"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Tag: kabocha squash

kabocha squash, and tonight’s dinner . . .

roasted kabocha squash . . .

roasted kabocha squash . . .

Have you ever cooked a kabocha squash? Maybe not. They’re not all that commonly found in the grocery store. You’ll come across it in Asian markets and also health food stores. Its origin is Japanese and it’s not altogether evident when you bring home this compact squash what to do with it exactly. It has a hard texture to the dark green striated skin. I’ve had it before in Japanese restaurants and it tastes like a squash but its flesh tastes more like a hearty sweet potato.

Mine has been sitting on the kitchen counter for a few days, reminding me that I wanted to roast it to go with a meal. Yesterday, we had a cabbage moo-shi filling leftover meal, using the homemade wrappers that I made on Saturday to go with the roast duck I picked up from the Vietnamese market in town. For supper tonight, I’m heating up leftover brown rice, stirring it together with some scallions, eggs and the leftover moo-shi vegetables with a dollop of oyster sauce for flavor.

Alongside, there will be a bowl of gently steamed eggs, the heat so low that the custard of the eggs is smooth as silk. A little higher heat and the steamed eggs go to pot, that is, they puff up, filled with air and the silky texture is lost forever. Lest this sound too dramatic for food, here’s the recipe for the steamed eggs:

Luscious Chinese Steamed Eggs:

1. Mix a half cup of fresh ground pork with chopped scallions, a spoonful of cooking sherry, Ohsawa soy sauce and cook quickly in a small saute pan until the meat is tender and still a little pink. Let cool.

2. Break four fresh organic eggs into a bowl and beat gently with a whisk until well combined. Pour a cup of chicken broth and mix well with the beaten eggs.

3. Prepare a bowl to hold the eggs by spraying with Pam; place cooled pork into the bottom of the bowl and then pour egg/broth mixture gently on top. Add tablespoon of Ohsawa organic soy sauce and a tablespoon of cooking sherry. Stir well.

egg mixture ready to steam. . .

egg mixture ready to steam. . .

4. Place the bowl in a pan with an inch or two of water and then place the bowl into the pan to steam. Bring the water to a boil and then turn down heat until the water barely simmers. Put a lid on the pan and maintain the heat just below boiling. Putting the lid on raises the heat inside the pot so double-check the heat which should probably be turned down even more. With the water barely simmering, It may not look like the dish will cook, but if you let it simmer on very low heat for about twenty minutes, the egg mixture will present a custard-like appearance with a silky sheen on the surface.

5. When the custard has set, turn the heat off and either serve with the pot on a trivet or remove the bowl from the pan.

Baked Kabocha Squash:

1. Using a very sharp knife, insert it into the squash and cut lengthwise down one edge. Turn the squash over and cut through the other.

2. Scrape the inside of the squash clean (seeds, etc.)

3. For two people, slice half of the squash into segments. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Make a mixture of olive oil, soy sauce and maple syrup (equal parts, about a half cup of glaze.)

4. Stir glaze together until mixed and baste the squash segments all over. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Bake the squash for twenty minutes and then turn the pieces over. Baste on more glaze. When squash is cooked after about twenty more minutes, remove from the oven and let cool.

5. Place the cooked squash pieces into a nice pottery dish, cover and wait for dinner.

leftover fried rice, steamed eggs and glazed kabocha squash. . .

leftover fried rice, steamed eggs and glazed kabocha squash. . .




commonplace journals. . .


my commonplace journals

Today is Wednesday (“why I love wednesday and thursday mornings“) and I just cut out a recipe for Japanese sake-steamed chicken from the NY Times Dining section. The description of a small chicken steamed gently over sake and water, rested, succulent slices covered with a sauce made of ginger, soy, garlic, lemon, orange and rice vinegar sounded like the perfect thing to make for dinner tonight.

A Japanese kabocha squash that has been languishing in the wooden bowl on the counter will be cut up into chunks and  simmered in a dashi broth with a little soy added. Bowls of white rice will accompany the chicken and the squash.

These recipes will be added to the current volume of scrapbooks that I have been creating for years. In them, I have assembled everything worth keeping that refreshes my spirit and stimulates my appetite for cooking, reading, writing, anything that I want to remember and think about more. For example, the article about the lady who put in plants with plumes that mimicked the exotic roosters is saved in one of these books(“why i love wednesday and thursday mornings”.)

Last year, as I was doing research about Ralph Waldo Emerson, I read about his habit of keeping what he called “Commonplace Journals.” He used them as a way to capture one’s thoughts and to collect and savor the things that appealed to him. He encouraged this practice because the journals were a tangible tool and handbook for trusting your own intuition and being self-reliant (“emerson and the heart“).

The photo above of my scrapbooks illustrates the kind of collage that I put together to represent where my head was at the time for that particular volume. Although there were many images of wishes and desires in these volumes, they represent much more than that. Their pages captured something intangible, an energy or a kind of longing that embodied my spirit as it hovered around in those days. It was a way of putting together a pastiche of where I wanted my life to be going, or perhaps end up, a way of awake dreaming for what my life could be.

I believe that making imagery visible makes what you hope for more tangible. At least that’s what these journals have been for me. Paging through them, some of them from twenty years ago, I can see the person I was back then. Somewhat dated, to be sure. But the spirit of who I was and what I wanted to realize still comes through loud and clear.