On a trip to the farmer’s market a few weeks ago, a sign caught my eye. Taped to a bin of mixed winter squashes, it read simply, “Squash, $2.” Not $2/lb, but all entire squashes, $2 each. I couldn’t believe it. Naturally the first thing I did was find the biggest butternut squash I could–then took it home to make all manner of things out of it.
One of the things I love about butternut squash is its versatility. You can mash it, roast it, make soup out of it, stuff it inside ravioli or, if you happen to have a copy of Appetite For Reduction, turn it into Kidney Bean & Butternut Jamba Stew.
What is this mysterious dish, you ask? In true Isa Chandra fashion, it’s a funky mash-up of different food styles that has no right to work, but does. It’s everything you love about jambalaya–the thick sauce, the spiciness, the hint of thyme–with the added sweetness of butternut squash. The ingredients are similar to other vegan jambalaya recipes, including kidney beans, green peppers and celery, but Isa mixes it up a bit by adding chunks of butternut instead of something like seitan or vegan sausage. And an added bonus for all you one-pot meal lovers out there, basmati rice gets cooked right in with everything else! You not only wind up with fewer dishes to wash but also get more flavor infused into the rice thanks to the fact that it spends its entire cooking time simmering in seasoned sauce.
There’s a bit of fun to be had with this recipe, as well. Instead of diced tomatoes, it calls for a can of the whole peeled variety, which you get to smash up with a potato masher. How cool is that? You just have to be careful that you don’t wind up squishing tomato juice all over yourself. Or the stove. Or the floor. But if you do–oh well! It’s still fun! Once everything has cooked together into a tasty, colorful (not to mention nutritious) mix, you just plop it in a bowl and enjoy!
I found that this needed a bit of extra spice to taste just right, though I suspect that’s because I don’t add salt to much of anything. (I usually find that there’s enough salt in canned tomatoes that I rarely even need to use vegetable broth in recipes.) Between the rice, beans, veggies and squash, the dish has a nice mix of textures and flavors. You get spicy, sweet, green and that unique flavor that kidney beans have, which I’m not sure there’s a word for. Served with a little whole wheat bread to sop up the sauce, it’s a great meal for the chilly days of winter or early spring.
One of the things I really like about the recipes Isa put together for Appetite for Reduction is that they’re hearty but never heavy. You can have a good solid meal of something like stew or chili and not feel like you just ate a car, nor do you wind up hungry an hour later. Despite my staunch aversion to all things “diet,” this has become one of my favorite cookbooks. It’s so well-worn that some of the pages are starting to fall out while others have been “christened” with all manner of food debris. That, my friends, is how you know a cookbook is good!
Kidney Bean & Butternut Jamba Stew is a recipe I keep coming back to every time squash is in season. In fact, I’m thinking of making it again this week since I picked up yet another squash at the market last Saturday. I’m in love with the seasonings, the textures and yes, the opportunity to smash the heck out of whole peeled tomatoes. It’s quite the successful mash-up, literally and figuratively.
Are you a fan of jambalaya? What’s your favorite recipe for it?