Monday, February 21, 2011

Roasted Kabocha Rolls with Teriyaki

I know, I know - what is it with these oddball vegetable recipes being posted lately? Celery root, kabo-what? This is a venture, people. You will see things that are hard to pronounce. The need to cook kabocha arose from sheer curiousity. I had heard of kabocha squash. I had seen it. I knew it was Japanese. That was the extent of my familiarity with kabocha. I had never tasted it (or so I thought), but it comes up from time to time in publications that highlight seasonal cooking and other cooking magazine articles featuring another funny named, mysterious produce stranger. Strolling through the food store, kabocha caught my eye. It was time to see for myself. Of course when it came time to slice it open, I couldn't find much inspiration from the kabocha void online. Many recipes called for butternut or kabocha, but very few that made kabocha seem like it contributes something does it taste the same as every other orange globe? I started to get the feeling that the void was simply because this tastes exactly like your average winter squarsh.

Wrong! Well ok, it has to taste similar otherwise it couldn't be a winter squash. Though I "thought" I had never tasted it,  I hadn't realized in what context I had met kabocha prior to this discovery. Have you ever ordered tempura at a Janapese eatery, taken a huge bite of the orange half-moon shaped piece and thought, "hmmmm, kinda tastes familiar but I'm not sure what it is?" - It's kabocha. A lovely, lovely winter squash that is sweet, silky, starchy and full of indulgence. How has it taken me so long to suck it up and buy one? The name alone is enticing, and now that I'm familiar with the taste, I'm hooked. As I mentioned earlier, there was a shortage of recipes available that could give me some direction as to how to incorporate kabocha into a meal, so I went with the classic roasting approach. This is how I test almost all new foods because there is something about a hot air bath at 450F that brings out the true character of any food.

How I came up with rolling these in chard is a long, internal and not entirely logical thought process. Without elaborating on the actual idea, these were spectacular. Because picking at food before a meal is done runs in my blood, I of course tasted the squash right right out of the oven. I had to physically recover from the sheer pleasure of kabocha mouth - sounds like a contagious disease, but I promise it's nothing of the sort. Though this will be contagious. Wrapped in chard,  the edgy green onions and burst of cilantro gave it added punch and good contrast. The avocado was just a "duh" kind of ingredient. Can't explain it.

Roasted Kabocha Rolls with Teriyaki
Makes 4-5 servings

Prep time: 45 minutes


For the squash
1 small kabocha squash (about 1.5 lbs) seeded, cut into wedges and peeled
1 T. olive oil
pinch of salt

For the teriyaki
1/2 c. soy sauce or tamari
1/4 c. water
4 T. fresh ginger, minced and divided
3 T. vegan or raw sugar
1 T. arrowroot powder or corn starch

For the rolls
1 bunch swiss chard, stems removed with whole leaves in tact
1-2 avocado, diced
4-6 green onions, thinly slice
1/2 c. fresh cilantro, chopped


Preheat oven to 450F.

Brush olive oil onto each slice of squash, sprinkle with salt and lay onto a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Bake in oven for 15 minutes. Flip pieces over and roast an additional 15 minutes or until squash is brown and tender. Remove and set aside.

Meanwhile, prepare the teriyaki sauce. Combine soy sauce/tamari, water, 3 tablespoons of ginger and sugar in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil and cook 5-7 minute or until reduce by 1/3 to 1/2. Mix arrowroot or cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water and mix into sauce. Heat until desired thickness is reached (be careful with arrowroot as it overcooks very easily and will become gloppy if it cooks too long). Remove from heat and set aside.

To assemble, line of leaves so that the seams where the stem was removed now overlap. Place 2 slices of squash in the center, top with a tablespoon of avocado, a pinch of green onions and another pinch of cilantro. Drizzle the filling with as much teriyaki as desired. Starting from one end of the leaf, roll edge over filling and continue to roll until opposite end is reached.

If you're not a pro at rolling chard leaves, it might look sloppy but it will taste lovely!

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