Editor’s Note: Rachael is the inventive home chef behind La Fuji Mama. Now a mother of two, many of her dishes take inspiration from the time she spent living in Japan. Check out her recipe below but make the jump over to her main site when you’re done!
I love when the weather starts to turn cooler and the late summer/early fall produce starts showing up at my farmer’s market. Mushrooms are wonderful additions to roasted vegetable dishes for a fall dinner. One of my favorite foods shows up at this time of year—kabocha squash (pronounced “kah-bow-cha”), sometimes called Japanese pumpkin or Japanese squash.
Kabocha has hard, knobbly green skin and bright golden orange-yellow flesh and, like mushrooms, is very popular in Japan. When cooked, the flesh is rich, creamy, and slightly sweet. It’s a bit like butternut squash, but even better in my opinion. Kabocha is rich in beta carotene, iron, potassium, and vitamin C. Pairing mushrooms with kabocha creates a dish that gives a fantastic nutritional punch.
I washed and sliced my first Kabocha of the season into thin 1/4-inch slices. I chose to leave the rind on, as this is often done in Japanese cuisine. When it is cooked, the rind softens and is delicious, so I find that removing it takes more effort than it’s worth. Plus, I think the rich green color adds nice contrast to the dish.
I tossed the slices in olive oil and baked them for 25 minutes. Then I added fresh sliced Shiitake and baby bella mushrooms, garlic, and fresh basil and put it back into the oven to continue roasting. When the kabocha was nice and tender, I sprinkled some panko breadcrumbs over the top (you can use regular breadcrumbs, but I love the texture of panko), baked it for another 10 minutes, and then it was done! The creamy sweetness of the kabocha was delicious with the meaty, juicy mushrooms.
I garnished the dish with a bit of shichimi togarashi (Japanese 7-spice) to add some flavor and heat, and served it with a simple roasted chicken. This dish is a perfect addition to a fall meal. Not only is it rich in nutrition, but it’s delicious and adds some beautiful autumn color to the table.
Roasted Mushrooms & Kabocha Squash
Makes 6 to 8 servings
2 pounds kabocha squash
6 tablespoons olive oil
about 8 ounces fresh Shiitake mushrooms, sliced
about 6 ounces fresh baby bella mushrooms, sliced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Shichimi togarashi (Japanese 7-spice) or cayenne pepper, to garnish (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Wash the outside of the kabocha, cut it in half, remove the seeds, and cut the flesh into 1/4-inch slices (leaving the rind on).
2. Drizzle about 1 tablespoon of the olive oil into the bottom of a 13×9-inch baking dish. Add the slices of squash, then drizzle with the rest of the olive oil. Carefully turn the slices of squash in the pan to coat them evenly in the oil. Bake for 25 minutes.
3. Remove from the oven and add the mushrooms, garlic, basil, salt and pepper. Carefully mix everything together, then spread everything out evenly in the baking dish (so that it will cook evenly). Add 1 to 2 tablespoons more olive oil if the squash is looking dry already, or if the added ingredients do not appear to have been coated in any residual olive oil.
4. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 30 to 40 minutes, until the squash is tender. Scatter the panko breadcrumbs over the top and bake for another 10 minutes. Serve warm or even at room temperature, sprinkled with a tiny bit of shichimi togarashi or cayenne pepper.
* Variations: If you cannot find kabocha, you can substitute the same amount of butternut or acorn squash. If you do this, remove the rind and carefully watch the cooking time, as it will vary slightly. You can substitute your favorite fresh herbs for the basil. A bit of sage or rosemary would be especially delicious. You can mix 1 tablespoon of melted butter with the breadcrumbs before adding them to make more of a crust, or use fresh grated parmesan cheese in place of the breadcrumbs.