Simply Fresh by Julie Wern

Featured Item–Kabocha Sunshine Squash

Kabocha squash is a general term for a variety of Japanese winter squashes, or pumpkins.  Perhaps the most delicious variety of Japanese kabocha squash is the kind we will be receiving this week at the farm, sunshine squash.  It is shaped like a squat pumpkin and has hard, orange skin.  It’s flesh is orange-yellow and is considered to be sweet, moist, fluffy, and even nutlike.  Many consider it to be like a cross between sweet potato and pumpkin.
When raw the skin of kabocha sunshine squash is very hard, making it quite difficult to cut or peel.  Lucky for us, the skin becomes soft and edible when cooked, making it a great option for roasting—simply roast it whole, or cut it in half….no peeling necessary. If you prefer not to eat the skin, it is easiest to remove it once the squash is cooked (roasted or steamed). The cooked flesh is often scooped out after roasting and then mashed for use in purees, silky soups, pie fillings, or baked goods.
To bake a whole kabocha sunshine squash, prick it several places with a knife and then place it in a shallow baking dish with a little water. Cover and bake at 400 degrees for about 1 hour or until squash is pierced easily through with a fork. Cool, cut, de-seed and then scoop out the flesh, leaving the skin behind, if desired.
My preferred way to get cooked, skinless sunshine squash for soups and other preparations is to cut the squash in halves.  However, be cautious.  This is easiest using a very sharp knife and a rubber mallet.  Place the knife into the squash just off-center from the stem.  Using the mallet, pound down on the handle of the knife until either you work your way down the squash or it naturally breaks in half.  De-seed the halves while raw and then bake them in a little water as stated above. This method takes less time and is less messy in the long run than baking a squash whole.
However, if you are not looking for the skinless puree for soups and baked goods, try simply seasoning the cut halves with things like olive oil, butter, brown sugar, pumpkin pie spices, maple syrup etc., and then baking them. To serve, cut into smaller pieces once baked.   I still like to cover the squash when cooking it this way at it helps to keep in the moisture.
Kabocha sunshine squash is also delicious stuffed and then baked whole.  However it requires taking off the top of the squash.  Proceed very carefully….cut off the top third of the squash (it helps to use a rubber mallet).  Scoop out the seeds with a spoon and then fill the cavity with your favorite filling.  Reset the top on the squash and bake whole, as directed above.  Again, beware that this is not easy to do and requires a VERY sharp knife and a very steady hand.
Another way to make roasted Sunshine squash is to cut and de-seed the squash and then cut further into even smaller pieces before baking. Again, season with your favorite spices and bake. However, I can’t stress this enough….be VERY, VERY careful when cutting raw sunshine squash this way– it can be tricky to keep it from rolling under the knife or to keep the knife from slipping on or getting stuck in the squash.
Like all winter squash, kabocha squash is very healthful.  It is high in beta carotene, vitamin C and A, potassium, magnesium, and fiber (especially if you eat the skin).
Kabocha sunshine squash actually “ripens” for “cures” or several days after it is has been picked, meaning that much of the starches in the squash eventually turn to sugars, sweetening the flavor.  Once cured, squash keeps best in cool, dry temperatures (preferable around 50 degrees) where it will stay fresh for a couple of months, even continue to sweeten over time. However, remember that squash that is pitted, bruised or otherwise damaged will spoil more quickly. If you cut a squash and don’t use the entire thing, cover the remaining piece tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 1 week.
Winter squash seeds, like pumpkin seeds, are edible when roasted. Separate the seeds from the flesh, rinse and dry well.  Toss with 2 teaspoons olive oil and about ½ teaspoon or more of kosher salt.  Spread on a baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees, stirring every 8-10 minutes, until seeds are browned and crisp, about 40 minutes.  I found that the Kabocha sunshine squash seeds have thicker hulls than typical pumpkin seeds.  Consequently, they were fairly fibrous to eat; yet I still gobbled them up.
I have copied my recipes for sunshine squash from the 2010 CSA Newsletter since they are not yet on the blogsite.  Additionally, I have added three new recipes for this week.  Enjoy!!
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I was so excited to make this first chili of the season.  The sweet, nutty sunshine squash goes great with the warm Mexican flavors of this black bean chili, which uses Bison instead of beef and makes use of fall greens.  Feel free to substitute beef for the bison, or leave out the meat altogether, if you prefer.  It is great so many different ways….

