Thursday, November 10, 2011

Adventures in Kabocha Squash

Now that we are in the midst of Fall, all the local markets have an abundance of squash to choose from.  There's the familiar butternut and acorn, but also carnival, hubbard, turban and other lesser known varieties.

This means, of course, that I finally was able to procure kabocha squash.  I wrote in a previous blog that I had a delicious preparation of kabocha squash at SEI back in March and that I've been stalking it ever since.  Now that squash is available in abundance, I was able to procure one.  Granted, once I bought it, I didn't have the foggiest idea what to do with it.

So, I did some research.  Kabocha is also known as Japanese Pumpkin, likely because of it's pumpkin-like shape and the fact that it is primarily grown in Japan.  It is also a popular component of vegetable tempura, which means many of us have probably had it without realizing it.  Kabocha, like many bright orange vegetables, is rich in beta carotene, and also a nice source of iron, vitamin C and potassium. 

I did some googling to see how kabocha is often prepared.  I saw a lot of soups with thyme, and I figured I could get the same flavors by cubing and roasting the kabocha and seasoning it with fresh herbs.  This was an excellent plan, but I didn't take one thing into consideration.  The kabocha is the Fort Knox of vegetables.  I even had trouble hacking through it with my trusty Wusthoff.  So, after I finally got it in half, I scraped out the seeds, put it face down on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray and roasted the kabocha halves in the oven at 400 for 40 minutes.

I took the kabocha out of the oven to cool.  In the meantime, I minced a shallot, prepped the fresh thyme and shredded some kale.  When the kabocha was cool enough to handle, I began cutting chunks of it from the shells.  It had an almost crumbly texture - possibly, I let it cook for too long, but it had a nice flavor.

I then put the shallots to work in a gob of soy-free Earth Balance, and then added the kabocha chunks, thyme, salt and pepper, kale and fresh parsley.  I then added in some leftover freekeh from last night.  It looked a little dry, so I added a splash of wine to moisten things up. 

The result was a nice, filling cold-weather meal.  The kabocha was similar to butternut squash, but nuttier and creamier (the latter creaminess may have come from the large hunk of faux butter I cooked it in).  I put just the right amount of salt in to enhance the flavor of the whole shebang as well.

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