I was a horribly picky eater as a kid and with a limited repertoire of foods I was willing to eat, I tended to consume certain items to excess. Thankfully, my parents, riding the hippie wave of all-natural parenting in the 70s (cloth diapers, homemade baby food and all), would have never let me have junk food. No, my foods of choice were raisins, bananas, and lima beans. All of which are great kid foods, in principle, but it got to the point that I had so overindulged in those “staples” that I literally could not stomach them from about ages 10 through 25. I became a dedicated raisin picker-outer when it came to things like cookies and muffins, and my horror at the thought of bananas was such that even with my sweet tooth raging and no other options, I was known to turn down frozen chocolate covered bananas. (There was less of an issue avoiding lima beans, as it turns out, given that they’re rarely found in anything that drives me to great temptation.)
I’ve made peace with these foods now and can eat them again, but I wonder if I’m heading down the same path with squash these days. I am just loving butternut squash at the moment and can’t seem to get enough of it. Is it possible to overdose on butternut squash? My pal Erin, who recently moved her kitchen to NYC, knows that I am a sucker for healthy vegetarian meals and sent me a recipe for pumpkin and black bean chili from The Splendid Table newsletter. As in many recipes, butternut squash can be easily subbed in for the pumpkin, should your tastes run in that direction. Apparently the recipe comes from a new book called One Dish Vegetarian Meals: 150 Easy, Wholesome, and Delicious Soups, Stews, Casseroles, Stir-fries, Pastas, Rice Dishes, Chilis, and More, which is a concept I can definitely get behind. Hooray for one dish meals!
This “chili” or stew, laden with squash, black beans, and spices was as easy and quick as advertised. But I wasn’t sold on it at first. I may have done a little improvisation, shall we say, when it came to the spices, finding that I was out of both chili powder and cayenne pepper, but seemed to have a stash of dried peppers of unknown spiciness. All of which goes to say that I ended up with a rather sweet chili with just a hint of heat at the end. The recipe is rather large, and after eating it as leftovers for several days, I’m still not sure how I feel about putting something so sweet into chili. Perhaps if I had spiced the dish more precisely some of the sweetness would have been tempered? It was easy enough that it might be worth another try at some point when I need to indulge my cravings for squash.
Butternut squash and black bean chili (serves 6)
2 pounds pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and seeded
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 jalapeño chile, minced
One 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
One 14.5-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 cup water
1 cup apple juice
4 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 cups cooked or canned black beans, rinsed and drained if canned
1. Cut the pumpkin or squash into 1/2-inch chunks and set aside.
2. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and jalapeño. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the reserved pumpkin (squash), diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, water, apple juice, chili powder, salt, and cayenne, and stir well. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover, and simmer until the pumpkin is tender, about 30 minutes.
3. Add the beans, and more water if the chili is too thick for your taste. Cover, and continue to simmer about 15 minutes to blend flavors. Serve hot.