Dive into fall with a nutritious and versatile winter squash.
Kabocha squash, also known as Japanese pumpkin, is a type of winter squash that is remarkably sweet and tender once cooked. Shaped like a squat pumpkin, this variety has a vibrant yellow-orange flesh and mottled deep-green outer skin with a dull finish. This Japanese staple ingredient is packed with cancer-fighting antioxidants like beta-carotene, important for immune function and maintaining healthy cells. Kabocha squash is also a good source of vitamin C, fiber and potassium.
A great choice for those who enjoy sweet potato and pumpkin, Kabocha squash is available year- round but is at its peak in late summer and early fall. This versatile squash can be incorporated into a variety of dishes.
Rinse the squash with water. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds with a spoon. The rind can be eaten after it is cooked, but it can also be removed before cooking: Cut the squash in 2-inch slices and place each on its side to safely cut off the rind.
Heat the oven to 400 F. Prepare the squash as described above. Lightly coat with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Seasonings such as cumin, garlic powder, turmeric and garam marsala also are great additions for flavor. Place the squash flesh side up in a pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until fork tender and lightly browned. The outer rind can be removed if desired but is edible once cooked.
Roasted kabocha can be added to salads, soups, stews and curries. It can be pureed and served as a side dish instead of potatoes or added to your favorite bread, pancake, waffle or overnight oats recipe. Leftover squash freezes very well.
Kabocha Squash Lentil Curry Recipe
Start to finish: 1 hour 15 minutes Servings: 9
1 cup water
3 1⁄2 cups vegetable or chicken broth,
1 cup dry brown lentils
1 tablespoon olive oil or coconut oil
1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
4 to 5 cups peeled, cubed kabocha squash (half of 1 large squash, cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces)
One 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
1⁄2 cup canned coconut milk
1 1⁄2 tablespoons Massaman curry paste
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1⁄2 teaspoon turmeric
Salt and ground black pepper
Dash of cinnamon (optional)
In a saucepan, bring the water and 2 cups of the broth to a boil. Add the lentils and simmer for 20 minutes, or until cooked. Set aside.
In a large pot over medium-high heat, heat the oil, then add the onion and sauté. Add the remaining broth and bring to a boil. Add the squash and simmer, covered, for 20 to 30 minutes, or until tender. Add the tomatoes, coconut milk, curry paste, curry powder, garlic powder, turmeric, salt and pepper to taste, and cinnamon (if desired). Mix well and bring to a simmer. Add the reserved lentils and mix well. The curry is delicious served with warm rice.
Rachel Wong is a registered dietitian and board-certified specialist in oncology nutrition through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She earned her bachelor’s in dietetics from the University of Connecticut and has over 11 years of clinical experience in a variety of settings, including adult oncology, cancer survivorship, diabetes, weight management and nutrition support. A leading expert in cancer nutrition, Wong is a frequent presenter at cancer conferences and symposiums in the Washington, D.C., area. She is an oncology dietitian at Georgetown University Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.