squash

Kabocha is one of my favorite types of pumpkin. It has a nutty, sweet flavor with an intense, beautiful yellow color. It is perfect served as a side dish. The classic Brazilian way to prepare it is one of the simplest: sautéed with garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper, and a bit of water, until tender. We enjoy kabocha that way at home very often. I’ve made it in risotto, too, which is another fabulous savory pumpkin dish.

kabocha pumpkin gnocchi with walnut pesto with a side of mache salad

kabocha pumpkin gnocchi with walnut pesto with a side of mache salad

Americans don’t seem to be very in-the-know about kabocha. I wonder if that’s because the exterior is so gnarled and dark green to brown? It is a bit ugly, really. Kabocha isn’t anything like those cheery but flavorless orange monsters that make wonderful jack-o-lanterns but nothing else. Acorn and butternut squash are the cooking favorites here as far as I can tell, and I’ve no complaints about them, but to me, kabocha remains the unsung queen of the pumpkin patch.

vibrant orange interior of kabocha pumpkin

vibrant orange interior of kabocha pumpkin

I saw a gorgeous recipe for pumpkin gnocchi in this book, The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen by Donna Klein. Normally, I like gnocchi with loads of cheese, but this recipe challenged all that with its no-animal-products stance. A complete vegan dish, how exciting… It turned out really good, despite being healthy. And since it was a bit messy to make, we had a lot of fun both in the kitchen and at table.

kabocha pumpkin gnocchi with walnut pesto

For the gnocchi:

4 small russet potatoes, ~ 1¼ lbs, peeled and halved
1 lb kabocha pumpkin, seeds and stringy parts removed; cut into wedges
1 tbsp olive oil
Pinch nutmeg
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2+ cups of flour

For the walnut pesto:

¾ cup walnuts
1½ cups Italian parsley
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp sundried tomato packed in oil, drained
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt to taste

steaming kabocha and potatoes

steaming kabocha and potatoes

Steam potato and kabocha until fully cooked and tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a colander and let them cool down slightly.

Meanwhile place pesto ingredients in the food processor and whiz until turned into a smooth thick paste. Transfer to a small bowl and drizzle with a little olive oil. Set aside.

Pre heat oven to 350F.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boil. Add a teaspoon of olive oil.

Remove kabocha rinds and discard. Place steamed pumpkin and potatoes in a large bowl. Add olive oil, nutmeg, salt then mash with a fork until relatively smooth and combined. Add flour and mix to incorporate. Place dough on a floured surface and knead it for about 4 minutes. Add more flour if too sticky.

Shape the dough into a rectangle. Using a knife, cut it into 6 segments. Cut each segment in half. With floured hands and surfaces, roll each piece into about a ¾ inch-thick tube. Cut each tube in ½ inch wide pillows. Using your thumb and the tines of a fork, gently press each little pillow to flatten them a bit while at the same time making indentations in one side.

shaping the gnocchi

shaping the gnocchi

Cook in batches to prevent sticking. To cook, add a batch of fresh gnocchi to the boiling water. Wait for them to rise to the surface. Turn temperature to medium and cook for 4-5 minutes. Don’t be tempted to remove the gnocchi earlier, it will taste bad! Using a slotted spoon, transfer gnocchi to a colander. Let drain for a minute or so. Meanwhile, bring water back to a full boil and repeat process with remaining batches. Reserve 2+ cups of cooking water.

Add one tablespoon olive oil to a large glass baking dish. Spread gnocchi in a single layer in the dish (use a second baking dish if needed). Add enough reserved water to walnut pesto to thin it into a somewhat runny sauce. Pour over gnocchi and bake for about 12 minutes to warm through.

We served this with a simple mache salad in vinaigrette. It was a feast! And it is so healthy that you won’t feel a bit of remorse having two slices of cheesecake.

Cheesecake challenge: The glamorous Heavenly from donuts to delirium and we at weirdcombos want to invite any interested food blogging folk to join us in a cheesecake cooking challenge. All you have to do is contact us for the basic recipe, come up with a creative version of your own, and publish it with links to all the other participants for the challenge on Monday August 8, 2011. This was incredibly fun when we did the chocolate truffle challenge in May and the tagliatelle challenge in March. So get your thinking caps on and your sweet… teeth(?) ready for some delicious fun in August!

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doce de abóbora em pedaços

by Stevie on April 2, 2010

doce de abóbora em pedaços

Doce de abóbora em pedaços or “sweet pumpkin in pieces” is a common roadside snack that you might see while travelling in São Paulo state on the way to Minas Gerais in Brazil. There’s another version that uses green papaya instead of pumpkin. The secret ingredient is this chemical called cal virgem. We bought some of this whitish powder, anxious that the border patrol would find it in our luggage and think that we were importing cocaine or something naughty. Nobody in Brazil seemed to know exactly what “cal virgem” really is. Thank god for the Internet! Turns out that it’s just calcium oxide, also known as lime: so not nearly as nefarious as we had feared.

