Braised butternut squash with bok choy and black bean sauce [Vegan]

Jaymi's Notes:

My first thought after sitting down and taking a few bites of this recipe was, "I'd pay good money in a restaurant to eat this." I adore those recipes that taste as good as what you'd order at a favorite, high-end restaurant, but that give you the added satisfaction of having made it yourself. From selecting the best ingredients, to making slight adjustments to suit your tastes, to plating a beautiful meal on a dish, cooking at home gives you a sense of pride and a healthier option than eating out. This recipe proves you can easily make things at home that taste as good or better than anything you could order dining out.

I love the sweetness of butternut squash, and the complexity of black bean sauce along with the tangy-ness of rice wine and soy sauce balance that sweetness wonderfully. Similarly, the softened texture of the butternut is countered by the slightly more crunchy texture of the wilted bok choy. A delicious, rounded meal served over rice, and it takes only about 20-25 minutes to make.

Tip: One way to more easily manage a butternut squash is to roast it at about 250 degrees for about 30 minutes. This will soften it up just enough as to make it easier to slice and peel. Adds a little time to the process but makes the prep work on it much easier.

More on The Cooking Project.

Kelly's Recipe:
I seem to have made a couple of lucky choices in squash recipes this week. After the delicious squash pasta I had the other night, I tried something completely different with a kabocha squash. This time I braised it in a black bean sauce, and it turned out to be another wonderful dinner. I had spent the afternoon making a cranberry chutney and pumpkin butter, and it was getting late. Squash usually takes quite a bit of time cook, and I envisioned eating dinner really late, but I had the meal on the table in about half an hour.

I served this over rice, but it would also be really good over Chinese noodles or even with tofu if you wanted to add some protein. The recipe calls for bok choy but I used swiss chard out of my garden and it worked perfectly. I also used a regular cooking onion rather than shallots. I'm a big proponent of using processed foods as seldom as I can, but I always have a jar of black bean sauce or fermented black beans in my refrigerator. It can be a big flavour boost to lots of different dishes.

This is a great meal to make if you are on a tight budget. For the cost of a squash and some leafy greens, we will get two healthy meals for two people, which works out to about a dollar per person, per meal.

This recipe is adapted from The Meat Lover's Meatless Cookbook by Kim O'Donnel.

© Jaymi Heimbuch

Braised Winter Squash with Black Bean Sauce and Bok Choy

3 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup shallots, about 2 bulbs worth, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large 1-inch hunk ginger, peeled and minced
1 tbsp Asian black bean-garlic sauce
3 - 4 cups winter squash, such as butternut, peeled and cut into 1- to 2-inch chunks
2 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp granulated sugar
1 cup water or vegetable stock
1 large bunch bok choy, cleaned thoroughly and trimmed as needed and cut into 2 inch pieces
Sesame oil for drizzling

1. In a deep skillet or wok with a lid, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat and add the shallots. Cook until softened, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 1 minute or so, then add the black bean sauce. Stir to keep from sticking.

2. Add the squash and stir to coat with the aromatics, 2 to 3 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the rice wine, soy sauce, and sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add to the squash and bring to a lively simmer. Add enough liquid so that the vegetables are barely covered. Cover and cook until the squash is just about fork tender, 15 minutes.

3. Remove the lid and place the bok choy on top of the squash mixture. Drizzle the bok choy with the sesame oil. Return the lid and allow to steam until the bok choy arrives at your desired done-ness, at least 3 minutes.

© Jaymi Heimbuch

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