Yesterday, I saw a green pumpkin like squash at the farmer’s market. After further inquiry, I learned it is called a kabocha squash and has similar characteristics to butternut squash. It is commonly called a Japanese pumpkin and is believed to have aphrodisiac properties in some cultures (so lay off the the rhino horn and shark fins). I also found the most perfect and gigantic pomegranates and naturally couldn’t resist. My brain instantly combined the two ingredients and yearned to transform them into a salad using quinoa (which I had leftovers from the day prior). The resulting dish is fantastic and truly represents fall to me. Not only is it a great dish on it’s own, I also think it would make a great vegan stuffing substitute or a healthy side for your upcoming Thanksgiving dinner!
2.5 pound kabocha squash
1 small kabocha squash
1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa follow instructions on bag
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup pepitas
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 orange zest and juice
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
Preheat the oven to 400° F. Scrub the outside of the kabocha with a scouring pad and hot water. Cut kabocha in half, scoop out and discard the seeds with a spoon. Now cut the squash into 1/2 inch cubes leaving the skin intact. *Do not attempts this unless you have a large, sturdy and sharp knife! Place the kabocha in a roasting pan and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, thyme, a teaspoon of salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast 400 degrees 30 mins tossing every 10 minutes. While the kabocha is roasting cook the quinoa following the instructions on the container. Cool quinoa and kabucha before combining in fridge. About 30 minutes should do the trick. Finally, combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and toss with your hands. Season with salt and pepper, serve and enjoy! This can be made ahead of time and holds up great!
What I drank…
I had just finished shooting a recipe for an Italian Spris Cocktail and figured why not?! The orange in the cocktail complemented the orange juice in the salad, while, it’s bright and bitter flavors balanced out the creaminess of the squash. Interesting pairing to say the least! I’m certain a crisp acidic white would’ve worked too.
Lately, I’ve been seeing a variety of eggplants and figs at our local farmer’s markets. They are in season at the same time during late summer/early fall, so naturally, I began to wonder how to combine them. Ultimately, I decided to roast the mini eggplants and use them as sort of an edible spoon filled with other complimentary ingredients and crowned with fresh beautiful fig slices. Turns out, not only are they pretty, they are simple to make and taste amazing. The one ingredient which may prove difficult to find is the Meyer lemon marmalade. Britt and I brought a jar home from an organic Meyer lemon farm in Malibu that we stayed at for our last anniversary. Thanks Bibi! Anyhow, the dish needed some acid and seeing the jar sitting there, I thought – let’s give it a shot. Turns out, it was better then balsamic glaze or fresh lemon juice! I bet quince paste would be amazing as well and easier to find. However, if you can’t find either, balsamic will suffice.
3 fresh figs
12 mini eggplants
bacon (cooked and crumbled)
tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 leeks (cleaned)
Meyer lemon marmelade (or quince paste)
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Place 4 strips of bacon on a baking sheet and place on the top rack of the oven for 17 minutes. Next, halve the mini eggplants and score flesh with a tic-tac-toe pattern. Place flesh side up on a baking sheet and brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and fresh thyme leaves. Roast for 30 minutes or until eggplants are tender and golden in flesh area. While eggplants are roasting caramelize sliced leeks over medium heat until just barely golden. Adding a pinch of salt will help this process along and bring out the flavor of the leeks. Finally, remove the eggplants from the oven and spread a very thin layer of the meyer lemon marmalade on the flesh side. Now add a teaspoon of the caramelized leeks, sprinkle with bacon, goat cheese, pine nuts and fresh thyme. Finally, top with a slice of the fresh fig and serve. These end up being bite sized and great for a party appetizer.
What I drank…
I tried these aubergines with a 2012 Failla unoaked Chardonnay from the Sonoma Coast (which I happened to have open), as well as, a 2012 Jules Taylor Pinot Gris from the Marlborough, which, my friend Sam of The Wine Country recommended. Because of the creamy nature of the eggplant flesh and goat cheese, the crisp Chardonnay paired fairly well, much to my surprise. However, the star of the show was definitely the New Zealand Pinot Gris with its bright fruit and crisp acidity. It not only held up to the creamy rich flavors but it commingled with the meyer lemon spread as well while exhibiting a super pleasant and long finnish. I agree with Sam that this is going to be a successful new varietal for that region. Personally, I’d be happy to see the overproduced vines of Sauvignon Blanc in that region become a thing of the past. By the way, if you haven’t checked out Sam’s blog and you are into wine, you should! She’s a great writer with a passionate palate for old world wines.