Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Kabocha squash = yummy

I'm well-acquainted with, and love butternut squash. It's quite appealing as far as squash goes with its graceful shape, its smooth skin, and the gift of a beautiful orange-gold hue when you slice it open. It's just sweet enough, has a firm but giving texture, and it caramelizes beautifully when roasted.

Recently I read about a Japanese squash called kabocha that seemed to have similar properties as the butternut. Last week I found a few at Whole Foods and immediately brought them home. From the outside, they're not as friendly looking as the butternut - a bit knobbly and thicker-skinned. They're also a bit more difficult to peel and slice into uniform shapes.

I decided to try them in my favorite recipe this winter, a pumpkin, white bean and kale ragout from a NYT article highlighting vegetarian Thanksgiving options. It's a nutritious, flavorful and utterly satisfying dish that I've made again and again.

I normally use a butternut squash, but this time around I tried the
kabocha. The kabocha is a bit starchier and sweeter than the butternut so it forms a delicious caramelized crust when roasted. It was so yummy I almost ate all of them right out of the pan. For lack of cannellini beans in my pantry, I used a combination of garbanzo beans and beluga lentils. I would recommend sticking with the cannellini beans for a buttery texture that marries well with the squash. I also omit the dried cranberries in the end.

This dish is a bit time-consuming and requires a good amount of ingredients, but it's worth the effort. It keeps well, and tastes better and better each time you re-heat it. It's the perfect single-living meal. Enjoy!

Recipe: Pumpkin, White Bean and Kale ragout
Adapted from a NYT recipe
1 3-pound sugar pumpkin, butternut or
kabocha squash
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or canola oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 1/2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 large leeks, cleaned and chopped, white and light green parts only
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (or use 3 cups cooked white beans)
2 cups vegetable broth
3/4 pound kale, center ribs removed, leaves thinly sliced (about 6 cups)
2 ounces grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese ( 1/2 cup), more to taste, optional
1/3 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped, plus whole berries for garnish (optional)
Coarse sea salt and grated parmesan, for garnish.

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Using a vegetable peeler or paring knife, peel pumpkin or squash. Trim stem, then halve pumpkin or squash and scoop out seeds (save for roasting if desired). Cut flesh into 1-inch cubes.

2. Spread cubes out on a large rimmed baking sheet. In small saucepan, combine butter or canola oil, syrup, 1 teaspoon vinegar, kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and cayenne. Cook, stirring, over medium-high heat until butter melts; pour mixture over squash and toss to coat evenly. Roast, tossing occasionally, until pumpkin or squash is very tender and caramelized at edges, about 30 minutes.

3. In a large skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add leeks, garlic, rosemary and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks are very soft and not at all browned, about 15 minutes. Add beans and broth and simmer for 10 minutes.

4. Stir in kale, and cheese if desired. Simmer until kale is cooked down and very tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in pumpkin or squash and chopped cranberries; season with remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Garnish with additional cranberries (if desired), sea salt and parmesan.

Yield: 8 to 10 side-dish servings; 6 main-course servings.


B. said...

Sounds yummy indeed! Great chance to dig into the local harvest, but a little late for kale around here.

I found out, after peeling half of my first Sunshine squash, (an orange sweet type of Kabocha) that the skin is actually edible and delicious. Next time I'd save myself some time and leave it on.

Undercover Cook said...

B, I wonder if the Sunshine Squash is the same thing as the Hokkaido? I had Hokkaido in Germany recently and was disappointed to find none here in NY. But I'm learning they're of the same family as the Kabocha, just orange.

Well, I hope you get a chance to dig your teeth into them this winter, whichever variety they may be.