It is the time of year when I start to use winter squash a lot. I used kabocha squash tonight, but you could use butternut or other easily peeled squash.
Like many of my polos (rice dishes), this was made with what I had in the house. So, in addition to the kabocha squash, I had spinach, shallots, and part of a can of diced tomatoes (which ended up being just the right amount).
While I was in the middle of making this, I grabbed my jar of Advieh, the Persian ‘allspice’ I was going to use, and it was empty. Uh oh! I didn’t have time to make a new batch of Advieh (watch for a post for when I do that), so I was determined to mix and match spices to make it work. I sniffed the advieh jar, then I kept opening jars so see what came close. Hmm, pumpkin pie spice wasn’t too far off, but it needed more oomph. Enter garam masala. When I would quickly move my nose from one to the other, there were possibilities, but how would these two work together? I would try it. I started with 1 tsp of pumpkin pie spice and added ¼ tsp garam masala…not enough, so I added another ¼ tsp and that seemed right. So in it went. When I tasted the filling, it tasted good, about what it should have. Who would have thought? Garam masala and pumpkin pie spice.
Winter Squash Polo
3 cups basmati rice
2 Tbsp and 1 tsp canola or grapeseed oil, divided
2 shallots, halved and sliced
3 – 5 oz baby spinach
3 cups winter squash, peeled and cut into ½” cubes (kabocha, butternut, or other easily peeled squash)
½ cup diced canned tomatoes with their juices
1½ tsp advieh
Place the rice and 2 quarts of salted water in a pot and bring to a boil. When the water boils, check the rice by biting a piece; once the rice is almost cooked through (there is still a bite to the center), drain the rice, rinse with cold water and drain again. Note: if you are using a Persian rice cooker, place the rice and 4 cups of water in the rice cooker and cook for 10 minutes, just until the water is absorbed, then remove the rice to a bowl. Rinse as above.
Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the spinach and a pinch of salt and cook until the spinach wilts, about 2 minutes. Remove to a bowl
Add 1 Tbsp oil to the skillet and add the butternut squash. Spread the cubes in a single layer and cook for about 5 minutes, until the bottom of the cubes start to brown. Stir and cook another 5 minutes, stirring only once or twice during this time, to allow more sides to start to brown. Add the tomatoes and advieh; stir and cook will warmed through. Remove from heat.
Place 1 tsp oil and 1 tsp water in the bottom of the pot or rice cooker. Add 1 – 2 cups of rice and pat down.
Place the spinach mixture in a layer over the rice. Cover with half the remaining rice. Place the squash mixture in a layer over the rice, and finish with the rest of the rice. Pat down and poke a few holes in the mixture with a chopstick or handle of a wooden spoon.
Cover the pot with a clean towel and place the lid on top. Cook on medium-low for 45-50 minutes. Note: if using a rice cooker, reset the timer to 50 minutes.
Serves 5 – 6