Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Butternut squash sambar

Sambar is a type of dal made in the southern states of India to accompany rice, rice cakes (idlis) or crepes (dosa). It can be made with an endless combination of vegetables. This version, made with butternut squash, is one of my favorites. The gently cooked squash cubes perfectly complement the dal. They just melt in your mouth. You can substitute the squash with small red radish pieces. Needless to say, this sambar packs an impressive amount of nutrients including protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, manganese and omega 3 fatty acids and calcium.


1 cup toor dal (pigeon peas).
1 small red onion, finely chopped.
3 small tomatoes, chopped.
1 packet of butternut squash, peeled and cut into cubes (I use the one from my local Trader Joe's).
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds.
1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds.
A few curry leaves.
A pinch of Asafoetida
1/4 teaspoon Turmeric.
1 teaspoon Sambar masala.
1 teaspoon of tamarind paste (available at any Indian grocery store, alternatively, try 1 teaspoon of lemon juice)
Salt to taste.
A pinch of brown sugar.

Pressure cook the toor dal separately.

Cook the squash cubes until just tender in a pot by putting them in a pot of water with some turmeric and getting the water to a rolling boil. Once almost cooked, turn of the heat and drain the water away.

In a large sauce pan, take about 1 table spoon of canola oil and add the mustard seeds once the oil is heated. The seeds should crackle as soon as they hit the oil. Then, add the fenugreek seed, asafoetida, turmeric and curry leaves. Saute briskly for about 20 seconds.

Now, add the finely chopped onion to the oil and spice mix. Saute the onion until it becomes translucent. At this point add the tomatoes and let them sweat. One this stage is reached, add the cooked squash cubes and cooked toor dal and stir to mix. Add about 1/2 to 1 cup of water to the saucepan and bring the contents to a slow boil. Finally, add the salt, tamarind paste and sugar and mix thoroughly.

Serve hot with rice.

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