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.
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.