Finally, Kabochas

The chill creeps in on a whisper, breathing promise of the pleasures that await.  These include coziness, a warming fire and, eventually, peak citrus and “winter” gourds.  Among the latter are kabocha squash, a Japanese variety that features thin, edible skins and a smooth, mellow taste.  It’s enough to earn kabocha appreciation from a confirmed squash-hater.  Yes, that’s a mirror.

Today’s entry pairs kabocha with a thick pork chop and overlays both with a lively vinaigrette dancing with lime juice and chopped cilantro.  A parting echo of summer’s freshness.  Mixed in are chopped toasted pepitas, or pumpkin seeds, which provide a nutty crunch.  The combination allows a souvenir of the greenery that’ll animate our dreams for the next several months, while giving a snuggly blanket to sustain us until then.  In other words, a great meal for autumn.

Instructions for preparing this feat of edible comfort appeared in Bon Appetit‘s 2014 recipe collection.  The dinner provides a warm glow of contentment, but it’s relatively easy to prepare. The kabocha is cut and seeded, then is drizzled with olive oil and is roasted until it’s soft.

The pork chop is even easier; it’s seasoned lightly, then is pan seared just long enough to give it a nice golden-brown patina.  This results in a chop that’s tender and juicy, a perfect companion for the squash’s mild earthiness.  When a bright, nutty vinaigrette coats each bite, one revels in the pleasures of both summer and fall.

Contemplating the re-emergence of winter squash may give reason for pause, but if anything can guide us through to the other side, it’s the kabocha.  With meals like this one, we’ll get there.

*****

Pork Chops and Squash with Pumpkin Seed Vinaigrette

  • 2 tablespoons shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • 2 pounds winter squash, halved, seeded and cut into 1-inch wedges (*1)
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • salt, freshly-ground pepper, to taste
  • 4 1-inch thick bone-in pork chops
  • half a small garlic clove, grated
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely-chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Spread the pumpkin seeds on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast, tossing once, until lightly browned, about four minutes.  Remove the seeds and keep the oven running.  Chop pepitas coarsely and set them aside.

Toss the squash with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Place the squash in a single layer on the same rimmed pan you used for the seeds.  Roast squash in oven, turning pieces occasionally, until golden-brown and tender, about 40 minutes.

In a large skillet set over medium-high flame, heat another tablespoon of the olive oil.  Season pork chops with salt and pepper and cook until brown, about 6 to 8 minutes.  Flip the chop and cook the other side for about three minutes.

In a small bowl whisk garlic, chopped cilantro, lime juice, reserved pumpkin seeds and remaining three tablespoons of olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.

Arrange pork chops and squash on plates and drizzle vinaigrette over them.  Garnish with additional cilantro if desired.

NOTES:

1 – While kabochas are the variety that won my heart, any kind of winter squash will work well,  Try acorn, butternut or delicata.  If you use butternut, be sure to peel it first, as the rind is tougher than are the other varieties’ thinner and edible skins.

33 thoughts on “Finally, Kabochas

  1. Glad you mentioned the rind at end… I was wondering about that. It looks a lot like an acorn squash. Anyway it’s a lovely combination of ingredients, once again. Making me hungry now as I haven’t had dinner yet. 😋

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Much appreciate, JoAnn! The squash’s rind is edible, if it’s sufficiently steamed, but many find it easier just to peel it first.

      And you have a good eye – it is quite similar to the acorn squash. It’s squatter, and it has a speckled rind, but really, it’s just the Japanese version of the acorn.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, Angela! The words flow naturally, the spring rising here, when you show an astute curiosity, and there, where your writing glistens.

        Point is, the path you tread soon meanders gently and burbles contentedly.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Unsurprisingly, Kate, my tastes and yours coincide.

      Just learned recently most gourd seeds are supremely edible. Sure, it’s a little work to extract, clean and dry them, but the end result is worth all the trouble.

      My current favorite method? Spritz lightly with olive oil, then apply, in moderation, sea salt, freshly-ground pepper and cayenne powder. Then roast until they just begin to darken. There you have it, the snack of snacks!

      How about you, Kate – what’s your preference?

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Rachel!

      Squash used to vex young Felix greatly, until maturity allowed it a second chance. Now that gourds have redeemed themselves (or, more properly, now that Felix’s taste buds have), pumpkins and such will show up from time-to-time.

      How about you, Rachel? Anything you disliked as a child that you tolerate, and even celebrate, nowadays?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, like any self-respecting child, I thoroughly despised anything green. Peas, broccoli, Brussels sprouts… Squash really wasn’t a problem for me because we never had it much then. And I think we grew our own or bought some fresh or something one time — quite a difference from what you’ll find in the frozen isle — and so it became more of a treat in my mind. I never did fully realize just what a vast difference that made — fresh or frozen — until much more recently…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That’s true, Rachel, though I’ve got to admit frozen isn’t as lacking as it once was.

        In fact, in the depths of mob panic this spring, the shelves were depleted of anything, frozen or fresh, except a few odd remnants. I mean, who would eat five pounds of frozen okra?

        Still, fresh is better, generally. Even more so if it’s from the farmers’ market. Of course, home-grown is unparalleled.

        In the off-season, though, frozen can be useful.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Good point, Rachel! Thus begin your very own Adventures in Cooking.

        Plus, when you know precisely where something was grown, – or, better yet, when you grew it yourself – it tastes that much better, true?

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Finally! And does this ever sound mouthwatering with the pumpkin seeds (which I love). I am a fan of squash, too. Yes, I’ll take the pork chops, too. I am no longer picky, unless it’s something gross like squid, octopus, or snake.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Much appreciated, Tamara!

      In retrospect, I wonder if kabocha seeds would’ve filled in for the pumpkin seeds. Just yesterday I read an article about the culinary uses of all gourd seeds, not just those found in pumpkins. Wish I had read this Friday. If so, the recipe you saw would’ve been that much more of a kabocha show.

      Next time, next time.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Naturally, but the song would have to be right. Wait a second – of course it’ll be “right!”

        Well then, take down your waltzing shoes from the back closet shelf. Unless you’re more a minuet girl, that is.

        Like

      2. That might be arranged, Crystal, though there still are only 24 hours in a day, and there are crab cakes to make, oxtail and chicken stocks to freeze, batters to mix…

        Plus, we’ll be in Texas, meaning you and Kody are going to have to teach me at least the basics of barbecue. (“Okay, Lesson One – it’s “BBQ,” not “barbecue,” Yankee.”)

        Like

      3. I’ll put Kody in charge of the BBQ basics (actually, we usually do BBQ takeout), but if you’re up for a little road trip—we once did a Hill Country BBQ/wine tour. One of my favorite Texas vacations.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Oh, definitely, Crystal sounds delectable. And that wouldn’t be just the wine talking, either.

        In fact, throw in a good hotel in there somewhere, and an epic weekend comes together.

        I’ll have to check out the wine store to see if they offer any Texas vintages. Nearly half their supply is international, of course, but among the domestics, Pennsylvania (my state) and New York are well-represented. California, big time, of course. There’d have to be Texas offerings too, wouldn’t you think?

        Like

      5. Agreed, Crystal.

        Anyone – well, many people, at least – can grow grapes in the Loire Valley or in Napa. The conditions are just right for doing so.

        To make a go in Texas, though, and to produce something that’s more than just palatable, well, the labor’s worthy profound respect.

        I read once there are vineyards in all fifty states. I’d love to see how they manage in Alaska.

        Like

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