Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Kabocha Squash, Bound for Popularity

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Kabocha Squash, Bound for Popularity

Article excerpt

The other day I was having a conversation with an editor about "trendy vegetables," which is a two-word phrase I'm sorry to put out in the universe. Alas, like other popular items to eat and drink - Neapolitan pizza, bourbon cocktails - vegetables do seem to fall in and out of favor.

They're kind of like baby girl names that way. It's not that snow peas have gone anywhere, but they're very Kimberly if you know what I mean. Fennel is more of a Rachel, still around if you look but starting to fall back from prominence. Kale? That's Emma, a dark- eyed beauty with curly-hair, ensconced in an expensive stroller next to a reusable Whole Foods tote.

Which brings us to butternut squash, which I'm afraid to say has veered into Madison territory. She was so sturdy, classy and sweet, but her ubiquity turned her annoying. Have you seen butternut squash soup on a menu lately? Inasmuch as I have any ability to affect vegetable trends, I'd like to propose kabocha squash as a replacement. This Japanese variety of winter squash has a lot going for it - a vibrant orange flesh, a perfectly edible rind, a sweet- earthy flavor with a citrus-like brightness, and an incomparable texture. Cooked, this squash develops a soft creaminess that makes butternut seem dull and tacky in comparison.

Here are two recipes - the Japanese classic for simmered squash in sweet soy as well as a quick Thai curry I threw together, a dish I'll repeat. Just watch. The age of kabocha is coming. It's Imogen.

THAI CURRY WITH PORK AND KABOCHA

Hands on: 10 minutes Total time: 40 minutes Servings: 6

1 pork tenderloin, cubed

1 medium onion, diced

Vegetable oil, for sauting

2 tablespoons yellow Thai curry paste

2 cups chicken broth

1 can coconut milk

3 cups kabocha, partly peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes

Other vegetables, as available, such as red bell pepper and green beans

Fish sauce to taste

Lime juice to taste

Prep the pork and onion and saut in oil in the bottom of a heavy- bottomed pot over a medium-high flame until lightly browned. …

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