You like Kabocha, dontcha?

 

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I think a lot of people like to press the Shuffle button on their MP3 player to mix things up and hear a variety of songs. Not me. If I like a song, I’ll put in on Replay for-ev-er. Sometimes, I’ll listen to the same dang song like, 100 times before I move on to another.

Am I obsessive? Compulsive? My answer to that fluctuates. What is constant is my attachment to a good thing once I find it. This is how I am now with Kabocha pumpkin. Kabocha muffins for breakfast. Kabocha soup for lunch. Kabocha-stuffed pasta for dinner. How ’bout Kabocha pumpkin pie, anyone?

It was the same with Butternut squash a while back. And there was that winter-long fling with Meyer lemons – which, late at night, I still think of. Oh, and let’s not forget my fixation with pomelos.

Nowadays, my fancy turns to Kabocha. Can you blame me? Kabocha, with its deep, emerald skin flushed against this intense, orange flesh is like Butternut’s sexier, curvier, non-surgically altered and intellectually superior cousin. And, it doesn’t need a ton of makeup to look good, either. I mean, who would you rather go home with???

That’s what I thought. So next time you’re at the market, look out for Kabocha. Cook responsibly.

 

Soupe au Potiron – Kabocha pumpkin bisque

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INGREDIENTS: (4-6 servings)

  • 1 medium-sized Kabocha pumpkin (approx 3-4lbs)
  • 1 Tbl. of canola oil + more for coating pumpkin
  • 3 medium shallots, finely diced
  • chubby piece of ginger (approx 1 inch length), peeled and minced
  • 1/2 tsp of freshly ground star anise + a tiny pinch for sprinkling
  • 1/2 tsp of freshly ground cassia cinnamon + a tiny pinch for sprinkling
  • 1 quart of homemade or quality store-bought chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup half & half or whole cream
  • sea salt and fresh ground pepper

STEPS:

  • Cut the Kabocha pumpkin in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Rub the cut sides with oil and sprinkle with a tiny pinch of the star anise and cinnamon. Place the pumpkin, cut-side down on a foil/parchment-lined cookie sheet.
  • In an oven preheated to 350F, roast the pumpkin for about 35 minutes (or until a knife can be inserted with little resistance).
  • Set aside to cool for about 15 minutes. Then scoop out the flesh.
  • Meanwhile, set a large saucepan to med heat, add the oil.
  • Next, add the shallot and ginger. Cook (sweat) the shallots and ginger until the shallots are softened and translucent, being careful not to add too much color.
  • Add the cooked pumpkin and spices and cook for another minute.
  • Add the chicken stock and stir to combine and heated through.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Using an immersion blender or regular blender, purée the soup until smooth.*
  • Stir the cream into the soup.
  • Check seasoning again and add more S+P if necessary. Serve warm.

*If you use a regular blender, please use extreme caution as the hot liquid will explode everywhere if you try to blend too much at a time. Fill only up to 1/3 of the blender at a time. Bon appétit!

 

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Not Your Mother’s Beet Salad

Roasted Red and Yellow Beet Salad with Maytag Blue Cheese

Salade de betteraves au fromage bleu Maytag

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Around the holidays, grocery stores will stack loads of canned beets next to the canned pumpkin and cranberry jelly. Unfortunately, those canned beets are the only kind a lot of us have eaten. But I tell you there is more to beets than meets the eye. Do you like how that rhymes? Really, fresh beets taste vastly different from those that come from a can. I bought some beautiful yellow and red beets and I decided to make a warm salad with them. Roasting the beets took a long time – 2 hours, as these were large beets. I could’ve boiled them, but roasting really helps to concentrate the flavor and these roasted beets don’t beat around the bush. Ha! That’s another one. Okay, no more silliness – for now.

To be honest, I first heard of Maytag blue cheese from watching Emeril. You know how he is, he’d make all these crazy moans and grunts while holding this cheese that I thought I’d give it a try. That was five years ago and what a great five years it’s been! This cheese has a deep, bold flavor and a smooth, creamy texture. I think it’s one of the best blue cheeses made in the U.S. In this dish, the intense flavor and sweetness of the roasted beets balance this cheese so well. I added some toasted walnuts for extra flavor and a nutty texture.

And yes, Maytag as in the washer and dryer brand. It was developed by the grandsons of the Maytag Founder. The dairy farm and cheese caves are still located near Newton, Iowa near the appliance factory. I think it’s no longer part of the Maytag appliance corporation. Nevertheless, they’ve made quality appliances and quality cheese. These Maytags really are something.

INGREDIENTS ( 2 servings):

  • 2 med-large yellow beets
  • 2 med-large red beets
  • 3 oz. (a small wedge) maytag blue cheese
  • 1/2 cup of walnuts or pecans
  • walnut oil or extra-virgin olive oil
  • balsalmic vinegar or good red wine vinegar
  • dijon mustard (I like the Maille brand)
  • fresh chives, finely chopped

DIRECTIONS:

  • Cut the green tops off the beets (you can chop them and sauté for another dish)
  • Place the whole beets, unpeeled on a foil-lined baking sheet and cover them with foil.
  • Bake them at 400F until a knife inserted has no resistance. Remove from the oven
  • Make the vinaigrette by combining 1 part vinegar + 3 parts oil +1 tsp. dijon mustard+ S&P, set aside
  • Toast the walnuts (either on the stove top or toaster oven) – be careful as they can burn easily
  • When the beets have cooled a bit, but are still warm – peel the skins off. (Wear latex or plastic gloves to prevent dying your hands red)
  • Slice the beets and arrange them on your plate. Crumble the blue cheese over the beets.
  • Drizzle the dish with the vinaigrette and garnish with chives and walnuts

Bon appétit!