19 November 2014
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.
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.
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?