By Caroline van Schaik
I was living in Mali, West Africa when the cookbook, “Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant” was published. I knew this had occurred because the mother of another American there sent her the recipe for “groundnut stew,” the spicy peanut sauce we knew as “tigadigana.” We were thrilled – our dish in a proper cookbook! Even where I lived, peanuts were roasted and ground daily, a food fact both remarkable and life-saving for me - despite the severely limited diet, I always had those nuggets of protein and calories!
My Malian mother was a superb cook; this was one of her best dishes and a favorite request of mine when visitors – the announced ones – were expected. Served with rice in our sub-Sahara region, her tigadigana included plenty of Scotch Bonnet-type peppers and extra cabbage and yams if either could be had. Chunks of butternut squash and sweet potato, available here and now in our gardens, farmers markets, and elsewhere, are equally compatible – and frankly, anything else you care to throw in the pot! Needless to add, not all of the following ingredients made it into my other mother’s dish, but the spirit is true to a deeply satisfying meal on any end of the world.
And while we are immersed in the Zen of winter squash, I have included my considerable remake of a Thai recipe that immerses some of the same Malian ingredients in a coconut milk sauce. Both recipes can be made as spicy hot or not as you like.
NOTE: I cannot stand okra and do NOT recommend it being included in this dish!
2 c chopped onion
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
½ tsp cayenne or other dried pepper to taste
Several small round hot peppers to taste
1 tsp pressed garlic
2 c chopped cabbage
3 c cubed sweet potatoes, other winter squash
3 c tomato juice or canned tomatoes
1 c apple juice or water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 chopped tomatoes
1 ½ c chopped okra
½ c peanut butter
Saute the onions, and then add the cayenne and garlic and sauté briefly before adding the cabbage and other vegetables. Saute, covered, for a few minutes, then mix in the liquids, salt, ginger, cilantro, and tomatoes. Cover and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Spoon a small bit of juice into a cup with the peanut butter – stir it up and then spoon the softened peanut butter into the pot. Stir it in and simmer gently, using a heat diffuser if need be and adding more liquid if the sauce is too thick. Serve over rice, quinoa, or other grain of choice, making sure to ladle out the hot peppers to those who like it hot.
Adapted from “Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant” by the Moosewood Collective
Butternut Squash in Fresh Green Curry
NOTE: Saute triangles of firm tofu separately and add at the last minute or serve on the side. This dish stands reheating but the squash tends to become one with the sauce. At this point, broccoli or greens complement the sauce nicely.
1 small butternut squash
2 Tbsp coarsely chopped shallots or onions
1 Tbsp coarsely chopped garlic
1 tsp coarsely chopped or grated fresh ginger
2 fresh green jalepeno or a fresh green serrano chili
½ c water
¾ c chopped cilantro leaves and stems
1 can (14 oz.) unsweetened coconut milk
¼ c peanut butter (unsweetened)
1 tsp miso (more or less)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
¼ c fresh basil leaves cut into thin strips crosswise
Parboil 1-inch chunks of squash separately and set aside, saving the liquid.
In a medium pot (big enough to take all ingredients), sauté the shallots, garlic, ginger, and chilies until the shallots are soft. Add ½ c of cilantro. Add about half the coconut milk; stir well and reduce it slightly over 2 or 3 minutes. Add the remaining coconut milk, water (use the squash water if you remembered to save it), peanut butter, miso, sugar, and salt – bring it to a boil, then lower the heat, add the squash, and cook slowly until the latter is tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the remaining cilantro and some of the basil strips. Transfer to a serving bowl, garnish with the remaining basil, and serve with the optional tofu over rice or other grain.
Adapted from “Real Vegetarian Thai,” by Nancie McDermott
This column of good eating is brought to you by members and friends of the Winona County EDA Local Foods Committee and UM Master Gardeners. Questions or comments? Contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org.