Soy-Dashi Simmered Kabocha Squash (Kabocha No Nimono)

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One of my favorite parts about living in New York City is strolling the streets, iced tea in hand, scanning new restaurant menus, popping into little stores, and debating if I should actually buy something this time around. I especially love little delis and specialty grocery stores that cater to another country’s staples. Every time I’m around St. Marks Place in Alphabet City, I have to pick up a bag of my beloved Bamba (peanut butter cheetoh-like snacks!) at the Israeli store Holyland Market (and then force whoever I’m with to share). And when on 1st Ave, I without-fail pick up a bag of the deep-fried curly-q cumin seed crackers I fell in love with in Delhi at the little store underneath the two competing Christmas light Indian restaurants (y’all New Yorkers know what I’m talking about, right?).

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Another favorite is a stroll thru Sunrise Mart, although I don’t yet have a go-to snack in this Japanese wonderland. Usually I get cheap noodles, a rice ball, or something mochi-related. This time around, I was curious about the instant dashi soup mixes. Dashi is soup base, made from simmering kombu (a thick kind of seaweed) with bonito fish flakes. I’ve never made my own, but I’ve long thought it a great option for my pescatarian lifestyle.

So I bought this!

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A google search once I was home told me I got the no MSG brand (sweet!) and that everyone disagreed about how much soup powder you’re supposed to use per cup of boiling water. I ended up using almost one of the pouches, which was about a  teaspoon and a half, with my two cups of boiling water. The powder, or really it was more like tiny pellets, dissolved immediately. A little fishy but fairly subtle. I deem this a nice (and cheap!) flavorful base for soups or simmered veggies like this.

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Also, I am obviously no expert on Japanese food — my recipe was based on reading about 12 similar ones online. My squash definitely fell apart more than I had hoped for but we loved the flavor and scarfed it down regardless. It can be served warm or cold, but I greatly prefer the warmed up version. (And I’ll update you all in a couple months about what this dish is really like in Japan after my trip in November!)

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one year ago (okay fine, last August): maple blueberry beets with balsamic and mint
two years ago: 
roasted radish, blistered pepper, and olive pizza

Soy-Dashi Simmered Kabocha Squash (Kabocha No Nimono)

Adapted primarily from pickled plum 

½ a kabocha squash (abt 1.25 lbs)
2 c dashi (2 cups water plus 1 packet seasoning) (or sub veg broth)
½ tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon mirin (though I believe you can substitute sake)

First, prep your squash. Peel some of the skin off (with a paring knife or powerful peeler). It’s fine to eat it, but peeling just some gives a nice texture change. Cut squash into roughly 1-inch cubes (more or less bite-sized).

Next, get out a heavy saucepan you have a lid for. If making dashi, bring water to a boil; add seasoning packet and stir to dissolve. Add squash pieces and return to a boil. If not making dashi, bring veg broth and squash to a boil.  Turn temperature to a slow simmer and cover pan halfway. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add sugar, soy sauce, and mirin and continue simmering for another 10 minutes, uncovered. At this point, squash should be very tender, but hopefully not falling apart. If you’d like a more syrupy sauce, remove squash pieces and continue simmering dashi mixture until it thickens, 3-5 more minutes.

Serve with rice or as a side to any Japanese-style dish. (We ate it with an udon-miso-tofu-mushroom soupy situation. Yum!)

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Kabocha and Caramelized Onion Toasts with Ricotta and Mint

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…or how I managed to totally slut up an innocent and slightly aging squash.

…or How To Make You Kitchen Smell, like, the BEST it ever has (note to self: caramelized onions + apple cider vinegar + maple syrup = oniony jam kitchentime nirvana).

….or the post where we use up all the CSA veggies accumulating in the fridge. Side note: I didn’t even try to take pictures of the, shall we say, creative and somewhat gelatinous side of golden beet-tiny potato-peas-pickle-parsley salad. Trust me on this one, tastes about a zillion times better than it looks, and it looks like something you may feed someone named, say, Fido.

…or the “Daniel went salsa dancing and I have no camera so I took a million sucky iphone pictures” post. Feel free to skip the blurry awkward food pictures and RUN to the grocery store. I don’t blame you. Food heaven.

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Kabocha and Caramelized Onion Toasts with Ricotta and Mint

greedily and happily borrowed from Chez Catey Lou 

1 1/2 (or 2 if you don’t happen to have a half lying around) sweet yellow onions, sliced thin
½ c olive oil, divided
3 t salt, divided
¼ c REAL maple syrup
⅔ c apple cider vinegar
1 medium kabocha squash, peeled and cut into ½-inch slices (easier said than done–just use those arm muscles, friends)
pinch red pepper flakes
½ c ricotta cheese
4 T fresh mint, chopped
4 slices hearty bread (I used thick slices of Bakeri multigrain)

Preheat oven to 450F.

In a medium pan, heat ¼ cup olive oil on medium-high heat. Add onions and 1 t salt and saute over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 25 minutes or until tender, browned, and amazing-smelling. Then, add maple syrup and apple cider vinegar. Continue cooking, stirring intermitently, until thickened and jammy, about another 25 minutes. Turn off heat.

Meanwhile, mix squash, ¼ c olive oil, 2 t salt, and red pepper flakes on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. Bake for 15 minutes, then flip squash and cook for another 10 minutes or so. Squash is done with it’s soft, lightly browned, and sweet.

Add squash to onion pan and mash with a wooden spoon. Leave some larger chunks; you don’t want a puree but more a coarse mash.

Toast bread slices. Slather with ricotta and top with squash/onion mixture. Drizzle olive oil, sprinkle with coarse sea salt, and finally add chopped mint. Rejoice and praise the onion jam gods.

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The cutey on the right is the kabocha

(For a delicious and unphotogenic side dish, mix chopped boiled potatoes, chopped roasted golden beets, chopped dill pickles, minced red onion, 1 small can green peas, and parsley with red wine vinegar, olive oil, and a dollop of mayo. Or don’t, and eat another toast!)