Fall is my favorite season for a variety of reasons: the turning of the leaves, the bright and colorful fall foliage, my birthday, and the arrival of harvest time.
Squashes, persimmons, quinces, and pomegranates top the list of seasonal favorites for me. I find the flavors of squashes quite appealing and when you think of it, what’s not to love?! They deliver carbs with a soft texture and a sweet flavor profile that pairs so nicely with many other flavors.
I had this dish for the first time at last year’s 3rd annual Chefs Without Borders event, hosted by Seattle Isfahan Sister City Advocacy. Though planning and arranging the event is always complex and incredibly detailed, the message is brilliantly simple: bringing people of the two cities and countries together through the language and sharing of food.
A few months ago, I began collaborating with a talented Iranian chef and TV host on Instagram. We both cook and demonstrate Persian dishes in one hour of live cooking, all in Farsi! The inspiration for this post is that live cooking demonstration where I presented this butternut squash spread.
A little background on me….
I have to confess that I am quite embarrassed and shy about my ability to speak Farsi after nearly 40 years of living outside of Iran. So to do these live events despite my rusty Farsi, I end up looking up words preemptively in my translator app in order to explain myself adequately!
40 years ago, I lugged 2 massive English-to-Persian and Persian-to-English dictionaries from Iran to the US to help me learn English. I find it quite ironic that today, I now need an app to help me express myself in Farsi.
I am happy to say that after a few sessions I now find the experience a little less daunting, and actually look forward to getting re-acquainted with my mother tongue.
Now, back to the dish:
If you have ever heard of or tried the beloved Persian eggplant spread called Kashk Bademjoon, you will notice that this dish is very similar, other than for switching out the eggplant for the butternut squash!
I love Kashk (the tangy whey sauce), though admittedly it is a strong flavor that delivers a punch and is not everyone’s cup of tea. The combination of the tangy and salty Kashk and the sweet flavors of the butternut squash is truly a perfect marriage of flavors and has made this dish a favorite of mine!
- 1 large butternut squash, about 2.5 to 3 pounds
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon turmeric, ground
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper, ground
- 1 cup walnuts, finely ground
- 1/2 cup Kashk (Persian whey sauce), adjust to your taste
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons dried mint
- 1 pinch salt
- 4 tablespoons Kashk (Persian whey sauce), dilute with a little water as necessary to drizzle
- 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
- Preheat oven to 400° F.
- Slice the butternut squash in half, remove the seeds and rub with oil and place face down on a cookie sheet.
- Bake for up to 1 hour, depending on the size of the squash. The flesh should be completely soft at this stage.
- Using a spoon, scoop out the squash and set aside.
- In a large frying pan, saute the onions with olive oil on medium heat for 20 minutes or until they have turned golden and lightly caramelized.
- Add garlic, turmeric, salt and pepper and continue to saute for 2 minutes.
- Continue by adding the ground walnuts to the pan and saute for 2 additional minutes to bring out the walnuts' flavor.
- Add the butternut squash and Kashk to this mixture and toss to mix all the ingredients together.
- Cover, reduce the flame to low and cook for 5 minutes.
- In a small frying pan, saute the garlic in the oil over low heat for about 3-5 minutes or until it has turned lightly golden.
- Add the dried mint and salt, and continue to saute for 2 minutes. Stir frequently and keep an eye out on the flame to make sure the mint is not burning.
Assembly and garnish
- Arrange the spread on a platter and drizzle the mint sauce over the spread and decoratively drizzle the Kashk. Garnish with mint leaves.
- Serve the spread with Persian flat breads and a fresh herbs platter.