Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Squash ala Tokyo Farms

It seems every vegetable stand in our neighborhood and beyond is near to bursting with kaboucha, a.k.a. Japanese pumpkin. A nice little round green winter squash, kaboucha flesh is deep orange with a rich flavor comparable to buttercup. It is utterly delectable as tempura, in houtou udon, and just about any other dish one could imagine.

While visiting the Weymiller's during our trip to Hokkaido we happened to be discussing vegetables, food, and gardening one evening. (Shocking, I know.) Toby mentioned a tiny restaurant in Niseko Station in Sapporo that served a fantastic squash salad. Describing it as similar to potato salad with a creamy sauce and only a few other ingredients, I was intrigued. Why not? It made perfect sense.

Presented with the abundance of kaboucha (along with onions galore!) these days and the overwhelming heat, it seemed logical to devise a salad.

Niseko Station Inspired Squash Salad
1 kaboucha, cut into bite size pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic
2 small onions, chopped
2 tablespoons dashi or soy sauce
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
A dash of hot sauce or a whole chilli (if you dare!)
1-2 cups black beans

Wash and cut the kaboucha in half and remove the innards and seeds. Cut into bite size pieces and steam until they cut easily with a knife. (We aim for something only a tiny bit al dente so it's not too squishy, although it's still quite tasty.) Drain and plop in a bowl. Press in the garlic, and throw in the remaining ingredients. Give it a good stir and sample. I tend to add more garlic or chilli or both, depending on the day. Serve immediately or chill in the fridge until it's time to eat.

Usual Caveats
I used black soy beans, which are readily available here. Usually served cold and al dente with a sauce made of dashi and sugar, they are a simple source of protein that's tasty on a hot day.

The kaboucha seeds can be saved for roasting in the pan or oven, but I opted to send them to the new compost bin. Too hot to think about cooking anything else at the moment.

Using a whole chili is fine, but I might recommend giving the flavors a chance to meld. In my most recent batch I used a whole one, and we ate some moments later for lunch. It was tasty, but the pepper hadn't quite permeated. By dinner time, it should be pleasantly spicy and offer the kind of heat I can appreciate.

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