Bison, Black Bean, & Sunshine Squash Chili                  Serves 8

INGREDIENTS:
– 1 pound ground bison
– 1 large onion, minced
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 large green bell pepper, seeded, chopped
– 1 large red bell pepper
– 2 small jalapeno, seeded, ribs removed and minced
– 2 cups diced fresh tomato
– 3 tablespoons chili powder
– 2 teaspoons ground cumin
– 1 teaspoon ground coriander
– 2 teaspoons dried oregano
– 1/8 teaspoon cayenne, or more to taste
– 4 1/2 cups home-made veggie broth or purchased beef broth
– 2-3 cups cooking greens, optional
– 1/2 Sunshine squash, (with skin) chopped into 1/3″ pieces (be very careful!)
– 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
– 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
– 1 teaspoon salt, (use less if using purchased broth)
– 6  dashes hot sauce, or to taste
– 1 pound dried black beans
– sour cream, cheddar cheese, scallions, tomatoes, cilantro etc.. as possible garnishes.
METHOD:
Put raw beans in a large pot.  Add water to cover beans by about 2 inches.  Soak for at least 8 hours.  Drain.
Cook bison in a large pot over medium-high heat, breaking up with a spoon as it cooks, until browned and cooked through.  Drain most of fat from pan.  Return pan to heat and reduce heat to medium-low.  Add onion, garlic, green bell pepper, red bell pepper, and jalapeño.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 8-10 minutes.  Add tomatoes and spices.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes have broken down and juice is almost completely evaporated, about 10 minutes.  Add beans and broth.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer.  Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender, about 1 1/2 – 2 hours.
Add squash and tougher greens (like kale or collards).  Return to a simmer and cover.  Cook, stirring every 5 minutes, until squash and greens are tender, about 20 minutes (add more tender greens, like Swiss chard, during the last 7-10 minutes of cooking).  Remove chili from heat and stir in salt, cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce.  Season to taste with additional salt, if necessary.  Garnish as preferred and serve.
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I love adapting salad dressing recipes to be light and healthful.  This delicious salad version was adapted from a popular Barefoot Contessa recipe (click here for original recipe) and is significantly lighter than its original.  It is a great introduction to fall foods without being too heavy.

Sunshine Squash & Arugula Salad w/ Lighter Cider Vinaigrette         Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:
– ½ small sunshine squash, roasted with skin on, chopped into ½” pieces
– 1 tablespoon maple syrup
– 2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
– 1 very small red onion, like Red long of Tropea, minced (or use a shallot)
– 1 ¼ cups apple cider
– 1 heaping teaspoon cornstarch
– 2 teaspoons water
– 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
– 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
– 6 handfuls arugula
– ½ cup toasted walnuts
– 3 tablespoons dried cranberries
– ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
METHOD:
1. Spread diced roasted squash on a cookie sheet.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Drizzle with maple syrup.  Set aside.
2. Mix cornstarch and water in a small bowl until cornstarch is dissolved and well mixed.  Set aside.  In a small saucepan, heat 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium-low heat.  Add onion and sauté, stirring occasionally until onion is soft, about 8 minutes.  Add cider.  Bring to a boil.  Boil until cider is reduced to ¾ cup, about 10 minutes.  Slowly whisk in cornstarch mixture and boil for one minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.  Stir in Dijon, cider vinegar, and 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. Place arugula, roasted squash, walnuts and grated Parmesan in a large bowl.  Toss in vinaigrette gradually until leaves are well coated (you might not use all the dressing).  Serve immediately.
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I kept the cornbread stuffing mix to a minimum in this recipe since the squash already adds quite a bit of starch to the dish.  If you can manage to cut off the top of the squash, this recipe is a cinch.

