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butternut squash chana dal got me like

After a couple of days of takeout for lunch and dinner (I was cat-sitting for a friend after work, don’t judge), I got home needing a home-cooked meal like never before. I stopped by the farmers market to get butternut squash, wild-looking leeks, heirloom tomatoes, garlic and ginger. You all have been killing me with your butternut squash Instagram photos so there was no way I was not coming home with one. I didn’t have a plan but knew I’ve been craving dal for weeks now. I checked the cabinets for red lentils but found only split chickpeas. I knew the dal would be heartier and for some reason, I wanted the heartiest thing I could make. Hence throwing in some butternut squash. It was a last minute decision that reminded me why it’s best to cook on your nerve.

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Butternut Squash Chana Dal

coconut oil (or olive oil, or ghee)
1/2 tbsp cumin seeds
1 small onion, chopped
2 sm tomatoes, diced
ginger, thumb-size, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 jalapeno, diced
1/2 tsp turmeric powder or fresh
1/2 tsp garam masala, more or less to taste
1/2 cinnamon stick, or couple of dashes of powder
3 whole cloves, fished out later or ground
1 large bay leaf
1/2 cup dry split chickpeas (chana dal, soaked 1 1/2 HR)
butternut squash, medium, cubed
3 cup chicken or vegetable stock plus water, enough to cover everything
cilantro, to garnish

Heat oil and add cumin seeds. Once the seeds sizzle, add your onion and stir. After a couple of minutes, add tomatoes, ginger, garlic, jalapeno, turmeric and garam masala. Definitely let the spices become aromatic with a little time. Stir in chickpeas and butternut squash. Add stock, water, bay leaf, cloves, cinnamon, some cilantro. Cook on med-low heat, stirring occasionally. It’s done when chickpeas and squash have softened. Salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with more cilantro.

It’s autumn and this screams it. Should you ever be in the mood for something sweet and spicy and savory all at once, let this be it. It comes together quickly. The outcome is the warmest of hugs. Enjoy that hug. I have a feeling a lot of us could use one today.

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