19 November 2014

How to roast kabocha squash (and its seeds!)

How to roast kabocha squash (and its seeds!)

Our CSA is starting to wind down, but in the meantime, it's been showering us with winter squash. We have received no less than four kabocha and six delicata squashes over the past two months. That's...kind of a lot of squash for two people to eat, especially when you consider the rest of the CSA veg supply.

Clearly, the solution is storage.

In traditional winter squash storage, you put your squash in a place where the temperature hovers around 50-55F, such as a garage or basement. Your squash should be dry, free from any punctures, and have short stems still attached. Then all you need to do is leave them there until you want to use them. Squashes will generally stay good for at least two months when stored this way.

Of course, there are a couple problems with this system. First, it assumes that you have an appropriate 50F space in which to keep your squash. Here in California, that can get iffy, and if you happen to live in an apartment, it's going to be nearly impossible. Second, you still have to process an entire squash any time you want to eat one.

So I decided I was going to get ahead of the game by roasting a couple of my squash and freezing the cooked flesh. I picked out a green and an orange kabocha, and I got to work.

This method should work for most large thick-skinned winter squash.

How to roast kabocha squash (and its seeds!)

Roasted kabocha squash

Begin by preheating your oven to 400F.

Halve your kabocha squash carefully with a sharp butcher knife or chef's knife, working your way around from one side to the other. Scoop out the seeds and fibrous bits and reserve them for roasting separately.

Rub the flesh of your squash pieces with a little grapeseed oil, plain vegetable oil, or butter. Season with a sprinkle of salt.

Put the squash halves, flesh side up, on a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat. Bake for approximately 40-50 minutes, or until the flesh is soft all the way through when tested with a knife. Rotate the pan halfway through cooking.

When your squash is done, remove it from the oven. If you like, you can eat it now, right out of the shell, with some more butter and a little sprinkle of pepper and salt. Otherwise, let your squash halves cool enough to handle, and scoop the flesh out of the skins. Scrape with a spoon to get as much as you can. The skin will be fairly delicate by this point, but it's edible, so you don't have to worry too much about the occasional shred of skin in your squash flesh.

Now you can use your squash however you please. Mash it well with plenty of traditional mashed potato fixings! Make it into a not-actually-pumpkin pie, and another, and another! Try out a lovely squash soup! If you're feeling especially adventurous, try out a squash cocktail! Or just cool it and pack it into containers to freeze for later squash purposes!

You know which option I chose: eight cups of kabocha squash, safely packed away for future squashy endeavours. It's so satisfying to have a bunch of these in the freezer, just waiting for me to pop them open and create something delicious.

While my squash was in the oven, I started on the seeds. Bonus: these can absolutely roast at the same time as the flesh.

How to roast kabocha squash (and its seeds!)

Roasted kabocha squash seeds

Wash your seeds well in a few changes of water, swishing to remove as much fibrous matter as possible. A little clinging shred here and there should be fine. Press your seeds in a clean tea towel to remove most of the moisture. You should have approximately 1 cup of seeds per squash; I had two squashes, so I was working with two cups of seeds (and two colors besides!).

Put your seeds in a large bowl. Toss with 1 1/2 teaspoons of grapeseed oil (or the oil of your choice) and approximately 3/4 to 1 teaspoon of salt per cup of seeds. Since I was working with 2 cups of seeds, I used 1 tbsp of oil and 2 tsp salt.

If you want to season your kabocha seeds more, now is the time to do it. I just went for the basic salt, so my finished seeds would be more versatile.

Spread your seeds in one layer on a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat. Bake at 400F, stirring every 5 minutes, until all your seeds have turned a pale golden brown and begun to snap and crack in the heat. My seeds took approximately 20 minutes to roast.

The finished seeds will be nutty, salty, and crunchy. Since they aren't husked, they will require a bit of chewing, but the effort is worth it in the end. Eat with a tall glass of frosty apple cider or beer, toss a handful into a batch of caramel corn, use a few to garnish soup, or serve a little bowl alongside a platter of cheese and olives.

Store the leftovers, cooled completely, in a sealed container in the kitchen cupboard.

Do you have a glut of CSA vegetables (or garden vegetables, or really any vegetables) to use up? What are you planning to do with them?

13 November 2014

Capellini with kale, artichoke hearts, and red pepper

Sometimes you just want a giant plate of pasta and vegetables.

This time, I happened to have a package of capellini in the cupboard. Why not make a pasta dish comprised of long, thin vegetables to match the long, thin pasta?

To pack this with lots of serious flavor, I went for some serious vegetables: garlic, green beans, artichoke hearts, kale, and red bell pepper. Together, they mixed together into a lovely, intense dish that only took about ten minutes from beginning to end. Perfect.

This pasta is conveniently vegan. However, it is not filled with protein by any means. I would certainly have tossed in a can of chickpeas had there been any on hand, and I suggest you do the same. A salad of white beans and herbs tossed with a nice vinegary vinaigrette would be a excellent supplement as well.

Capellini with kale, artichoke hearts, and red pepper
Serves 1.

2-3 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic
handful of green beans
6-8 artichoke heart quarters
1/2 bunch kale
1/2 red bell pepper
salt, pepper, basil, oregano
capellini or other long pasta of your choice

Put a pot of salted pasta water on to boil before starting anything else. That way, it'll be ready to go when it's time to drop your pasta.

Warm your olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.

Smash your garlic cloves with the flat of a knife, peel, and slice. Add your garlic to the oil and cook, stirring occasionally, until they just start to turn a light golden color. Season with salt, basil, and oregano to taste. You can also add some red pepper flake if you want spice.

Wash your beans and slice them at an angle to produce long, narrow pieces. If your artichoke hearts are whole, quarter them. Wash your kale, destem, and shred finely. Core your red pepper and slice it into long, thin strips.

Add your beans to the pan and let them cook for a few minutes before adding the artichoke hearts. Give it another few minutes before you add the kale, and another before you add the red pepper.

Capellini cook in about three minutes, so you'll want to start cooking them at the same time as you add the red pepper. Put them in the water and simmer until done, stirring once or twice to guard against sticking.

When your pasta is done, drain it and add it to the fully cooked vegetables along with a tiny splash of the cooking water. Toss together and let stand over low heat while you wash the pasta pot.

Season the finished dish with some pepper and a little more olive oil. Toss again to distribute. Eat.

If you want a garnish, fresh parsley or grated pecorino would be excellent. I just had some more black pepper.

This was such a good lunch for a grey day.

What are you tossing into your pastas of late?

10 November 2014

The Derby cocktail

The Derby cocktail

It's actually been starting to get grey and rainy on occasion here in otherwise super-sunny California. So, in honor of fall, let's put down the gin and start thinking about bourbon cocktails.

This drink is simple and nicely balanced, with echoes of the classic bourbon sour, and is a good use for that bottle of sweet vermouth that otherwise only gets broken out for Negronis. A great way to mark the seasonal transition.

And as an added bonus, I got a full ounce of juice out of one single, solitary lime. Yes! Leftover lime juice! This never happens. I'm going to credit leaving the lime on the windowsill to warm up for a day before making the cocktail, and also rolling it on the counter before juicing, to break the membranes inside. Yay!

The Derby cocktail

The Derby cocktail

1 oz bourbon
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz sweet vermouth
1/2 oz Cointreau or other orange liqueur

Shake all ingredients well in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Strain into a lovely glass.

I think a lime twist would be a nice garnish. I myself had no garnish. It was still delicious.

What seasonal cocktails are striking your fancy lately?