Another butternut squash recipe, you ask? I know, I know. You see, I had one lonely butternut squash to use up and wanted to maximize it's use before I would not see it again for another 6-9 months. As much as I love butternut squash and all those other hearty winter squashes, I am ready to move on to new vegetables as warmer weather sets in. So, this will be my last recipe for butternut squash for a long while.
This recipe borrows from one of my favorite summer-time recipes, the Paella with Tomatoes from Mark Bittman I had found in the New York Times a few years ago, and a Curried Butternut Squash Brown Rice Skillet recipe from Erin of Naturally Ella. It is a simple recipe, but one that is comforting, nourishing, and tastes much more complex than the simple steps suggest. You start it on the stove top and then pop it in the oven for almost an hour to finish. Your kitchen will fill with toasty, smoky aromas. Top it with a tangy sour cream, yogurt, or even an egg, poached or fried preferably so that the yolk can run all over it.
The secret ingredients here, or rather the ingredients that contribute the most to this dish, are the smoked paprika, or Spanish pimentón, and the saffron. Regular sweet paprika does not have the same effect, so it is best to invest in a tin of smoked paprika. Regular paprika will do in a pinch, but I promise you will put smoked paprika to very good use. Saffron is one pricey and unique spice. It is magically floral and produces a beautiful sunset yellow-orange hue to any dish to which it is added. You can skip it if you would like, knowing that the flavor will be a little less floral but still delicious. I suggest adding a 1/2 teaspoon turmeric to achieve a earthy flavor and golden hue. Also, a note on the rice. It is important to get short-grain brown rice to achieve the best texture. It has a hint of stickiness that I find most satisfying, and it gets crunchy and toasty on the top and bottom.
Butternut Squash and Chickpea Spanish Baked Rice
1 1/2 T. olive oil, divided
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
3/4 t. smoked paprika or Spanish pimentón
1/4 t. ground cumin
pinch of ground cinnamon
pinch of saffron or 1/2 t. ground turmeric
1 T. tomato paste
zest of 1/2 lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 c. short-grain brown rice
1/3 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped in 1/2-inch pieces (about 1/2 lb. or 2 c. chopped)
1/2 c. cooked chickpeas
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 c. water
Sour cream or plain yogurt (at least 2 % fat), for serving
Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. In an 8" cast iron skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until beginning to soften and turn translucent for about 5-7 minutes. Add the smoked paprika, cumin, cinnamon, saffron, and tomato paste and stir to coat the vegetables. Cook for 1 minute or until spices become aromatic. Add the zest of 1/2 lemon and the juice of 1/2 lemon, stirring to loosen any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the brown rice, butternut squash, chickpeas, and scant 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cook for 2-3 minutes or until everything is evenly coated and the rice begins to toast just a little. Add the water. The water will come up just short of the edge of the pan. Stir very carefully. Drizzle 1/2 T. of olive oil over the top- where it will help the dish toast in the final minutes of cooking.
Carefully place the pan in the middle rack of the oven. Allow to cook for 50-55 minutes. The liquid should be fully absorbed, and the top beginning to brown ever so slightly. The rice should be tender. If not, add a little more liquid if no liquid remains, and continue to cook for 10 minutes. Remove the rice from the oven. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving. Serve with sour cream or plain yogurt, at least 2% is preferred. Enjoy! Serves 2.