Of all the winter squashes, kabocha is my favorite. Seed catalogs refer to this squash as “sweet Mama”, otherwise the squash originated from Japan where it has been cultivated for centuries. The Spaniard’s brought the vegetable to Japan from south East Asia. The flesh of the squash is deep yellow and the skin is bottlegreen with light green and yellow specks. The entire vegetable is edible, raw or cooked. Treat the flowers ,tops and shoots as pot herb, or cook like any other green vegetable. Kabocha is an excellent source of Vitamin A. It is a moderate source of fiber, Vitamin B & C and potassium. Eaten raw without adding any ingredients, 3/4 cup kabocha provides 30 calories.
The seeds of the mature kabocha is edible .Prepare by cutting the squash in half,separate the seeds from the seed cavity (discard)wash and drain. Spread the seeds in a cookie sheet and bake in an oven at 400 deg F until dry but not burnt. Eat like pumpkin seeds. The flower of kabocha is excellent for making beignet. You can usually find the flowers in Farmers Market . Specialty stores sells them too but the price is stiff. The best way is to grow your own. If you desire to venture and plant kabocha make sure you have adequate space as the squash is a rambling vine. The growing requirement is the same as squash. All winter squashes plant have 2 kinds of flowers. The male flower is the smaller of the 2 and has long thin stem. Nature designed it so that the male flower sticks out to attract the bees,while the female flower is large with a short stem,close to the main stem and the one that produces the fruit. Pick the male flowers as they are usually abundant. Leave some for the bee’s if you want the vine to bear more fruit. Wash and rinse the flower.Dry with paper towel being careful not to bruise it. You need tempura mix for this dish.Prepare the mix according to package. Immerse the flower into the prepared batter and fry in deep fat. Drain well. Yummy!
As for the kabocha flesh, it can be eaten raw like a crudite . Serve with your favorite dip, steam the young shoots and add to salads or dip in a batter and make vegetable tempura. My favorite way to cook kabocha is to serve it as a side dish and as a soup. To serve 6 people for a side dish, pick a medium size kabocha. Wash the vegetable and poke it twice with a knife or ice peak. Put the entire kabocha in a baking dish and bake for 1 hour at 350 deg F. (do not cover). Remove from oven, when cool enough to handle, cut in half. Remove the seeds and set aside for later use. Put the entire cooked kabocha in a mixing bowl. Add 1/4 C of butter,1tsp nutmeg,1/4 C sour cream, salt and pepper to taste. Using an immersion blender, blend the mixture until smooth. To serve. Put in individual ramekins or use a mashed potato scoop and serve as a side dish. Put a dollop of sour cream on top of the dish.
Heres the recipe for my favorite soup.
Pumpkin Lentil Soup
1 medium kabocha,about 3-4 lbs. wash,cut in half. Remove seed and cut in chunks.
2 quarts water
Put the kabocha in a soup pot and add the water. Bring to a rapid boil,then reduce heat to simmer until fork tender. Add
1 cup of dried red lentil to the kabocha and continue to cook until lentil is soft and mushy. You should have enough liquid to cook the lentils, if not add some. Lentil cooks very fast.
When the lentil is soft, add the following to the kabocha /lentil mix: 1 /2 cup minced onion, 1 tbsp.granulated garlic,1tsp thyme, 2tbsp. minced cilantro and 4 cups of chicken broth. Simmer the mixture for 3 minutes or until the flavor marries. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Puree the mixture to a smooth consistency using an immersion blender. If you do not have one, use a blender but be careful not to burn yourself.
Return the pureed soup into the soup pot. Add 1/2 C sherry, and simmer until the alcohol evaporates.
This soup will look elegant when served in a white bowl. Top with a dollop of sour cream and nustursium flower.