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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Spaghetti Squash Lettuce Wraps, Asian-style

 

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Fair warning: this post brought to you by “Blogging and hunger don’t go well together”. Welp, unfortunately that’s the only time I’m ever blogging, as trial runs and free mornings with unlimited light aren’t really part of my vocabulary right now.

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Oh well. Don’t look at the pictures, consider this instead: Super healthy! Vegan! Gluten free! And somehow… really really tasty. Like wolf down 4 in a row without coming up for air. Daniel attacked them it like it was a plate of cheeseburgers (remember, vegan, gluten free!)! After your first bite you’ll glance down at the rest of the pan and wonder if you can polish it off without judgement and then realize YES! I CAN! Vegan! Gluten free! Really really tasty!

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The impetus for this recipe was a) the spaghetti squash I totally impulse-bought last week (why oh why can’t I have normal impulse buys like fancy cheese or chocolate??) and b) the influx of lettuce from our CSA(!!!). I love cooking me up some greens and eating them with toast and eggs for breakfast, with rice and beans for lunch, and mixed with pasta for dinner, but lettuce is another beast altogether. Lettuce-based salads just don’t give me the same amount of joy (*usually). Hence, lettuce wraps. Yum. The filling can be flexible, but this had the perfect texture and umami combination, so deviate at your own risk. This is a bit spicy, but goes so well with the sweet chili sauce! (I have this one and it’s great for marinating or stir-fry!)

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one year ago: …crickets…
two years ago: 
roasted beets and their greens with yogurt and simple rhubarb cake AND tofu banh mi

Spaghetti Squash Lettuce Wraps, Asian-style

a swanky original

1 spaghetti squash
1 tablespoon olive oil + extra for drizzling
½ an onion, diced
2 big cloves garlic, minced
1 serrano chile, some seeds removed, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
5 white mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
½ red pepper, in thin strips
3 oz baked teriyaki tofu, in matchsticks
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Half a lime
Lettuce leaves of choice (I used romaine and it was tasty but messy!)
s&p
Cilantro, lightly chopped
Peanuts, lightly chopped
Sweet chili dipping sauce

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut spaghetti squash in half, drizzle with olive oil and s&p, and place cut-side down on roasting pan. Roast for 35-45 minutes. When done, scrape squash with a fork to create noodle-like squash segments.

Meanwhile, heat up 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Next, add garlic, serrano chile, and ginger. Cook for another 3 minutes. Add mushrooms, peppers, s&p and cook for 3 more minutes. Add tofu and squash strands and cook for another 2 minutes. Add sesame oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, and big spritz of lime juice.

Wash lettuce leaves well. Spoon squash-tofu-mushroom filling into leaves, and top with cilantro and peanuts. Dip into sweet chili sauce (or make a fancy-shmancy sauce on your own.)

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Butternut-Tahini Mash

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Some recent favorites:

  • Rokia Traore, an incredible Malian musician, on Spotify while cleaning the kitchen. It’s love.
  • The (surprisingly!) flavorful veggie Ramen at Tabata II (and the fact that it exists on 8th Ave and 35th St…)
  • Heattech layers from Uniqlo. I think I’ve worn my “warmest shirt ever” every day since purchasing it last month.
  • AirBNB, because it led us to this YURT(!!!) as a destination for our upcoming California trip!
  • The amazing Instagram feed The_Pho_Project for its never-ending use of “pho” wordplay and punnery
  • and this dip. Or, more exactly, this excuse to eat tahini-drenched, smoked paprika-covered smashed roasted squash on everything!

This was my favorite take away from the Bon Appetit Food Lover’s Cleanse. A simple but amazingly tasty dip/mash/spread/puree to enhance any and all foodstuffs. The cleanse called for you to eat with roast chicken, which I’m sure was delectable. I substituted fried tofu cubes which was equally tasty (but if we’re being technical a bit too much of the same texture). I snacked on it for days with pita, celery sticks, carrots, or even a quick stolen as-is spoonful. Treat it like hummus and you’ll find dip elation phoever and ever.

Butternut Tahini Mash Dip Paste

Butternut-Tahini Mash

From Bon Appetit’s Food Lover’s Cleanse

1 butternut squash, cut in half length-wise
3 big garlic cloves, unpeeled
olive oil
¼ cup well-stirred tahini paste
¼ t smoked paprika
½ t ground cumin
2 T lemon juice
s&p
zaatar

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Coat a rimmed baking sheet with 1 T olive oil. Sprinkle salt and pepper on squash halves and then place onto baking sheet, cut side down. Add garlic cloves to baking sheet. Cook for about 45-50 minutes, or until squash is very tender.

Let cool for about 5 minutes. Then, spoon squash flesh into a big bowl (discard skin). Peel garlic cloves and add them, along with tahini, cumin, paprika, and lemon juice. Mash everything together roughly with a fork. Add s&p to taste. Sprinkle with zaatar to serve.

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Mushroom, Olive, and Farro Stuffed Acorn Squash

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This was one of those nights that Daniel decided he didn’t feel like eating vegetarian and would make himself a side of meat from the Homesick Texan cookbook he (aptly) received for his birthday. He chose something that sounded delicious and we ventured out to our two local grocery places (one better for fresh produce, the other better for (ridiculously overpriced) happy meats and fancy cheeses…) around 7:30, and came home and got to work. A slight misunderstanding of the recipe meant that the carnitas actually had to simmer for three hours, a bit of a formidable cooking time when my proposed squash would take under an hour.

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But, stubborn and dedicated as he was, we ended up making both and eating around, oh say, 11:30. (I wish I could say that was rare.)

