Pumpkins and squashes are so inexpensive in China, even more than in the US, that I cook with them whenever possible. (At 3 to 5 kuai per medium pumpkin, what's not to love?) Calabaza and butternut are the varieties that appear most in my meals and snacks. But if I'm craving something with even more natural sweetness, I'll pick up some kabocha instead.
Kabocha squash, also called Japanese pumpkin (日本南瓜 riben nangua), has a knobbly green outer skin and yellowish flesh. It's sweeter than even butternut squashes; simple simmering will give you a light toothsome taste, while roasting for an hour makes the sugary juices seemingly burst from their pores.
Today for lunch, I paired roasted kabocha with a very easy lentil soup with sautéed bok choy. I left the skin on (be sure to wash the outside thoroughly), and roasted the squash in thin slices. At first I just served up the slices on the side, but on my second helping I cut the slices even smaller and threw them in the bowl. Either way, the sugary squash was a nice compliment to the savory, paprika-tinged lentil soup.
Other heart-warming soups recipes:
Red Lentil and Okra Soup
Winter Melon Soup with Shiitakes and Speck Ham
Tea-Scented Pumpkin Soup
Hot and Sour Soup
Roasted Kabocha Squash with Bok Choy Lentil Soup
1/2 small or medium kabocha squash
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil for tossing sqush, plus 2 tablespoons for sautéing
1/2 pound dried lentils
1 small red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
6 to 8 cremini mushrooms, chopped
1 pound bok choy, washed and hard ends sliced off
1 teaspoon paprika
Wash the rind of the kabocha squash. Scoop out the seeds and, wish a sturdy knife, cut the squash into 1/4-inch slices. Toss the squash in olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Lay the squash slices on a large rimmed baking shee. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, turning the squash over halfway through, until tender and urn the squash over on the baking sheet and roast for about 1 hour, or until tender and golden brown at the edges.
At 25 minutes before the squash is done, bring 2 quarts of water to boil. Add dried lentils, and cook until soft, about 20 minutes. While lentils are cooking, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet. Add onions, mushrooms, and garlic; sauté for 5 to 6 minutes, until onions are translucent and beginning to caramelize. Add bok choy and cook until just wilted, about 2 minutes. Transfer vegetables to lentil pot. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Divide soup into individual bowls. Serve with kabocha squash slices on the side, or slice squash into bite-sized pieces and add to soup.