This dish is inspired by a traditional Indian pumpkin preparation in which the vegetable is sautéed with spices then lightly sweetened with sugar. In this Indo-American version cubed squash is sprinkled with fragrant garam masala (a ground spice blend that includes cinnamon, cloves, cumin and cardamom) and roasted in the oven. Before serving it’s drizzled with maple syrup and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
Any variety of winter squash will shine equally well, especially those with a thick layer of flesh below the skin such as butternut, ambercup (pictured) or buttercup.
Garam masala (pictured in the small dish at right above) can be found now at most any grocery store in the Bay Area. It’s also available at Indian markets—a field trip I highly recommend—where prices are significantly lower for whole and ground spices.
- One medium butternut squash (will yield about 5 cups cubed squash)
- Olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon garam masala spice blend
- 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- Sea salt
- 1 to 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1/2 tablespoon butter
- Lemon juice
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Carefully slice the top and bottom off the squash with a sharp knife (this helps it sit on a cutting board more securely without rolling around). Then peel with a paring knife or vegetable peeler. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds, plus the stringy layer just beneath. Cube flesh into approximately 1 inch pieces of uniform size (for even cooking). You will have about 5 cups, give or take. Place squash cubes on a baking sheet.
- Toss (using clean hands) with enough olive oil to coat the surfaces lightly—don’t use too much oil or you’ll end up “frying” instead of roasting—plus garam masala, coriander, cumin and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Spread squash evenly, in a single layer, across the pan. Place baking sheet in the oven and roast for about 30 minutes, until cubes are soft and golden brown in places. Turn with a spatula at least once during cooking.
- Remove from oven and drizzle with syrup (up to 2 tablespoons). Separate butter into a few pieces and place on top of squash. Turn the vegetables over a few times on the baking sheet to coat them, and return to the oven for 1 minute. Remove baking sheet from the oven and transfer squash to a serving bowl. Using a spatula scrape as much of the syrup residue off the baking sheet as possible, and add to the bowl. Stir. Squeeze some lemon juice (starting with a teaspoon or so) over the top, stir and taste. Add more lemon juice (and salt) as needed.