This is my third (and last?) “the pumpkin series” recipe. This time we are going to prepare a delicious side dish using a Kabocha squash. Since it was the first time I was using this type of squash, I wanted to keep things simple, in order to appreciate the product itself to the max. Therefore, I went for a recipe in which we roast the kabocha in the oven using my favorite spices. This way of cooking Kabocha squash makes a delicious yet easy to make a gluten free alternative for Thanksgiving or a quick vegetarian lunch in a weekday.
A Kabocha is a type of winter squash, a Japanese variety of the species Cucurbita maxima. However, legend says is originally from the Americas and it was taken by Portuguese explorers to Asia. The Japanese pumpkin has a sweet and creamy pulp and a strong orange color, due to the high content of beta-carotene it holds. The Kabocha has a similar taste to sweet potato, but with the nutritional properties that only kabochas can offer. The peel has a dark green, matte color and can be consumed without any worry, since it is a source of fiber, iron and vitamin C. It is also a good source of Zinc. When choosing Japanese pumpkins, go for those that appear heavy for their size bearing in mind that the lighter the skin, the sweeter the pulp.
Now the big question is …
HOW TO COOK KABOCHA SQUASH?
Kabocha squash is best suited for cooked applications such as roasting, steaming, sautéing, baking, frying, and braising. It holds is shape well when cooked, therefore, it can be used in cubes in stews, soups, curries or in tempura. It will keep 1-3 months when stored in a cool and dry place. In Japanese cuisine served simmered in seasoned broth are called Nimono. There are many variations of Nimono based on different combination of soy sauce, sugar, Sake or Mirin. It provides vegetables sweet and salty flavors.
In this recipe, we are going to roast it in the oven using a homemade panela syrup to create a golden-brown color and rich aroma. If you have followed the pumpkin series in my blog, at this point, we are already experts on how to do the pumpkin/squash prep, and if in doubt, you may check the notes in the butternut squash and apple chicken curry recipe.
Papelón , panela o piloncillo is unrefined whole cane sugar . It generally has a dark brown color with a smoky, caramelly and earthy sweet flavour.
The panela syrup is infused with thyme combined with spices that I love: ground cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Thanksgiving tip: You may use maple syrup instead of making your own sugarcane syrup, and use the same spices as I did in my recipe.
Roasting in the oven takes only a few minutes, I happened to have an olive oil spray infused with hot chilis, which gave to the sweet kabocha a nice kick.
The end result is a golden, tender, spicy, healthy and overall yummy roasted kabocha wedges made in no-time and little effort. For garnishing, I used roasted pumpkin seeds, spring of thyme. I topped it up with black salt for visual contrast and enhance the flavours. What a treat!
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If you cannot find papelon in your local market, you may use brown sugarcane or dark caster sugar from beets as substitutes.