Butternut Saag

This yummy Indian-inspired meal is a great Sunday dinner. This was my yesterday: Cold, rainy afternoon. Football on TV (Bucs/Redskins, of course). A butternut squash roasting in the oven. Oh, also, a dog chewing out his stitches and needing to go back to the vet, but that's another story.

Anyway, saag is Indian-food-speak for a spinach dish. A couple months ago I made a tofu saag; this one subs out the tofu for butternut, which makes the whole thing slightly sweeter. (The original recipe I was using called for sugar pumpkin, but my grocery store didn't have any; the butternut worked great, but you could also use acorn or kabocha squash.) It's a great variation that's well worth trying.

Butternut Saag
Adapted from Veganomicon's Pumpkin Saag
  • Medium to large size butternut squash (or a sugar pumpkin if you can find one)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Large onion, diced finely
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch cayenne (or more to taste)
  • 1 cup water
  • A 1-inch cube of fresh ginger, peeled
  • Two bunches of fresh spinach, washed well and coarsely chopped
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • Cooked rice (basmati would be best, though I used long-grain white since it was what I had)
Preheat oven to 350 F. Slice off the top of the squash to remove the stem, then cut the entire squash lengthwise into halves (be careful!). Remove the seeds and scrape out the stringy squash innards with a spoon. Place the squash halves, cut side down, on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Bake for 30-45 minutes, until a fork can easily pierce the flesh. Let the squash cool completely, then peel away the skin and chop the flesh into 1-inch chunks.

Preheat a soup pot over medium-high heat. Saute the onions in the oil for about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes more, or until everything is golden brown. Add the pumpkin and cook until heated through, about 2-3 minutes. Add the spices and salt, and grate the ginger directly into the pot (using a microplane grater if possible). Add the water and cook for about 5 minutes, mixing often. Use a masher or the back of a spoon to mash the squash up a bit -- I mashed mine pretty smooth, but you could leave large chunks if you prefer.

Add the spinach in batches, mixing well after each addition. Cook for about 10 more minutes, stirring often. Add the lime juice; taste and adjust salt if needed. Serve with hot cooked rice.

Tip: Roast the squash a day or two in advance so that you can throw this together in a hurry. Just wrap the baked squash in plastic wrap and refrigerate.