Butternut Squash Pilaf

Grated butternut squash adds color and nutrients to this brown rice pilaf. Greeks like to use winter squash, especially pumpkin, to make savory and sweet pies, fritters and croquettes, casseroles and myriad other dishes with fall’s telltale vegetables, but these dishes are virtually unknown outside the country. It’s traditionally made with pumpkin, which you can use here, but since most pumpkins in the U.S. are grown for carving jack-o-lanterns (and not for cooking), we’ve modified the recipe to work with readily available butternut squash. The original dish calls for Greek pilaf rice, a short-grained, polished rice that is hard to find outside the country, so we’ve substituted instant brown rice.

2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, halved and seeded
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large red onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup instant or parboiled brown rice
1 3/4 cups water or 1 14-ounce can vegetable broth
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup chopped fennel fronds (see Ingredient Note)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of cinnamon
Freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Grate the squash through the large holes of a box grater.

2. Heat oil in a large cast-iron or nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until soft and lightly colored, 10 to 12 minutes. Combine 2 tablespoons water and tomato paste in a small bowl and stir it into the pan. Add rice and stir to coat. Add the squash, in batches if necessary, and stir until it has reduced in volume enough so that you can cover the pan.

3. Increase the heat to medium-high, pour in 1 3/4 cups water (or broth) and wine, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, covered, stirring once or twice, until the rice has absorbed most of the liquid and the squash is tender, 25 to 30 minutes.

4. Add fennel fronds, oregano, salt, cinnamon and pepper; gently stir to combine. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Ingredient note: Fennel “fronds” are the feathery tops on fennel bulbs. Look for fresh fennel bulbs–with their fronds still attached–in the produce section. The fronds look similar to fresh dill and have a mild licorice flavor. You’ll need to buy one large or two smaller bulbs of fennel to have enough fronds to make 1/2 cup chopped.

Servings: 8, about 3/4 cup each.

Nutrition per serving: 152 calories; 6 g fat (1 g saturated fat, 4g mono unsaturated fat); 0 mg cholesterol; 21 g carbohydrates; 2 g protein; 4 g fiber; 302 mg sodium; 333 mg potassium

Nutrition bonus: Vitamin A (220% daily value), Vitamin C (30% dv).

1 1/2 Carbohydrate Servings.

Exchanges: 1 1/2 starch, 1 fat.

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K s Goh
KS Goh7 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Amy W.
Past Member 9 years ago

Taylor, dill is in the same family as fennel is. You can easily use that. Or, be creative and go for something in a different family. I would think that something like basil or spearmint could be used. Since carrots are also in the same family as fennel, I can see using the feathery tops of carrots instead of the fennel, too. Basically, you can try a little of one thing, and if that doesn't quite suit you, try something else the next time. Spearmint is used in other Greek recipes, so I don't think it's too far-fetched to suggest spearmint.

Taylor Gregory
Taylor Gregory9 years ago

what could i use in place of the fennel? not a big fan of its flavor.

Margaret M.
Margaret M9 years ago

Butternut Squash Pilaf:
Thanks for the recipe. It looks wonderful. I think I'll try it tomorrow, with some variations.