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Chat Leftovers: We heart kabocha

I don't know about you, but this morning I'm hungry for brisket and chocolate sauce. Not together, of course. If you're not sure what I'm talking about, just take a look at the juicy, long-smoked brisket that Jim Shahin writes about in today's Food section, and then check out the photo of the fabulous, glossy chocolate sauce with the Gastronomer column about vanilla, and you'll see.

The Gastronomer, a.k.a. Andreas Viestad, will be on hand for today's Free Range chat, and we're also expecting Nourish columnist Stephanie Witt Sedgwick. And there's always a place at the table for you. Join us today between 1 and 2, and bring your culinary questions. We'll try to have answers for you.

Speaking of questions, here's one from a previous week's chat that we didn't have time to get to.

I love kabocha squash for its sweetness and creamy texture, but am worried about calories/nutrition. Can you tell me if it is starchy like a potato and has similar caloric values?

Kabocha squash, which has a number of aliases, including Japanese pumpkin, is a delicious hard squash that's available year-round but appears in local farmers markets in the late summer and fall and is generally classified as a winter squash. The smooth texture is delightful. Depending on how it's cooked, it can taste sort of like a cross between a pumpkin and a sweet potato, and it can have a potato-like texture. Winter squashes and potatoes both tend to be high in starch.

Along with the similarities, though, there are nutritional differences. Ounce for ounce, kabocha squash has far fewer calories and fewer carbohydrates. An example: 3 ounces of kabocha squash contains about 30 calories and 7 grams of carbohydrates. Three ounces of russet potato contains closer to 80 calories and 18 grams of carbohydrates. The squash does have more sugars (3 grams as opposed to potato's 1 gram), less protein (1 gram vs. 3 grams) and less fiber (1 gram vs. 2 grams). But all in all, it's a pretty healthful food choice.

Because you're already a fan, you probably already have a few regular kabocha squash recipes. Here are a couple more you might like.

-- Jane Touzalin

Kabocha Squash With Miso
4 side-dish servings

This vegetable dish would be found in a typical Japanese bento box. Butternut squash may be substituted for the kabocha squash.

1 pound kabocha squash, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch half-moon slices
2 1/2 tablespoons miso, preferably red (not the sweet white or fudge-like black)
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil

Place the squash on a plate and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Microwave on high for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the squash begins to soften. Set aside; the squash will continue to steam/soften under the plastic wrap.

In a small bowl, combine the miso, sugar and soy sauce. Set aside.

In a large saute pan or skillet over medium to medium-low heat, add the sesame oil. When it is hot, add the microwaved squash, stirring occasionally, and cook for a few minutes until it is tender and any raw taste is gone. Add the miso mixture and stir to mix well. Serve warm or cold.

Braised Kabocha Squash and Chicken
4 servings

(Julia Ewan)

Feel like adding something different to your fall repertoire? Start with kabocha squash, which is in many markets right now. It takes a big knife, a firm hand and about 10 minutes to prep the familiar orange flesh of this squat, green pumpkin, but its floury sweetness is worth it. Here, it's paired with ground chicken (ground turkey would work as well) and cooked in a sauce finished with a gluten-free potato starch slurry, which lends a silky thickness.

Serve with steamed rice or sauteed baby bok choy.

One 3-pound kabocha squash
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
8 ounces ground chicken
1 tablespoon minced ginger root
2 1/2 cups plus 1 1/2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon mirin
2 1/2 tablespoons tamari or low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon potato starch or tapioca starch

Use a long, heavy knife to cut the squash into quarters. Discard the seeds and strings inside; peel each quarter and cut the flesh into 1/2-inch cubes. There should be about 4 1/2 cups.

Heat the oil in a large saute pan or skillet over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers. Add the chicken and ginger and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring to break up clumps, until no pink remains in the chicken. Add the squash and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring once or twice, until it is well coated. Add 2 1/2 cups of water and cook for 5 to 6 minutes; the squash should be submerged.

Combine the sugar and mirin in a measuring cup, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and add to the pan. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the tamari or soy sauce and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until the liquid in the pan or skillet has reduced by half. The squash should be firm but tender and easily pierced with a fork.

Meanwhile, combine the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons water with the potato starch or tapioca starch in a measuring cup and add to the pan. Cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly; the sauce will thicken almost immediately and will take on a smooth sheen when it's done. Divide among individual bowls and serve hot.

By Jane Touzalin  |  May 26, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Chat Leftovers  | Tags: Chat Leftovers, Free Range, Jane Touzalin  
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30 calories per 85 grams [3 ounces] is INCORRECT. It is the common calorie count I find, and I have no idea of its main source. I asked my Japanese friend about the calorie count, and it is 91 calories per 100 grams, or 77 CALORIES PER 3 OUNCES.
I did not believe her at first, but she sent me a Japanese website link to prove it [I have put it in Google Translate, so it's a rough English translation]

I also learned that kabocha means "pumpkin" in Japanese. In America, the specific type we eat [smooth and creamy texture] is what they call "western pumpkin".

Posted by: astronautaliens | May 26, 2010 9:31 PM | Report abuse

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