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Staring at my winter squash this weekend, I had a mid-winter cookery crisis… though I still loved the sweet and gorgeous gourd, the thrill, it seemed, was gone…

But timing is everything…and faster than I could Google “butternut blues,” there  it was: a brand new way to spice up my squash from Yotam Ottolenghi–also known as the “The Man Who Sexed Up Veg.”

Born in Israel of German and Italian parents, Ottolenghi studied philosophy and achieved a master’s degree in comparative literature before moving to the U.K. to train at Le Cordon Bleu. (I know, what a slacker….)

Today, he and his Palestinian friend and partner, Sami Tamimi, run 4 eateries in London that embrace the flavors of the Middle East, Europe, India and England and reflect their international backgrounds.

Together, they wrote the bestselling cookbook, “Ottolenghi,” and last year, Ottolenghi published “Plenty,” a book of vegetable recipes born of “The New Vegetarian,” the hugely popular column he writes for The Guardian…which is rather impressive considering he is not a vegetarian.

The original version of this recipe, which ran in The Guardian this past weekend, needed just a little tinkering to slenderize and simplify: Removing butter and oil and substituting non-fat yogurt for the full fat type saves hundreds of calories and quite a bit of fat; using easy to find ground cardamom instead of pods and skipping the impossible to find nigella seeds saves aggrevation; and, by roasting it all in the oven rather than doing part of it on the stove, you save time and clean-up.

In the end, having made it three times in 4 days, I can tell you it is delicious and easy and, though I will seek out the elusive nigella seeds on my next visit to my favorite Indian spice shop, for now, this skinny dish is PLENTY good!


Preheat oven to 425.

1 good sized butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks

1 large red onion, sliced

1 t salt

1/2 t ground cumin

1/2 t ground coriander

1/4 t ground turmeric

1/4 t ground cardamom

1 cinnamon stick

1 jalapeno, cut in half, seeds removed

1 c vegetable broth (I prefer Better Than Bouillon brand)

1 c plain, non-fat yogurt

1-2 T chopped cilantro

1 T toasted and salted squash seeds (pepitas) or sunflower seeds

Cut all of your vegetables and spray cooking oil on a casserole dish that will hold them all snugly.

Add the spices, toss well with your hands to coat, and pour in the broth.

Add the cinnamon stick and jalapeno, tucking toward the bottom of the dish so that they will infuse the broth with favor.

Cover the dish tightly with foil and roast until vegetables begin to soften, about 35 minutes.

Uncover, stir well, return to the oven and roast another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until broth is almost gone and the top pieces are slightly brown.

Retrieve and discard the jalapeno and cinnamon stick and add the dollops of yogurt, the chopped cilantro and seeds.  Squeeze a bit of lemon or lime on top to brighten the flavors and serve.

At about 80 calories per (very dense) cup, this makes a great snack… Or, if you serve it with a calorie free veg like garlic greens, asparagus, cauliflower or simple steamed broccoli, and a 3-4 ounce piece of chicken or fish, you’ll have a really flavorful and filling meal for under 300 calories!

And, since this cooks at the magic temperature of 425, you can roast your other side dishes at the same time!


If you’d like a little more heat in the dish, instead of using jalapeno halves that you remove in the end, chop the jalapeno and leave it in.  To cut the calorie count in half, you can use  cauliflower for half the squash or you could skip the squash altogether and try this same technique and spice combination on cauliflower mixed with potatoes.  And should you want more protein in the dish, toss in some cooked chickpeas and you have a vegetarian meal.


If you end up with enough left over, remember that almost any roasted vegetable dish can be turned into a soup…just add hot chicken or vegetable broth, puree with your immersion blender and, voila! Add a simple salad and you have a new dinner!

About Lisa McRee

After 25 years as a local and network anchor, Lisa was just another American mother struggling, and failing, to lose weight. Finally, she cracked the code, and lost 30 pounds, quickly and for good, by doing what she loves: reporting, cooking and eating! The Skinny is the inside story on how she did it, and how you can, too!
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