Southwest-Stuffed Sunshine Squash                     Serves 6

INGREDIENTS:
– whole sunshine squash, washed well
– 3 Italian turkey sausages casings removed
– 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
– 1 large onion, minced
– small red pepper, ribs and seeds removed, chopped
– 1 jalapeno, ribs and seeds removed, minced
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 2 teaspoons minced chipotle chile canned in adobo
– 1 cup diced fresh tomato
– 1 tablespoon chili powder
– 1 teaspoon ground cumin
– 1 cup chopped cooked greens, (kale, collards, chard, spinach)
– 1 cup cornbread stuffing, like Pepperidge Farms
– 1/2 cup home-made or purchased broth
– 1/4 cup toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
METHOD:
1. Preheat oven to 400.  Place a small amount of water (like 1/8 -1/4 cup) in an oven proof dish.  Very carefully cut off the first one-third of top of the sunshine squash.  Using a spoon and/or knife, scoop out seeds and stringy insides of squash.  Set aside.
2. Cook sausage in a large non-stick sauté pan over medium heat, breaking up with a spatula as it cooks, until browned.  Remove meat with a slotted spoon to a small bowl.  Return pan to heat but turn down to medium-low.  Add 2 teaspoons olive oil and swirl to coat.  Add onion, jalapeño, red pepper, and garlic.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 8-10 minutes.  Add tomatoes, chili powder, cumin and chipotle pepper.  Cook, stirring frequently, until tomatoes have broken down and tomato juice has cooked off.   Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. Remove pan from heat.  Add cooked greens, sausage, cornbread stuffing, broth, and pepitas.  Mix well.  Fill squash cavity with filling.  Replace squash top.  Place in water in prepared pan and cover tightly with foil.  Bake for 1 hour, or until squash is tender throughout (check with a knife poked through several spots).  Remove foil and cool for at least 10 minutes.  Cut into wedges and serve.
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This soup is a great way to use the cooked flesh of Sunshine squash.
While Asian fish sauce is listed as an optional ingredient, I believe it adds an important dimension to the soup, causing the other flavors to really stand out. Asian fish sauce is a Thai flavor additive that is typically found in the Asian sections of most grocery stores. It adds a salty, “umami” component to dishes.

Thai Coconut Sunshine Squash Soup                     Serves 6

INGREDIENTS:
– 1 large Sunshine squash
– 1 tablespoon peanut oil
– 1 jalapeno, minced
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 tablespoon grated ginger
– 1 teaspoon ground coriander
– 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
– 2 1/2 cups veggie or chicken broth
– 1 can light or regular coconut milk
– 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
– 2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce (nam pla) (optional)
– 2 tablespoons lime juice
METHOD:
Preheat oven to 400. Wash squash. Cut squash in half very carefully with a sharp knife. Place cut side down in baking dish. Add about 1/4″ water to dish and cover tightly with foil. Bake squash until very soft, about 30-40 minutes. Remove foil and allow squash to cool enough to handle.
Meanwhile, heat peanut oil in medium pot over medium-low heat. Add onion, jalapeno, garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are soft but not allowed to brown, about 8 minutes. Add coriander and cumin and cook for 2 minutes, or until fragrant. Add broth, coconut milk, and brown sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
When squash is cool enough to handle, scoop flesh from skin and place flesh in blender. Discard skin. Add hot coconut milk to squash mixture (only as much as will fit comfortably in your blender–you may have to do two batches). Blend until completely smooth. Wipe out pot and add soup back to it. Place on medium-high heat just until soup is heated through. Remove from heat and add fish sauce and lime juice. Stir well.
Add salt as needed. If mixture is too thick, add more broth. You can thicken the mixture by boiling it down, but coconut milk may separate, requiring you to blend again before serving.
NOTES:
If using homemade, no salt added broth, you will need to add a good amount of salt to taste. However, add it after the fish sauce is mixed in, as fish sauce contains significant amounts of sodium.
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The spice paste in the following recipe becomes a delectable caramelized glaze when cooked on the squash. Even though I call it “candied” it makes a great fall/winter savory side dish.

