Like most vegetables, winter squash is lovely roasted with a bit of olive oil and salt. A winter squash dish has been on my list for some time now because we grew a large crop this year and, until today, hadn’t used a single one. We didn’t mean to grow so much. We planted all of our starts back in March or so. On the squash front, I wanted a large variety, so we planted delicata, patty pan, kabocha, butternut, summer squash, and zucchini. (A hint, for those of you who are chomping at the bit each spring to start your garden: Wait until you’re fairly close to planting time to start your seedlings. If you’r too anxious, like us, you’ll find yourself transplanting them half-a-dozen times, pilfering two-liter soda bottles out of recycling bins and setting up makeshift greenhouses in your yard with plastic shower curtains).
In any case, we started early, and once we had several trays of cups, each filled with soil and the possibility of life, Ryan carted them off to school to place under the science teacher’s florescent grow lights. Somehow, all of our carefully labeled cups got jumbled up, and we couldn’t tell what was what, other than that a large majority were in the squash family. Mysteriously, we never did get any delicata or patty pans, yet I ended up with a bounty of acorn squash, which I swear I never planted at all. Hmmm.
In any case, the kabocha squash did fabulously. These Japanese green globes are huge, like pumpkins, with super-hard shells. Their insides are tender and extra sweet, or so I have always been promised by the recipe books I check out from the library in droves. So this morning when I decided that today was the day to cook my first kabocha, it was with excited anticipation that I headed down the basement stairs and picked a lovely, round, medium-sized prize from the stack of squashes stored away down there.
I headed upstairs, got out my butcher knife, and preheated the oven. Well, I could have waited on the preheating for a long time. This thing was like a rock.
About an hour later, I had finally reduced it to a pile of bite-size cubes, and, although it was as delicious as promised, I don’t think I’ll be roasting another one of these unless I acquire a chainsaw. I’m not sure what to do with the rest of the pile downstairs, so any suggestions would be appreciated. When I first invented this recipe, I made it with butternut squash, and I have to say that I don’t think there’s a major taste difference. So, if you want to know what it feels like to hack a bowling ball to pieces, I would recommend the kabocha; otherwise, I’d go for a butternut.
But whatever you do, please try this recipe, and do it soon, while fall is still in the air. The combination of flavors is miraculous. The dressing is sweet and tangy, with the nutty crunch of roasted walnuts. The caramelized onions and squash are tender with a touch of crispness. And the colors–purple, cranberry, and dark green against vibrant orange–make this a delight for the eyes, too.
Speed it Up: You a can make all or some of the ingredients ahead of time. However, I think it’s best served warm, so I would store the ingredients separately, heat some or all of them up, and then combine just before serving, adding the dressing last.
Meat Option: Ryan likes this served with diced, cooked bacon. You could also serve this as a side dish with pork chops.
Special Diets and Allergies: Vegan (if you use agave or maple syrup instead of the honey); vegetarian; dairy free; wheat free
Winter Squash with Rice & Caramelized Onions
Serves 6 to 8
I love the smell of roasting squash in the fall. Here, I combined little toasty squash squares with caramelized onions, sweet dried cranberries, a nutty lemony dressing and tender greens. You can serve this as a main dish with a green salad or a side, which would go equally well with pork chops or a baked tofu recipe. I think it would also be nice with soup and a crisp romaine salad.
2 C short-grain brown rice
4 medium cloves garlic, pressed
1 t salt
2 t olive oil
4 C water
1 large butternut squash, sugar pumpkin, or small kabocha squash peeled, seeded and chopped into 1″ squares (5-7 C)
2 T olive oil
1/2 t salt
1/2 t dried sage (opt.)
2 C kale or chard, washed, stems removed, and chopped
1-2 large onions, sliced (red or yellow will work)
1/2 C dried cranberries
1/2 C chopped, toasted walnuts
2/3 C olive oil
2/3 C toasted walnuts
3 1/2 T lemon juice
2 T honey (maple syrup or agave for vegans)
Dash salt, to taste
- Preheat oven to 400F.
- Place the rice, garlic, 1 t salt, and 2 t of olive oil in a saucepan. Cook on medium-high, stirring, for two minutes, or until the garlic begins to give off its aroma. Add the water, cover, and raise heat to high. Bring to boil, then lower the heat to low, and simmer for about 40 minutes, or until he water is completely absorbed.
- While the rice is cooking, toss the squash with 2 T olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and sage. Toss to coat.
- Spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet (or two, if they don’t fit in a single layer on one) and roast, stirring once, for 15-20 minutes, or until soft and browned on the sides.
- Remove from oven.
- While the squash is cooking, get the other salad ingredients ready:
- Heat 2 T of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced onions and cook, stirring once in awhile, until the onions are browned, about 15 minutes. Add the kale or chard and 1/2 t salt and stir until the greens are wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Now make the dressing: puree all of the ingredients in a food processor or blender.
- Assemble the salad: Spoon the rice into a large bowl. Mix in the greens and onions, tumble the squash on top, and then sprinkle with dried cranberries and chopped walnuts.
- To serve, ladle a generous portion onto each dish, then drizzle with the dressing. You can also toss the entire salad with the dressing for potluck-style serving.
Please do leave suggestions on what to do with the rest of this kabocha in my basement! I have some ideas, but am curious to hear yours.