Sometimes, I crave something so often, it might seem repetitive to anyone watching. I’ll think, “hmm, I don’t have a recipe test to work on tonight, so I can make whatever I want.” And as if I pushed play on a paused song, I go right back to where I left off with the obsessively desired food.
So, lately, it’s braised kabocha. That’s not new, I put a braised squash, garlic and hazelnut tart in my book, The New Vegetarian, back in ’07. In fact, I put that recipe on a menu recently, and was reminded just how much I love the way it works.
First, a saute of shallots, to get a little caramelization started, then the peeled hunks of squash go in, to seal their edges a bit, then herbs, garlic and wine. Putting a lid on seals in the flavorful steam of the wine, braising the squash just to tenderness while reducing the wine to just coat the squash.
This time out, I thought it would be fun to play with some browned cabbage as part of the mix, and use apple juice and vinegar to create a sweet and sour braise.
I think you’ll like it. It’s a punchy, palate-clearing side for any winter meal, and would break the monotony at a spread of rich holiday favorites. The hunks of squash melt in your mouth, and crunchy pumpkinseeds add textural contrast. That fact that you can do it ahead, carry it easily, and it can be served warm or at room temperature is also a plus.
It’s really easy to peel and chop the squash, despite what you may think. I used this showy member of the kabocha family, the red kuri.
Don’t bother with a peeler, or even a paring knife. Just halve the beast, scoop out the seeds, and then cut in inch wide wedges. Lay each flat on the board and use your chefs knife to slice straight down, removing the skin in inch or two inch long sections. Then slice the peeled pieces in bite sized chunks.
For the four cups of chunks, I started with a 2 1/2 pound squash and used half of it for this. (you may remember that I am obsessed, so having four more cups to use later is a GOOD THING.)
So give this a whirl at your next meal, it will be a nice break from peas and carrots.
Sweet and Sour Braised Squash and Cabbage with Pumpkinseeds
You can prep this one ahead. The squash can be peeled and cubed and kept in an air-tight container until time to cook. Or, the whole dish can be made ahead, just wait to add the toasted pepitas at serving time.
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped shallot
2 cups chopped cabbage
4 cups cubed squash
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 cup apple juice
1 tablespoon honey or brown sugar
2 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup pepitas, toasted
freshly cracked black pepper
In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil and saute the shallots. Add the cabbage and saute over medium heat until slightly browned.
Add the squash and stir for five minutes.
Add the garlic and thyme and stir until fragrant, about a minute. Add the apple juice, sugar or honey, and vinegar, and cover.
Steam for 5-8 minutes, until the squash is tender when pierced with a paring knife. Stir in salt.
Serve topped with toasted pepitas and black pepper.