The Year In Food » Fine Seasonal Eating

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Sake-Steamed Kabocha Squash with Miso // the year in food

There was a point towards the end of my book-making process when Stacy remarked that one of the recipes we were working on didn’t really seem very much like me. I was slightly bummed to hear that. But she was absolutely right. Here’s the thing: taking on a project of such scale made me stupidly anxious. I believed that I had to make the most original, biggest and best of everything for this book to be the kind of cookbook that has weight in the world. Towards the end there, I kind of forgot one of the things that had drawn me to home cooking in the first place: its simplicity.

Sake-Steamed Kabocha Squash with Miso // the year in food

This is not to say that I don’t love every single recipe that I made for my cookbook. I do. Even those few that are a little more fussy. But there’s a lesson here, about following my own north star and being faithful to what’s essentially me. The seriousness of taking on a book caused me to lose sight of that a little bit.

Sake-Steamed Kabocha Squash with Miso // the year in food

To be fair, there’s also this creative itch that I have, and brainstorming creative recipe ideas scratches that itch. It’s one of my favorite things to do on long walks: think about flavors and ingredients and how they might pair together. But there’s also this special magical place where creative flavors pair together in a really accessible way. And that’s what I want to hang on to.

Sake-Steamed Kabocha Squash with Miso // the year in food

At the end of the day, the book is a labor of love and an experiment. I think that I had to cross that threshold – venturing into complicated cooking territory – to be reminded how much I love simplicity in food, to be reminded that not every recipe I produce must be the most wildly creative recipe ever. Having spent time away from cooking since submitting my manuscript, I’m glad to be reminded of the power of a simple dish. I believe that this lies at the heart of home cooking. Most nights, my vegetables are sautéed and tossed with salt and pepper. And that’s enough.

Sake-Steamed Kabocha Squash with Miso // the year in food

(P.S.: Save the squash seeds and roast them.)

adapted from Japanese Farm Food

It’s a testament to the quiet beauty of this book that my dad wound up buying two copies: one for me, and one for my stepmom, because she loved my copy so much. This recipe epitomizes simplicity. Nancy Singleton Hachisu has a deep love for and understanding of Japanese home cooking; the book is a gem. I’m a huge fan of the intense umami flavors of miso. You can buy a small quantity of it in bulk at a natural foods store if you’re not ready to commit to a whole tub of miso. But if you are ready to commit to a whole tub of it, adding a tablespoon of the paste to a bowl of hot water and throwing in some veggies and protein makes for the easiest soup ever. And guess what? You don’t need to peel kabocha squash. Hallelujah.

3 tablespoons miso
6 tablespoons sake
1 small kabocha squash, about 1.5 pounds, seeds removed
3 tablespoons sesame oil (or use your favorite neutral oil)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Gomasio, optional, for garnish

In a small bowl, muddle the miso with 3 tablespoons of the sake. Slice the kabocha lengthwise into thin wedges. (Hachisu recommends 1/8-inch thick, but I found that very challenging with this dense squash.) Slice those wedges in half.

In a large skillet over medium-low heat, warm the oil with the red pepper flakes. When the oil is hot, add the squash and toss to coat. Add the remaining sake and toss again. Cover and cook until the squash is tender, stirring occasionally, about 6-10 minutes. Add the miso-sake paste, stirring carefully to evenly coat the squash.

Garnish with a little gomasio if desired. Serve warm.

  • Stacy - I hope you know that I never would have said that if I didn’t find your most personal, signature style of cooking utterly fantastic! Because I do. This recipe is surely something that, if I were to see it elsewhere, would make me think of you – perfect pick for this post. And as for the recipe in question you noted above… Even if it’s not the absolute strongest reflection of your style, it’s delicious and I love it. But you already knew that. ;) xoReplyCancel

  • erin @ yummy supper - Kimberley, I’m with you. My favorite recipes are always the easiest ones that are really just a celebration of how good a few delicious ingredients taste together.
    I cannot wait for your book! If that lunch you made for me is any indication, we are all in for a treat.

  • Pamela @ Brooklyn Farm Girl - Beautiful pictures and super delicious recipe. The simple ones are always the best in my opinion.ReplyCancel

  • hugin - ! this post is just completely beautiful and perfect. i have a lovely little kabocha that was waiting for inspiration… thank you for sharing this recipe; it looks delicious!ReplyCancel

  • Theresa - I’m a huge fan of miso. Thank you for this simple and delicious recipe.ReplyCancel

  • Brian @ A Thought For Food - Well I’m totally into this! Oh, and can we just talk about how excited I am for your cookbook. Every time you mention it, I freak out a little.ReplyCancel

  • Sheila - Beautiful, heartfelt post! This squash looks delicious. Can’t wait to try it and see your book!ReplyCancel

  • Pat Bagg - How essential is the sake to the recipe? Can I substitute rice cooking wine, splash vermouth?ReplyCancel

  • Kimberley - @Pat Bagg: I’m sure that any of those would be fine. I also tried this with dry white wine and it was great.ReplyCancel

  • hugin - i made this with chinese rice cooking wine and added in a block of sliced tempeh; it came out delicious. :) thanks again for sharing! i’ll have to check out the book.ReplyCancel

  • UrbanJungleFashion - Geez! This is SO DELISH!

  • Fashionable Hostess - Can’t believe how simple this is, yet looks extravagant! Thanks for the recipe!ReplyCancel

  • Kate, New York - This recipe reminds me so much of a simple, insides-warming dish that my dad used to make me when I was growing up. The kabocha gets unbelievably rich and creamy with sake. True soul food.ReplyCancel

  • Bonnie - Great post, I love the use of miso in this recipe!ReplyCancel

  • Millie// addalittle - Yes! Kabocha is one of my absolute favourite vegetables ever! I love love love it and it would taste great with miso I bet!ReplyCancel

  • Christina C - I just made this and it was amazing. I ran out of Sake, so had to sub some dry white wine, but it didn’t matter. It reminds me of Japanese comfort food. It’s sweet, warm, and salty, just so delicious. I did cook my kabocha a little more, but that’s mostly because I like it pretty soft. Thank you for sharing a great new recipe!ReplyCancel

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