Meatless Monday: Warming Up to Winter Squash

Ever try a kabocha (say Kah-boh-cha) squash?

It’s the Jade green pumpkin-looking variety, sometimes with little streaks of yellow-green. As with most winter squash, the kabocha is tough-skinned, requiring a sharp blade (get out those sharpening steels) to get through its armor. (It’s not as tough as that dastardly acorn squash, though.) Plan on 20 minutes of peeling and chopping time, and yes, it’s okay to do this the night before and store the squash in an airtight container.

Once inside, however, you’ll be rewarded with a stunning yellow-orange flesh that transforms into sweet tender morsels, a cross between squash and sweet potato.

Here’s a fun recipe that I made on the fly one Saturday morning about five years ago at the Arlington Courthouse farmers’ market. It was pouring rain like buckets, but the market, as always, stayed open, and the diehard shoppers showed up with their umbrellas. This little ditty warmed them up. Have a look and see what you think.

Kabocha squash. (Kim O'Donnel).

Don’t worry if you can’t get your hands on kabocha; try butternut, buttercup or hubbard instead. It’ll taste just as good.

Braised Winter Squash With Black Bean Sauce

1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 shallot clove, peeled and minced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
A hunk of fresh ginger, about the size of your thumb, peeled and minced
1/2 chile of choice, seeded and minced (optional)
1 medium kabocha squash, seeded, peeled and cut into 1 or 2-inch cubes (may yield up to 6 cups)
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons rice wine (alternatively, pale dry sherry, vermouth, gin or sake)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons prepared black bean and garlic sauce (or equal amounts fermented black beans, mashed – available at Asian markets)
Up to 1 cup water or stock of choice
Garnish: A few chopped scallions, drizzle of sesame oil

In a deep skillet or wok, heat oil over high heat until glistening. Reduce heat slightly and add shallot, garlic, ginger and chile (if using), stirring with a wooden spoon to minimize burning. Add squash and stir to coat with aromatics, adding salt to taste. Cook for at least five minutes, so that squash browns a bit.

In a small bowl, combine rice wine, soy sauce and black bean sauce. Mixture should taste pungent and salty. Add a few tablespoons of water to dilute.

Add sauce to squash mixture and at least ½ cup water (or your favorite stock) so that squash is barely covered. Bring up to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and allow to simmer until squash is fork tender, about 30 minutes. Drizzle with sesame oil and scallions. Yes, sesame seeds would be lovely here as well.

Serve with rice, couscous, quinoa or by itself. Makes about six servings.

By Kim ODonnel |  September 29, 2008; 6:23 AM ET Fall Produce , Meatless Monday , Vegetarian/Vegan
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This sounds delicious! I made some black bean/acorn squash empanadas last night (recipe from the Veganomicon) and they turned out great. I really like the salty/sweet combination, so I'm looking forward to trying this recipe too.

Posted by: Sara | September 29, 2008 1:48 PM

Considering what the stock market is doing.... Here's a recipe I found from a site that lists Great Depression area recipes:

Meatless Loaf

1 cup rice
1 cup peanuts crushed
1 cup cottage cheese
1 egg
1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon salt

Combine all the ingredients together. bake in a loaf pan for 30 minutes or until loaf is good and set.

Hey, I'm not vouching for it.

Posted by: Dave | September 29, 2008 4:48 PM

Kim - it's much easier to just bake the whole squash (or halve it first). Between 300 & 375 degree (does not really matter) for 40 mn to 1.5 h depending how big the squash is and what temperature you use. Then you just scoop out the seeds, and then the flesh. Use it for gratin, casserole, soup, lasagna etc. Also freezes great. When I bake something and I've got room in the oven, I just slip a winter squash in there.


Posted by: Sylvie, Rappahannock Cook & Kitchen Gardener | September 30, 2008 7:41 PM

I was going to say the same thing about precooking the squash, you can also steam it on the stove or in the oven. I always add water to a roasting pan when baking anyway. Aduki or adjuki beans, acorn or butternut squash, carmelized onions, miso paste and tahini and a little brown rice or quinoa makes a yummy dinner. Acorn squash stuffed with raw oats,cinnamon,shredded apples and yoghurt is great. Squash soup is a broth, a milky product,9Soy, rice, dairy, almond, even melted cheeses, seasoning that includes celery seed, and carmelized onions all pureed with a hand held or a blender and you are good to go. Thanks for the reminder. Autumn rocks!

Posted by: Lillia | October 2, 2008 11:42 AM

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