I’m kicking myself. Yes, you read that right. I am sitting here on the couch kicking myself for being dumb.
Well, I would be if I hadn’t quit yoga a few months ago and could actually move my leg that way. But rest assured, mentally I’m kicking myself.
Why you ask? It’s because more than a year ago – precisely 1 years and 28 days – one of my favorite food writers posted a recipe on her blog that I’ve been unable to get out of my mind. This entire time I’ve thought about the recipe but never actually got around to making it until this weekend. And it was incredible!
Last fall Dorie Greenspan wrote what she called a “recipe in progress” for pumpkin packed with bread and cheese. It looked great, all gooey and oozy and warm and hearty. But she called it a recipe in progress because it was really about applying the concept of stuffing a hallowed pumpkin or gourd with countless combinations of ingredients.
While Dorie’s recipe used cheese and cream, my lactose intolerant self decided to limit the dairy to just a small amount of cheese. In its place I added a bunch of sauteed vegetables to the filling for a well-rounded main course or all-in-one side dish.
Instead of a pumpkin I used kabocha, also known as Japanese pumpkin. It has a flavor similar to pumpkin but the flesh is a bit drier, which works well in this preparation, and has a green skin that is beautiful in contrast with the vivid orange interior.
Oh, and did I mention this stuffed squash is incredibly healthy? Kabocha is rich in beta carotene, iron, Vitamin C and potassium, and vegetables like spinach and mushrooms add calcium and other nutrients.
Here’s my take on a recipe in progress:
Stuffed Kabocha Squash, makes 3 to 4 entrees or 6 to 8 side dishes
1 6-pound kabocha squash
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon pepper, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced into long strips
6 cloves garlic, minced
4 ounces mushrooms, stemmed and diced
2 cups packed fresh spinach
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 tablespoon flour
1 cup chicken broth
3 cups bread, cut into small cubes and toasted
2 ounces Swiss cheese, grated
1/3 cup Pecorino Romano cheese
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Prepare the kabocha by using a small knife to cut off the top of the squash at a 45-degree angle, like you would to carve a pumpkin. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and fibers inside the kabocha and discard. Sprinkle the inside with 1/4 teaspoon salt and a pinch of freshly ground black pepper. Set the kabocha on the prepared baking sheet.
To make the filling, heat the oil in a large saute pan set over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and caramelized, about 20 minutes, stirring often. Stir in the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes, then stir in the spinach. Cook until the spinach has wilted, about 4 minutes.
Season with the salt, pepper, sage, rosemary and nutmeg, then stir in the flour until you can no longer see it. While stirring, slowly pour in the chicken broth. Increase the heat to medium-high until the liquid just reaches a boil, then turn off the heat. Cool slightly.
Mix the Swiss and Pecorino Romano cheeses together.
Fold the cubed bread into the vegetable mixture, then spoon 1/3 into the kabocha. Sprinkle 1/3 of the cheese mixture, then top with another 1/3 of the vegetables. Repeat with 1/3 of the cheese, then add the remaining filling. Use the spoon to squish the mixture into the kabocha so it’s filled completely and cover with the squash top. Reserve the remaining cheese.
Bake the kabocha with the top on for 1 hour. Remove the top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake for 45 minutes or until the flesh is tender enough to be easily pierced with a knife.
Remove the kabocha from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes before eating. Serve by using a large spoon to scoop out the kabocha and filling.