Kabocha squashes look great as table decorations, but they are quite tasty, too.
If you have ever passed on one of these small, 2 to 3 pound Japanese squashes because you weren’t sure what to do with it, I’ve got a perfect five-ingredient recipe for you:
Kabocha + Maple Syrup + Rice Vinegar + Chinese five-spice powder + Toasted Hazelnuts.
…and it only takes about 20 minutes from start to finish.
First, turn the oven on to 450 degrees F.
You need a sturdy knife to cut it in half.
I cut the top and bottom off first, so that the squash sits flat before I cut it in half.
Scrape out the seeds (you can clean and roast them if you like.)
Then cut the squash into wedges from top to bottom, about 1-1/2 inches thick.
Place them on a lined baking sheet.
Brush both sides with a little oil (vegetable or olive oil.)
Sprinkle with salt and pepper and pop into the preheated oven.
At 450 degrees, it will take about 15 to 18 minutes to roast until they are fork tender.
Meanwhile, make the spice glaze.
Start with 1/2 cup maple syrup and bring to a boil in a small pan over medium-high heat.
At first, small bubbles will form, but soon the bubbles will get larger, and the color of the bubbles will darken.
The bubbles will rise up, too, so don’t take your eye off the pan.
It will take about 7 to 10 minutes to reduce the 1/2 cup of syrup to 1/3 a cup.
Of course, that timing depends upon your pan size, too. It might take a few minutes more or a few minutes less. If you reduce it more, you won’t have enough to glaze the squash, and it will thicken too much.
(Caution, the syrup is extremely hot so do not let it touch your skin.)
Once the syrup has reduced, take it off the heat and stir in one tablespoon of rice vinegar and one teaspoon of Chinese Five-Spice powder.
The vinegar “brightens” the sweet syrup, and the Five-Spice adds warmth and flavor. You could also add a generous pinch of cayenne pepper if you’re so inclined.
Drizzle the syrup all over the roasted squash.
You can do it right on the roasting pan, or you can plate the squash and then drizzle it…. or both.
The last step is to sprinkle crushed, toasted hazelnuts (or pecans or walnuts) over the top and serve. Delicious.
Maple-Five Spice Glazed Kabocha Squash
Serves 4 as side dish
1 kabocha squash (2 to 2-1/2 pounds)
2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Chinese Five-Spice
1/3 cup chopped toasted hazlenuts*
1. Heat oven to 450 degrees F.
2. Cut sliver off top and bottom of squash. Cut in half. Scoop out seeds and save to roast later or discard. Cut each squash half into wedges about 1-1/2 to 2 inches wide.
3. Place the squash wedges on a lined baking sheet. Brush with oil on both sides. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
4. Place the baking sheet in the preheated oven and roast for 15 to 18 minutes, until squash pierces easily with a fork.
5. Meanwhile, make the glaze. Bring the maple syrup to a boil over medium-high heat in a small sauce pan. Boil until the sauce reduces to 1/3 a cup, about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
6. Stir in the rice wine vinegar and Chinese Five-Spice powder. Set aside to cool slightly while squash finishes roasting.
7. To serve, drizzle squash with the glaze and sprinkle with the chopped hazelnuts.
*Tip: Place hazelnuts in a plastic ziploc and seal. Hit the nuts with the flat side of a meat tenderizer a few times to crush. It’s much easier than chasing little hazelnuts all over the cutting board with a knife.