acorn squash

My default winter squash is either kabocha or butternut. I rarely buy acorn but they were so fresh when I spotted them last week at the Alemany Farmers Market that I couldn’t resist. Plus it was a bargain: organically grown and it cost me less than a couple of bucks!

basmati and wild rice stuffed acorn squash

basmati and wild rice stuffed acorn squash

I borrowed the idea of baking and stuffing it with rice from Martha, though stuffed acorn squash is really a classic. You can check out her recipe here.

Because acorn squash is already a bit sweet I altered the way I made the rice stuffing so it would be more on the savory side with a bit of heat. For that I used sundried tomatoes, black pepper and cumin.

basmati and wild rice stuffed acorn squash

1 medium sized skin on acorn squash, halved and cleaned
½ cup wild rice, rinsed
1 cup basmati rice, rinsed
1 tsp tellicherry peppercorns
½ tsp cumin seeds
3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
¼ cup chopped white onion
3 tbsp chopped sundried tomatoes packed in oil, drained
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt to taste
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Set oven temperature to 350F.

Sprinkle some salt over inner part of acorn squash halves. Rub one tablespoon olive oil over skin and flesh. Place acorn squash in a shallow baking tray flesh side down. Wrap aluminum foil around it and bake for about one hour. Test for doneness via piercing the skin with a fork. It should slide in easily otherwise bake it for a little longer.

Place wild rice in a pressure cooker, add 2 cups of water and a sprinkle of salt, cover the pan and cook on high temperature until it starts whistling. Once it does, turn temperature down to medium and cook for 10-12 minutes. Remove from heat and let the pan rest until pressure is gone. Drain rice if any water remains in the pan. Alternatively you can just cook it on the stove top. That will take about an hour or so. Watch while it cooks because water evaporates very fast.

In large sauce pan add two tablespoons of olive oil followed by chopped onion and cook until translucent. Add cumin, garlic, bay leaf and peppercorns. Stir around for a minute, just long enough for the garlic to cook and the spices to release their flavors. Add basmati rice, salt, and 1¾ cups water. Toss to combine. Bring temperature to high, and when rice starts to boil, reduce temperature to low and cook covered for about 15-20 minutes until water has been absorbed. Add cooked wild rice, sundried tomato and finish it with a tablespoon of olive oil. Cover and let it rest for another 5-10 minutes for flavors to marry.

Remove squash halves from the oven. Slice off a bit of the bottom of each half so they lay flat on a plate. Sprinkle the inside of each acorn half with a bit of salt and pepper. Fill each with the rice mix and serve decorated with some rosemary.


ramen noodle soup with shiitake in shiro miso broth

ramen noodle soup with shiitake in shiro miso broth

A couple of weeks ago my friend Eric invited me to have lunch with him at a new ramen noodle soup food stall at the Ferry Building in San Francisco. He said that the chef used to work at the restaurant, Nopa, which I had tried and enjoyed a while ago. I don’t remember seeing soup on the menu at Nopa. I wonder why not, as the ramen noodle soup is particularly delicious. I’ve seen it open on Tuesdays for sure and I think the soup shop is there on Thursdays as well. He only serves ramen soups with miso broth for vegetarians, or miso and meat stock for the rest. Perfect!

Obviously, I ordered the one with miso broth.

The soup comes hot, with beautiful fresh and freshly cooked ramen noodles. Swimming among the noodles were shiitake mushrooms, sprouts, wilted collard greens, a boiled egg that was partially cooked and a nori sheet folded into a 3×3 inch square that was half submerged in the soup. Very beautiful presentation! They use disposable biodegradable plastic containers, which I also liked. On the side the chef offers chili oil, chile flakes, shoyu and toasted sesame oil. I used all of them to spice it up some.

I’ve been thinking about this soup since. Fantasizing, really. That soup was divine! I couldn’t let it go, so I decided to make my own version at home. It, too, was amazing. There’s something incredible about the combination of miso, mushroom and nori: sort of earthy and oceanic all at once.

Steven thinks that this would be a great meal for the day after Thanksgiving. It is light for starters. Also, it has a different flavor profile from traditional T-day foods, though it is still “comfort food.” This is especially good for cold weather.

fresh and rehydrated shiitake and rehydrated tremella mushrooms

fresh and rehydrated shiitake and rehydrated tremella mushrooms

ramen noodle soup with shiitake in shiro miso broth

2 stalks celery
1 carrot
1 onion
1 pot of water (about 1 gallon)
2 dry shiitake mushrooms, stems removed
6 fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed
1 dry tremella mushroom
1lb daikon, cut into 1½ inch rounds
Leaves and stalks from daikon, roughly chopped
4 mustard green leaves, roughly chopped
4 toasted nori sheets
1 lb soft tofu
8-10 tbsp shiro miso (white miso paste)
shoyu/soy sauce
1 scallion, chopped
wedges of roasted acorn squash baked in the oven 20 min with a sprinkle of salt, pepper and a bit of brown sugar as garnish (optional)
300 gr fresh ramen noodles (~11 oz)
2-4 tbsp toasted sesame oil
shichimi togarashi (Japanese chili pepper mix)

Bring a large pot filled with the water, celery, carrot and onion to a boil then simmer for about 15 minutes to create stock. Discard celery, carrot and onion.

Place dry shiitake and tremella (tremella look like dried coral) mushrooms in two separate bowls. Remove tofu from package, rinse then sprinkle with a bit of salt and put it in a third bowl. Add a cup of the hot stock to each of them and soak for about 20 minutes. Drain mushrooms. Cut shiitake into quarters. Do the same with tremella mushroom using a pair of scissors.

Add chopped daikon root to stock pot and bring to a boil. Cook until al dente, for about 12 minutes. Add mushrooms, mustard greens and daikon leaves/stalks in the last couple of minutes. Turn temperature down to simmer.

Transfer about 2 cups of hot broth to a bowl. Add miso and whisk until dissolved. Return to the pot. Add fresh ramen noodles, sesame oil, and shoyu. Taste and adjust flavors with more shoyu and miso. (If you need more miso make sure you dissolve it in a bowl before adding to the soup.) Break apart tofu and add to soup, simmer for a couple more minutes just to warm it through.

To serve, fill each bowl with an assortment of the vegetables and tofu then add broth. Add nori (mine is buried in there for extra marine flavor). Top with a wedge of acorn squash. Sprinkle with chopped scallion. To adjust flavors at the table, have shichimi togarashi, toasted sesame oil, shoyu on hand.

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