|Buttercup Squash, one of many winter squash varieties|
With cooler weather on its way, winter squashes such as butternut, kabocha, buttercup, delicata and acorn squashes are popping up in markets. Winter squashes differ from summer squashes as they are allowed to fully mature before being eaten. Their seeds are fully developed and the skin is hard.
Until a few years ago, I was intimidated by winter squashes, as I did not know how to cut its hard flesh, peel its thick skin, or cook it.
However, after taking a Japanese cooking class four years ago, not only was I introduced to Kabocha squash, but my instructor, a petite, sweet woman, also taught our class a few tricks that I was able to use right away. Now I feel comfortable preparing almost any variety of winter squash I find.
Winter squashes are excellent sources of vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, fiber and manganese. Kabocha squash, one of my favorites, is similar in taste and texture to buttercup and butternut squash. Its orange flesh is dense, sweet and creamy, almost like a mix between pumpkin and sweet potato. I’ve used Kabocha, buttercup and butternut squash interchangeably in recipes.
Recently, I put together a dinner from soup to dessert using Kabocha squash.You can substitute buttercup or butternut squash if you wish (Kabocha is a little sweeter than these other two varieties).
Here’s how I was taught to prepare winter squash, along with recipes for Creamy Kabocha Squash Soup with Lemongrass, Japanese Style Kabocha with Meat Sauce, and Thai Black Sweet Rice with Kabocha Cream.
How to prepare Winter Squash:
1. Cut squash in half.
|Use a sharp knife|
2. Put squash halves in microwave for 2 minutes to make it easier to cut and peel.
3. Use spoon to scoop out seeds and any stringy filling.
4. sharp knife to cut squash into wedges.
|Cut squash into wedges to make peeling easier|
5.Slice peel off.
Creamy Kabocha Squash Soup with Lemongrass
The lemongrass and Kaffir lime leaves add a citrusy fragrance to this soup.
|Creamy Kabocha Soup with Lemongrass|
Creamy Kabocha Squash Soup with Lemongrass
- 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil or other flavorless oil
- 2 stalks lemongrass tough outer leaves and stalk removed, tender parts crushed
- 1 1/2 inch piece ginger sliced and crushed
- 1 clove garlic crushed
- 2 Kaffir lime leaves
- 1/2 bunch cilantro stems thoroughly washed
- 3 cups Kabocha squash rind and seeds removed, cut into 1" pieces
- 1/2 teaspoon Thai red curry paste
- 2 cups light coconut milk
- 2 cups water or low sodium vegetable broth
- chopped cilantro
- thinly julienned Kaffir lime leaves
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add lemongrass, ginger and garlic, and cook until slightly browned, about 3-4 minutes.
Add Kaffir lime leaves, cilantro stems, Kabocha squash, and red curry paste. Cook for 2-3 minutes until fragrant.
Add coconut milk and water. Bring to a boil, reduce to low and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and leave on stove for ½ hour to allow flavors to meld.
Transfer everything to a blender and blend until smooth.
Serve, garnished with cilantro and Kaffir lime leaves, if desired.
Lemongrass and Kaffir lime leaves add a citrusy fragrance to this soup.
Japanese Style Kabocha Squash with Meat Sauce
|Japanese Style Kabocha Squash with Meat Sauce|
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil or other flavorless oil
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
½ pound ground turkey or chicken
3 cups Kabocha squash, peel and seeds removed, and cut into 1” pieces
1 ¼ cup water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon organic sugar
1 tablespoon organic mirin
1 scallion, chopped
Heat oil in a medium skillet. Add ginger and stir for 2-3 minutes, until fragrant. Add ground turkey and cook until done, breaking up pieces. Drain excess liquid. Add Kabocha squash, water, soy sauce, sugar and mirin. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, about 10-15 minute, until Kabocha squash is just tender. Stir in scallion just before serving.
Thai Black Sweet Rice with Kabocha Cream
This recipe combines two popular Thai desserts into one. Traditionally, white sweet rice is served with fresh mango. Here I use black sweet rice, which is a whole grain. The creamy Kabocha squash topping is usually served as a standalone dessert.I’ve used it to top the chewy black sticky rice.
|Thai Black Sweet Rice with Kabocha Cream|
1 cup black sweet rice (the rice is not actually sweet, but it has a stickier consistency than regular rice)
One ½” piece ginger, sliced
1 disk palm sugar, or more to taste, cut into slivers with a sharp knife
2 cups water
2 cups light coconut milk, divided
1 cup Kabocha squash, peel and seeds removed, and cut into ½” pieces
pinch of Kosher salt
fresh mint, for garnish
|Soaking black sweet rice (water will turn purple color)|
Soak black sweet rice in water overnight,covering the rice with 2” of water. The water will have a purplish color. Rinse thoroughly and drain, removing any small stones.
Place rice in a saucepan with ginger slices,½ the palm sugar, and water. Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer, and cook, covered for 30 minutes. Turn heat off, and let sit 10 minutes longer. Stir in ½ cup of the coconut milk.
Meanwhile, heat 1 ½ cups coconut milk, remaining palm sugar, and salt in a small saucepan on medium heat. Add Kabocha squash and cook on medium-low for 8-10 minutes, until just tender.
To serve, spoon rice into serving dish. Spoon some creamy Kabocha squash and coconut sauce on top. Garnish with fresh mint.
More Kabocha Squash Recipes:
Champuru’s Japanese Style Simmered Kabocha