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Thursday, December 14, 2006

chayote squash koottu

Chayote squash is generally bland and watery and doesn't seem to have much of a strong flavor of its own. So, to me, it is ideal for using in several different dishes combined with different spices. I like its texture when cooked.

I grew up calling it chou-chou and loved the various dishes my mom made with it - like chou-chou more-kozhambu(aka more-kali), more-koottaan, chou-chou koottu, even chou-chou sambar.

The koottu recipe here is adapted from one of my favorite cook books for south indian foods: Dakshin by Chandra Padmanaban. This book is a gift from my husband and I treasure it because when the recipes are followed closely, they come out pretty tasty - sort of like how my mom makes them.

easy recipe chayote squash koottu

Koottu, to me, sort of refers to the gravy in the dish which is made with specific ingredients: if it has lentils and certain ingredients which i list below, then it is a Koottu :-) The vegetable in the koottu can be substituted for other seasonal vegetables - for instance, chayote squash in this recipe can be substituted with say, ridge gourd or ash gourd or yam or snake gourd and still have a delicious koottu.

Ingredients
easy recipe chayote squash koottufor the spice paste:
2/3 cup dry(or fresh) grated coconut
7-8 dry red chilies (less, if you prefer)
1 Tbsp urad dal
1 Tbsp cumin seeds
2 Tbsp par-boiled rice (puzhungal arisi)

2 cups cooked toor dal
3-4 cups diced chayote squash (or any other vegetable in season)
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp brown sugar (optional)
salt to taste
2 Tbsp canola oil
some water
6-8 curry leaves*

tempering:
1 tsp urad dal
1 tsp chana dal
1 tsp mustard seeds

Preparation
  1. dry roast the spice paste ingredients and when cool enough to handle grind them to a fine paste with just a tad bit of water to get them all together; set aside
  2. heat oil in a pan, add the tempering: chana dal first, when it turns golden brown, urad dal and when it is golden brown, add mustard seeds; keep a screen lid handy as mustard seeds will try to jump out of the pan
  3. when mustard seeds splutter and die down, add the diced chayote squash, turmeric powder, curry leaves, some salt and some water; cover and let the chayote squash cook till soft
  4. add the spice paste from step 1, and the cooked toor dal, brown sugar; stir well and let it simmer for about 5-8 mins till the flavors meld; add a little water if the gravy seems too thick; adjust salt to taste
  5. off heat garnish with curry leaves; serve warm with rice or roti or naan.
* Curry Leaves are sort of special and I love to incorporate them into my cooking. When I was growing up in India, I noticed many of my friends and family sort of pick it out of their food and throw it away. What a waste. I have not found any substitute for the wonderful flavor they impart, and they are certainly not equivalent to bay leaves. Curry leaf chutney or thohayal is one of my favorite ways of getting all its goodness.

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