A Bharta is a roasted vegetable mash traditionally made with eggplant (baingan bharta). We thought of using butternut squash in the fall and winter seasons because that vegetable is so popular and prevalent in the States. This makes a terrific Thanksgiving side dish— in fact, we introduced this dish on the Thanksgiving menu at Rasika. The tenderness of butternut squash can vary, so start checking your roasting time at the 20-minute mark. That may be enough time for the cubes to soften. Or it may take up to 30 minutes. The same holds true for the cooking time in Step 4, when you want the finished squash to be dry rather than loose. Some squash have more moisture in them than others, so this step could perhaps take an extra minute or two.
[Ed. Note: To added another unique flavor to this dish, smoke the butternut squash -- on your stovetop -- as discussed in Francis Lam's interview with Chef Vikram Sunderam and Rasika coauthor David Hagedorn.]
Rasika: Flavors of India
by Ashok Bajaj, Vikram Sunderam and David Hagedorn
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F
2. In a bowl, coat the squash cubes with 2 tablespoons of the oil. Spread them on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake, stirring occasionally, until soft, 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer the squash to a large bowl and mash it with a potato masher. (It will be quite lumpy.)
3. In a heavy- bottomed pot or Dutch oven, heat the remaining 4 tablespoons oil o ver medium- high heat until it shimmers. Add the cumin seeds and let them crackle. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Add the tomatoes and turmeric. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are completely broken down and their moisture has evaporated, about 7 minutes.
4. Reduce the heat to medium. Stir in the ginger, green chili, and deggi mirch and sauté for 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Add the squash and the salt and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture leaves the sides of the pan and is dry rather than loose, about 5 minutes (or more, depending on the moisture in the squash).
5. Finish the dish by adding the toasted cumin powder and lemon juice. Garnish with chopped cilantro.
Recipe preprinted with permission from Rasika: Flavors of India by Ashok Baja, Vikram Sunderam, and David Hagedorn. Copyright 2017 Ecco.