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This squash was out-of-control good! All my favorite flavors in the filling, which is perfect for lunch the next day. (Double the filling recipe! You won’t regret it!) And acorn squash is just the cutest little squash there is. A ridiculously tasty, cute squash. Also out of our kitchen that night: aforementioned carnitas (which smelled pretty darn good) with a tomatillo-avocado salsa (delicious with just a spoon!) and Dorie Greenspan’s perfect lemon poppyseed muffins. Recipes available upon request 🙂 Happy cooking!

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Mushroom, Olive, and Farro Stuffed Acorn Squash

adapted from What’s Cooking, Good Looking

serves 2

1/2 cup farro
1.5 cups water
pinch of salt
1 acorn squash
olive oil
s&p
1T olive oil
½ a large white onion, chopped small
1 big clove garlic, minced
2 T pine nuts
4 big button mushrooms, chopped small
1 t soy sauce
3 T chopped kalamata olives
2 T parsley, finely minced
¼ cup crumbled feta

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Combine farro, water, and salt in a medium sized pot and bring to a boil. Cover, turn heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes. At this point, water should be absorbed. (If not, drain excess water once farro is sufficiently chewy.) Set aside.

Meanwhile, cut acorn squash in half horizontally. Scoop out the seeds. Trim off the very top and very bottom using a very sharp knife so the squash halves can sit upright on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Bake for 25- 30 min, or until a knife cuts through easily.

While squash bakes, heat olive oil in a largeish pan. Add onion and garlic and cook over medium heat for about 8 minutes, until onions are beginning to brown. Add pine nuts and toast for 3 minutes, or until they start to brown as well. Next, add mushrooms and soy sauce and cook for 3 minutes, or until the liquid evaporates. Take off the heat and add olives, parsley, feta, and farro. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stuff farro/mushroom mixture into scooped out squash halves and consume!

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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!)

“Everything Summer” Garden Kale Salad + A Summer Meal

 

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My Grandpa Ronny, a self-made first-generation American and a proud storyteller, grew up in NYC. When I moved to Brooklyn three years ago, I felt compelled to track down some of the places he often mentions in his stories.

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sister drinking date

First up was McSorley’s Ale House, one of the oldest bars in the city, where the floor is covered with straw and there are only two drinks you can order: dark beer or light beer. Supposedly, Ronny once did a headstand on a table in the back room while drinking an entire beer. Who knows if the story is true, but when I went with my sister we scanned some of the photos on the wall, seeing if his story had made it into the bar’s lore. McSorley’s is wonderfully atmospheric, and I’ve been a handful of times. Good choice for a storied bar, Grandpa.

The other place always mentioned is the Rockaways, the beach retreat where he’d spend summers in a bungalow and became a lifeguard when he was older. Today the 95th street stretch (and beyond!) of the Rockaways has turned into a newly recreated hipster “staycation” destination — the boardwalk has been transformed by a famous fish taco stand, bike rental booths, smoothie stalls, Bolivian street food, and the always popular game, corn hole.

And man is it fun! Today was my first trip there, taking the A all through Brooklyn and eventually coming out onto a lovely expanse of ocean and beach, so different from the New York I’ve grown accustomed to. Gone are the cheap bungalows and immigrant-owned amenities, but still tangibly present is the natural beauty and freedom so easily lost on our forgotten concrete blocks. Pretty sweet for a Thursday. Sorry I didn’t go sooner!

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Anyway, in honor of finally visiting my Grandpa’s childhood summer getaway, here is the  delicious, garden-fresh summery meal we enjoyed last night. Special thanks to the roommate’s community garden membership for the herbs and tomatoes. 🙂

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“Everything Summer” Garden Kale Salad + A Summer Meal
barely adapted from from A Sprouted Kitchen

Salad:

  • 1 small bunch kale, ribs removed and torn into small bite-sized pieces
  • 1-3 T fresh mint
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 2 T olive oil, divided
  • 1 small head lettuce, washed, dried, and torn into bite-sized pieces
  • roughly 2 cups freshest possible tomatoes; I used a combination of just-picked cherry tomatoes sliced in half and slices of HUGE tomato (also just-picked)
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, cut in half
  • half a crispy apple, cut into matchsticks (although cherries or nectarine slices would be great too!)
  • 1/8-1/4 c red onion, diced tiny
  • 1/4 cup feta, crumbled

For dressing, mix together:

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 t dijon mustard
  • 1.5 T apple cider vinegar
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • s&p to taste

Put freshly washed kale in a bowl. Add mint, roughly torn, and 1 T olive oil, lemon juice, and s&p. Using your fingers, massage kale for a couple minutes, until greens lose their rigidness and turn a richer shade of green.

Add bite-sized lettuce leaves. Pour in salad dressing and mix thoroughly. Then add all the ingredients, give it a good whirly mix, and serve!

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The whole meal. all delicious individually though perhaps not greater than the sum of its parts.

We ate this salad alongside:

  • In Sock Monkey Slipper’s Herbed Zucchini-Feta Boats. My thoughts: Add cumin and roasted red peppers to the feta-herb mixture in the food processor for a bit of added sweetness. Don’t be shy with the fresh herbs. Use panko instead of regular breadcrumbs for extra crispiness! Needed at least 40 minutes to bake in my oven. Just as delicious with yellow summer squash as with zucchini.

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  • Smoky Mushroom Toasts: Sauté 1/4 c tiny diced onion in 1 T melted butter. Add 10 oz white mushrooms, cut in half and then very thinly sliced. Sprinkle with pepper, fresh thyme, and smoky hickory salt. Mushrooms will let out juices. Take off heat when juices evaporate and mushrooms are browned, about 10 minutes. Serve atop toasted and buttered bread. I used day-old bakery whole wheat oatmeal bread and it was deeelicious.

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  • Pine nut couscous (from a box!)
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ahh, summer…