with cilantro and serve with rice. Serves 4.