Butternut squash wins this season’s prize for versatility. After I made delicious vegetarian butternut squash lasagna at Christmas, to rave reviews, even from the skeptics, I was hooked on my new vegetable of choice. It also helps that I have an abundance of it from the fall, which like sweet potatoes stores well throughout the winter. Beta carotene anyone?
With the football Super Bowl approaching this weekend, the whole country is mad for chili. Our local Whole Foods has an annual cooking contest among 12 departments, serving up a wide variety of concoctions for shoppers to sample and vote on. I stumbled on this event a couple of years ago and now I go when I can and collect the recipes. There have been some really good ideas in that contest but one that appealed this year used a variety of Indian spices, a kind of vindaloo chili. I thought about using those spices for a butternut squash chili, but opted instead for chili in adobo sauce, which involves chipotle (smoked jalapeno) chili peppers bathed in a spicy tomato sauce. It’s thick, smoky and hot, and a little goes a long way. This is one of those canned condiments that takes me forever to use up. The adobo imparts instant heat and smokiness and, other than aromatic freshly toasted and ground cumin seed, the resulting chili needed little seasoning, not even salt.
Butternut Squash Chili
2 lbs butternut squash
1 yellow onion, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
1 red pepper, cut into ½-inch pieces
1-2 tsp chilis in adobo (sauce and a little pepper flesh)
1 tsp whole cumin seed, lightly toasted in a dry pan and ground or 1 tsp ground cumin
4 fresh tomatoes or 1 c chopped canned tomatoes, juice reserved
2 c vegetable broth or chicken stock
1 c or more black beans
Salt to taste
Peel and seed the squash and cut into neat cubes, about ½-3/4 inches. Save the odd bits for another use.
In a large saucepan, sauté the onion and pepper in vegetable oil until soft. Add the butternut squash and sauté until the surfaces are lightly seared. Add the chili adobo and cumin and stir to combine. Add the tomatoes, tomato juice and the vegetable broth or chicken stock. Bring to a simmer and cover the pan. Cook until the squash is just tender, about 20 minutes. Add the black beans, season to taste with salt and additional chili. Cook for another 5 minutes. Serve hot with cilantro.
Makes about 4 servings.