This Vegan Indian Dish Showcases the Great Flavors of Zucchini and Yellow Squash
Good-quality zucchini and yellow squash are available in markets year round, but we can buy extra-flavorful locally grown varieties during the warm weather months. I’m still seeing high-quality specimens at my markets in St Louis. And even though I’ve used both types of squash in various recipes at least a dozen times this spring and summer, I can never get enough of them.
But I’m ready for a new flavor twist.
Like this easy and tasty creation. It would make a great side dish for any Indian meal. But because it isn’t over-spiced, you can also serve it alongside roast or grilled fish, chicken, or meat.
It’s simple to prepare. Or you can make it ahead and reheat when you’re ready to serve.
What a great way to eat your vegetables!
Recipe: Summer Squash in Tomato Curry Sauce
Garlic, ginger, and ground roast cumin subtly flavor this dish. A touch of heat arrives with jalapeño peppers, a hint of tartness with fresh lemon juice. This is a dish with a fairly mild (although delicious) flavor; no one who tastes it will find it “too spicy.”
I discovered this recipe in Julie Sahni’s Mogul Microwave. Although designed to be “nuked,” this dish tends to be a bit cumbersome for the microwave. So I adapted it to the stove-top. BTW, if you like Indian cooking and don’t know Julie Sahni, you should get acquainted — she has authored some excellent cookbooks.
This is a dish that you can cook partially ahead of time, then finish when you’re ready to serve (see Step 6). This recipe serves about 8.
Prep time is 15 minutes; cooking time another 10 or so. So allow 30 minutes, max, to prepare this. Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a few days.
- ~1 tablespoon grated or minced fresh ginger
- 2 - 5 cloves peeled garlic, finely minced (use the smaller amount if you don’t want much garlic flavor, more if you do)
- 2 - 3 jalapeño peppers (both the green ones and the red fully ripe ones work well; use as many as you’re comfortable with)
- ~2 pounds mixed zucchini and yellow squash, cut into ½ inch dice or ¼ inch slices (or you can use just one type of squash if you wish)
- 3 tablespoons neutral vegetable oil
- 1 15-ounce can chopped tomatoes (double if you wish; if you have good-quality fresh tomatoes on hand, you can substitute those)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 - 3 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (start with 2 teaspoons)
- 1 teaspoon ground roast cumin seeds (you need to prepare these somewhat ahead of time; see Notes for recipe and substitutions)
- chopped cilantro or jalapeño peppers for garnish (optional)
- Peel and finely mince the ginger and garlic (I often mince these in a mini food processor — in which case, I also add the jalapeño peppers; see next step).
- Wash jalapeño pepper and cut lengthwise. Use a teaspoon to scoop out the ribs and seeds (be careful, the oil on these is hot; keep fingers away from your eyes). Chop into very small dice (or use a mini food processor — just add them to the ginger and garlic in Step 1). Add to the bowl, and then wash your hands with soap and water to remove the hot jalapeño oil from your skin.
- Wash the zucchini and/or yellow squash, and cut into ½-inch dice or ¼-inch slices. (When cutting into slices, if the vegetables are fat, I suggest first slicing them in half lengthwise; it they're really fat, I often cut in halves again.)
- Heat a Dutch oven or sauce pan on medium heat. (If you have a skillet with high sides — at least 3 inches — you can use that.) When hot, add oil. When the oil is hot (this takes seconds; it shimmers), add minced ginger, garlic, and jalapeño peppers. Sauté until very lightly browned (perhaps 4 minutes).
- Add zucchini, yellow squash, and tomato. Salt and pepper to taste. Stir, cover, and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until the zucchini and yellow squash are tender (8 - 10 minutes).
- If you wish, you can prepare the dish ahead of time to this point. When cooked, remove from heat (you may want to undercook the dish by a minute or so and finish the cooking when you reheat). The zucchini and squash mixture can sit at room temperature for 2 or 3 hours; or you can refrigerate until ready to serve. When ready to serve, reheat and proceed with next step.
- Remove squash mixture from heat. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. Add lemon juice and roast ground cumin seeds and stir to incorporate. Taste again and add more lemon juice and/or cumin seeds if you wish. Serve (a garnish of chopped cilantro or jalapeño peppers is nice, but not necessary).
- To prepare ground roast cumin seeds: Place 2 or 3 tablespoons whole cumin seeds in a microwave-safe dish (I use a Pyrex pie plate). Microwave on high power until the seeds turn several shades darker and smell fragrant (3 - 4 minutes in my microwave). Remove, and allow to cool. When cool, grind in a spice grinder (I use a coffee mill that I keep just for spice grinding) or in a mortar (using a pestle). Store in an airtight container; the seeds will remain fragrant for a good month. This amount is more than you need for the Summer Squash in Tomato Curry Sauce recipe, but roast cumin is so fragrant and flavorful that you’ll find other uses for it!
- If you can’t find whole cumin seeds (most, but not all, grocery stores carry them), substitute ground cumin. In this case, roast only 1 teaspoon (or perhaps a bit more just to be safe, in case you want more when you taste the dish in Step 7). Place in the Pyrex pie plate and microwave on high for a minute or two (just until you begin to smell the aroma of roast cumin). This isn’t as flavorful as ground roasted whole seeds, but it will do.
- Cumin certainly adds some flavor to this dish, but it’s the aroma that you’ll notice as you eat it. That’s why you add the cumin at the last minute — so the perfume doesn’t have time to dissipate.
- You add the lemon juice at the end for a similar reason: Its fresh tartness helps “season” the dish.
- I like to use both zucchini and yellow squash in this recipe because the resulting dish is so colorful, but you can use only one or the other if you wish.
- I sometimes also add a red, orange, or yellow sweet pepper for the same reason (and the flavor boost is nice). If you want to add this: Cut it into pieces ½-inch square, add to the ginger mixture in Step 4, and sauté.
Midway Through Indian Fortnight
We’re halfway through our two weeks of Indian recipes on Kitchen Riffs. Last week we discussed Pink Dal with Swiss Chard and Aromatic Yellow Rice. Those two can be served as side dishes, or you can combine them to make a complete meal.
Today’s recipe, Summer Squash in Tomato Curry Sauce, is definitely a side dish. It doesn’t make a whole meal by itself, so you need to combine it with something more substantial. Maybe some nice Tandoori Chicken? And a potato dish heavily flavored with ginger and garlic? Sounds good to me!
We’ll be discussing both of those recipes later this week. Which is a good thing, because Mrs. Kitchen Riffs is already sitting at the dinner table, knife and fork at the ready, a look of eager anticipation on her face.
You may also be interested in reading about:
Pink Dal with Swiss Chard
Aromatic Yellow Rice
Sweet Potatoes in Curry Sauce
Red-Braised Beans and Sweet Potatoes
White Bean and Potato Soup
Split Pea Soup with Greens
Vegan Mapo Tofu
Sweet Potato Chili with Black Beans Garlic Coleslaw
Mustard Potato Salad
French Potato Salad
Edamame and Bean Salad
Hungarian Cucumber Salad
Pineapple, Coconut, and Carrot Salad