What makes this sweet interesting is the firm almost crunchy exterior with the soft creamy interior. It takes a while but it’s actually easy to make so long as you have the cal virgem. I ended up with quite a lot of the stuff so we’re still snacking on it after more than a week. I think that if you have attractive jars, that this would make a lovely gift.

key ingredients for doce de abóbora em pedaços

Doce de Abóbora em Pedaços

1 lbs. winter squash (I used butternut)
1 tbsp. cal virgem
4 cups sugar
2 liters and 2 cups water
12 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick

Peel squash. Remove seeds, inner stringy parts and woody parts. Cut into 1 inch cubes. Mix cal virgem in 2 liters water. Add squash and allow to sit for two hours.

Drain water and thoroughly rinse squash. Using a fork, poke each piece of squash once to allow liquid to enter.

In a large pot, add sugar, 2 cups water, cloves and cinnamon. Cook on high until sugar melts into liquid. Add squash, bring to a boil then simmer until ready, about 20 to 30 minutes. Refrain from stirring the squash to prevent damaging it. It’s ready when a fork passes through easily.

Let cool and enjoy. This makes a great dessert, snack or breakfast food.

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nameless winter squash

nameless winter squash

The other day at the Alemany farmers’ market I found a type of winter squash that was similar to one squash my mom used to cook when I was growing up in Brazil. I decided to buy it to give it a try. This looks a bit like acorn squash but I was not able to get the correct name at the market. The sign just said “squash/pumpkin.” Pretty general. In my home State of Minas Gerais, they call this type mogango. Typically it’s eaten young as opposed to here in the US where I think folks eat it mature or perhaps only use it for decoration. In either hemisphere, the first mogangos come out in early spring. That would be mid September to early October in Brazil. Since I got this one just the other day and we’re in the Northern Hemisphere, I have to think people like it aged.

This squash is smooth with little even grooves that give it a pleasing shape. The skin has a dark green color with specks of white and light green. The flesh has a beautiful sort of pale chartreuse color. Depending on how young the squash is you can cook it with the skin on. Otherwise you need to peel it because it gets a bit too tough. I cooked mine with the skin on, hopeful that it would be tender. It wasn’t. I ended up peeling it off at the table. This squash has a similar flavor to the Brazilian variety: light, a little creamy and with a hint of nuttiness. I like them a bit more youthful so I’ll look for it again this spring.

The way my mom prepared this squash was very simple and you can use it as a side dish. We ate ours with rice and beans. It was divine!

nameless winter squash sauté with skins on

nameless winter squash sauté with skins on

Nameless Winter Squash

1 mogango squash, peeled (or not if young) cut into 2×1 inch rectangles
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
3 chopped scallions (including green parts)
1 red jalapeño pepper, remove most of seeds and ribs– leave some for a little kick
3 tbsp olive oil
Salt
Pepper
~1/2 cup water
Fresh lime juice for sprinkling at the table

How to:
Using a deep pan, heat olive oil for about a minute. Add garlic and shallot and sauté for a minute or so. Add squash, jalapeño pepper. Sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add water. Cover and cook on high heat for about 15 minutes, stirring it few times. Add scallions, salt and pepper. Transfer to a platter and serve!

my, what a big squash you have there!

my, what a big squash you have there!

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Don’t use your Halloween squash for decorations only: eat them!

don't be afraid of your butternut squash

don't be afraid of your butternut squash

Last week our Trader Joe’s store was selling butternut squash straight from Stockton, California for only $1.49 each. So cheap, yahoo! I bought 2 of them. Steven immediately asked, “why so many?” with obvious anxiety. He’s funny about squash. “To eat, of course.” I was thinking of getting even more but decided to settle for just two after that little exchange. I have always adored squash of all types. It’s a good thing too, as I grew up eating them all the time. Among the many kinds, butternut and kabocha are my favorite.

This recipe is an adaptation of my mother’s Quibebe, a pumpkin stew, except that here I have added raw cashew nut for a bit of crunch, tempeh for extra protein and jalapeño peppers for extra kick. It turned out very tasty.

Our friend John came over for dinner to catch up and hear about our recent trip to the DC area on that day. He approved of this dish. I even got an email from him later on with this cute message:

Hello,
The dinner was the best I’ve had in ages! Everything was tre fab!
Love,
Juanita Granola

creepy and festive Halloween pumpkin stew

creepy and festive Halloween pumpkin stew

Thanks for your encouragement, Juanita! Here’s one of the recipes from our “granola” dinner party:

Butternut Squash, Cashew Nut and Tempeh Stew AKA Quibebe

1 medium butternut squash peeled, seeds and guts removed, cut into small cubes
2 chopped jalapeño peppers (green and red) seeds and ribs removed, or not for extra heat
4 minced cloves of garlic
3 tbsp olive oil
1/4 lb (8oz) multigrain tempeh cut in ¾ inch cubes
½ tsp sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup raw cashew nuts
Approx ¾ cup of water

How to:

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a deep pan. Add jalapeño pepper and garlic and sauté for about 1 minute or so. Add squash cubes, salt, pepper, sugar. Give it a good stir. Add 1/2 cup water then cover pan. Cook on high temperature for about 4 minutes. Add tempeh and cashew nuts. Continue cooking till squash cubes have been dissolved. Adjust seasoning. Remove from heat. Let it cool down approx. 5-10 minutes. Serve over rice: brown for that extra-granola factor, or black Thai rice, like we did, for the holiday color.

Happy Halloween!

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