December 23, 2007

Stuffed Kabocha Squash with White Beans, Kale, and Rice

We've been trying out new squashes from the Greenmarket, and this week we selected Kabocha, a Japanese winter squash. According to Wikipedia, it has a strong, sweet, moist, fluffy texture, but I didn't find that to be particularly true. It tasted a little more bland and bitter than butternut squash, and the texture was flat - but I think this is because of how we cooked it. First, we roasted it the first time with the insides up, and next time I would try with the insides down because in past squash-roasting experience that allows sweeter carmelization. Second, we didn't continue to cook the squash long enough once we added the stuffing. Jesse took it out too early, when we really should have left it in until it was mushier, or fluffier.

This is a labor intensive dish, because all of the components have to be cooked separately before being combined, stuffed, and cooked all together in the oven. After all that work, it turned out to be fairly bland. Next time, in addition to cooking the squash longer, I would add a lot more cheese, more salt, more pepper, maybe some crushed red pepper, and more spices in general. At least by the time I was eating the stuffed squash, I had drank enough wine to feel relaxed and able to enjoy eating this food that Jesse and I had prepared together for our friend. (Even though we had started the cooking process by fighting over cooking space and know-how in our tiny kitchen.)

I've been trying to cook with dried beans more often than canned beans, but it's hard because it involves knowing ahead of time when you will be cooking the beans, so that they can soak long enough. This time, I started the beans soaking in the early afternoon, and 5 hours turned out to be enough - the beans still cooked in an hour - so that's good to know.

To make this vegan, I would recommend adding soy cheese, since this dish really needs some kind of cheese to turn it from bland health food to a delicious dish.

Stuffed Kabocha Squash with White Beans, Kale, and Rice

2 medium sized kabocha squash
3/4 cup dry white beans, soaked in water for at least six hours or the night before (or 1 can beans)
2 2/3 cup water
1/2 cup short grain brown rice
1 cup water
1 bunch kale
1 small onion
3 cloves garlic
olive oil
1/3 cup grated cheddar cheese

Drain beans that were soaking in a colander and then return to their pot. Add 2 2/3 cup water, 1 tsp olive oil, rosemary, sage, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil and then let simmer for approximately one hour, until beans are tender and a small amount of liquid is left.

Meanwhile, add rice and water to small pot, bring to a boil, and then let simmer for approximately 50 minutes, until rice is fluffy and all water has been absorbed.

Preheat oven to 400. Slice squash in half and scoop out seeds. Drizzle with olive oil. Place squash insides down on baking pan and bake for 20-30 minutes until slightly tender.

In a large pan coated with olive oil, sautee garlic and onion over medium low heat until softened. Rinse kale, tear into small pieces, and add to pan with a tbsp water. Place cover over pan to allow kale to steam, uncovering occasionally to stir so that garlic and onion don't stick to the bottom.

When all above ingredients are done, combine kale mixture and rice with the beans and bean liquid in the bean pot. Stir in cheese, rosemary, sage, salt, and pepper. Scoop mixture into squash halves. Roast stuffed squash in oven for additional 20-40 minutes, until squash is totally tender. Serves 4.

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