“Candied” Sunshine Squash                         Serves 8

INGREDIENTS:
– 1 medium Sunshine squash, washed and dried
– 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
– 1/2 teaspoon Ancho chile powder (or regular chili powder)
– 1/2 teaspoon cumin
– 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1 tablespoon light flavored oil (like Canola) – 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
METHOD:
Preheat oven to 400. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray generously with cooking spray.
Cut squash lengthwise in half. Scoop out seeds and stringy flesh. Place on stable cutting board and with a very sturdy and sharp knife, CAREFULLY cut squash into wedges about 1/4-1/2″ thick. Cut off any stem edges. Place squash pieces in a bowl.
In a separate small bowl, mix spices, oil and vinegar until well combined into a paste. Using a large spatula, scrape out balsamic mix onto squash pieces. Using hands or spatula, turn squash around in bowl to coat evenly with the spice paste. (I like to get my hands in there and rub the spice mixture all over the squash pieces). Turn squash out onto the foil lined baking sheet and use spatula to scrape out any extra paste from the bowl onto the squash pieces.
Place baking sheet in oven and bake for 15 minutes. Turn pieces and bake an additional 5-10 minutes or until squash pieces are tender and caramelized (be careful not bake too long or balsamic mixture may start to burn).
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This is an addictive, but lighter, healthier version of macaroni and cheese that my son calls “home made Kraft”. Little does he know that it features healthy vitamin-rich squash. The original recipe comes from Ellie Krieger’s awesome cookbook, The Foods You Crave. I have adapted it so that it uses fresh sunshine squash instead of frozen processed butternut squash.

Sunshine Squash Macaroni & Cheese                Serves 6

INGREDIENTS:
– 1 large Sunshine squash, washed – 1 onion, minced (optional)
– 2 cups 1% milk
– 1 1/4-1 1/2 teaspoons salt
– 1 teaspoon dry mustard
– 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
– 1 1/2 cups grated reduced fat sharp cheddar, or regular cheddar cheese
 – 2/3 cup grated Monterey Jack Cheese
– 1/2 cup part skim ricotta
– 3 tablespoons fresh or plain dry breadcrumbs
– 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
– 1 pound elbow macaroni
METHOD:
Preheat oven to 400. Cut squash in half and place cut side down in a casserole dish with a little water in the bottom. Cover with foil and bake until very tender, about 30-45 minutes. Remove foil and let sit until cool enough to handle. Scoop out squash flesh, leaving skin behind. Place flesh in a food processor or blender. Puree until completely smooth (this step ensures a silky smooth sauce–add a bit pf water if mixture is too thick to puree). Can be made two days ahead. Cover and refrigerate until ready to proceed.
Preheat oven to 375. Spray a 9 X 13 casserole dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
If using onion, heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a medium pan over medium-low heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 8 minutes. Increase heat to medium. Add milk, squash puree, salt, dry mustard and cayenne. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture begins to simmer, about 5-7 minutes. Remove completely from heat (depending upon the size of your squash you may need to add a bit more milk if mixture seems too thick at this point).
Immediately add ricotta into hot squash and milk mixture, whisking until smooth. Gradually add sharp and Monterey Jack cheeses, whisking continuously until cheese is melted and fully incorporated into the sauce. If cheese is incorporated too fast it may not “melt” correctly into the sauce, leaving a gooey mass at the bottom of the pan. If this happens you can try to place on very low heat while whisking to reconstitute the sauce.
Taste cheese sauce for salt level and add more salt if needed. Add pepper to taste.
Meanwhile, boil pasta in a large pot of water until just barely cooked (it should still have a bit of a bite to it–it will cook more in the oven). Drain. Pour drained pasta back into the pan and pour cheese sauce over it. Mix until thoroughly combined. It will be a “wet” sauce, but will thicken up in the oven. Pour pasta with sauce into prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and Parmesan.
Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes, or until bubbly and beginning to brown.
NOTES:
For variety, add chopped ham to mixture before baking or top with crumbled bacon. For a great spicy version, add two teaspoons or more of minced chipotle pepper with adobo to the cheese sauce.

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