Sometimes cooking a dish sends me into another orbit – in this case, Morocco. I find myself wanting more experiences from this cuisine. This was the case with Cassolita, a Moroccan Butternut Squash with Caramelized Onions from Paula Wolfert’s “The Food of Morocco” cookbook, which was featured in our Meals in Minutes cooking class last month. The combination of the ingredients are so wonderful together. The sweet caramelized onions together with the nutty roasted butternut squash and the exotic Ceylon cinnamon make it really special.
Ahh, the Ceylon cinnamon! A friend gifted me some Ceylon cinnamon sticks and it changed the way I look and taste cinnamon forever. It’s papery and more brittle then the usual cinnamon sticks. A whiff of this stuff is like heaven. You’ve gotta get yourself some! When I started baking at age 7 or 8, cinnamon was always reserved for apple pies, cinnamon toast and snickerdoodles. But when the cooking bug hit me years ago, I’ve used it in tons of savory dishes including mole, curry and moussaka. Now I’ve seen how real Moroccan cooking can taste, a new discovery. I’m reminded again that authentic ingredients used simply are the keys to success in making Fresh Food in a Flash.
What I love about the Cassolita is this simplicity. I should call it the lazy woman’s meal. Your prep for making it are: split open a butternut squash and throw it in the oven, slice a few onions and chop some parsley. That’s pretty much it. Well, except for grinding the cinnamon in a coffee grinder, which is no chore. The scent that will fill your room makes this one-minute exercise all pleasure. Happily, I left some of the cinnamon in my office after photographing the dish and it made my room smell like an exotic temple. Seriously!
And caramelizing onions has its own payback in the form of that ahhh in the kitchen. So get to work. Throw the split butternut squash in the oven as soon as you walk in the door. It can sit for as long as you’d like before you get the other ingredients going. Just make sure it is super soft, not hard at all and leave it cut side down on the baking tray until you are ready to remove the skin. There are two schools of thought on this, scooping out the flesh or slicing off the papery skin. You can see I prefer the latter.
To save time, get your onions going at the same time. Caramelizing the onions couldn’t be easier, just place your sliced onions in a covered skillet with some olive oil and let it go on low heat while you watch the 6:00 news or water your flowers. Midway, add in the flavor ingredients, the raisins, parsley and the Ceylon cinnamon. P.S. Keep extra cinnamon nearby, as you may want to add more. I made this dish at a friend’s house and brought only the prescribed amount. After tasting the final dish, I needed more, but didn’t have it to add. Word to the wise!
Give it all a stir and let it go for about 30 minutes total until it looks jammy. Keep it going until your squash is ready, as you are enhancing the flavors with the longer cooking.
That’s it. Scoop out the flesh of the squash, keeping it in chunks and add to the skillet. Don’t stir. Just cover, warm through, garnish with almond slivers and parsley. Serve it alone or with Israeli couscous to make an amazing weeknight meal.
Moroccan Butternut Squash with Caramelized Onions (Cassolita)
This recipe from Paula Wolfert’s “The Food of Morocco” cookbook caught my eye. I’ve reworked Wolfert’s procedure to make it more in the “Fresh Food in a Flash” style, which will save you time.
- 2 pounds butternut squash
- 3 Tbs olive oil
- 3 onions, halved and thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup slivered almonds
- 1/2 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1/2 tsp salt & pepper to taste
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp ground Ceylon cinnamon
- 1/2 cup raisins
1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise and place on a baking sheet. Bake until the squash is extra soft, about 30 minutes or more. Remove from oven and set aside until cool enough to handle.
2. As soon as the squash is in the oven, start caramelizing the onions. Heat oil in a large skillet. Saute the onions over medium low heat until translucent. Add 1/2 tsp salt, 2 tsp of sugar, the cinnamon and raisins and turn heat to low and cover, stirring occasionally. Cook until onions are jammy and caramelized, and until the squash is cooked.
3. Once onions are underway, toast the almonds on a baking sheet in the oven for 5-10 minutes or until golden brown.
4. Scoop butternut squash out of the shell and add to the skillet with the onions. Add 1/2 of the parsley and stir gently. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon onto plates and garnish with the slivered almonds and remaining parsley. Spoon over Israeli couscous if desired.
Servings: 4 406 calories per serving
Preparation Time: 10 minutes Cooking Time: 30 minutes Total Time: 40 minutes
Oven Temperature: 375°F