Refuge

Saturday, 17, November New Ingredient: Kabocha Squash

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I am engaged this afternoon in the first stages of trying out this muffin recipe.

I’ve been trying to make healthy/”home-cooked” food a more entrenched part of my routines for most of this past year – not intentionally at all – what I originally intended was to try and spend less money eating out, waste less food, and try to take lunch to work more often rather than buy it.

Looking back, I am realizing that any dish that takes more than 45 mins to prepare doesn’t get cooked – at least not on week nights*. And lots of necessary tasks compete for weekend time, so I can only attempt “big project” recipes occasionally.

This particular recipe definitely qualifies as a “big project” (I estimate total time with my particular equipment (prep, cooking, clean up) at about 3.5 hours) but I hope that it will prove feasible to provide the other half of my weekday breakfasts. (Right now, I boil up a batch of eggs & one egg is one half of one day’s breakfast.)

After time spent, the other hurdle to cooking for me right now is unfamiliarity with many seasonal foods out here on the East Coast. Any ingredient that one doesn’t know how to treat adds time to the cooking process.  I’m thinking I might find it helpful to blog some of my encounters with new ingredients, so I’ll have some information on when things come back into season. So this here is a “blogging for myself” moment.

For this particular recipe, the new-to-me ingredient is kabocha squash. I am substituting a number of ingredients in the recipe already (no canola oil, whole wheat flour, buttermilk or blackstrap molasses here), so I thought I’d stick with the squash indicated.

Here is my kabocha, which I had not heard of, prior to reading today’s recipe.

Here he is.

Apparently it’s an Asian winter squash.

I’m not friendly to squash as a family; I find the easier-to-prepare varieties bland or otherwise distasteful (thinking acorn & spaghetti squash) and the difficult-to-prepare varieties too far up the prep-time curve to use frequently. Last Thanksgiving, I had my first experience with butternut squash. Very tasty, but prepping the 3.5 lbs I was working with took a miserable 2.5 hours.

The kabocha was only slightly easier to cut up than butternut squash (a mark against it.)

Its flesh and seeds resemble pumpkin and the pulp was similarly stringy when cleaning out the seeds. However, it smells very much like cucumber when cut into. (A point in its favor; I don’t much like the smell of pumpkin or butternut squash when first cut up.)

There’s not a lot of flesh relative to the size of the squash. It roasted easily in about 40 minutes, though.

It has a nice flavor when roasted, mild and a little sweet, reminding me of sweet potato. It was also very easy to puree using my pesto-making mortar & pestle set.

About 15 mins work (I didn’t puree it super-finely) yielded about 2 cups nice puree (twice as much per 2 lb squash as predicted in the recipe.)

I would likely be willing to occasionally take a weekend day to roast & puree this squash if I like the muffins, since the yield was enough for more than one batch. I froze the second cup of puree to use later.

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*The 9-5 (or later if it’s busy) schedule does not allow for humane living. Neither does the complete inflexibility related to scheduling of my (Catholic) employer nor their stinginess with “vacation” time.

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