I love winter squash! Butternut, acorn, spaghetti, and more. This is the season to be on the lookout for sales. My co-ops are offering them. Local grocery stores will have them on sale. I like to decorate with them and then cook through the supply during the season.
Have you heard of the kabocha squash? I hadn’t either, until a few months ago when Mary taught a macrobiotic cooking class at our parish. I learned a lot from her and have tried many of her recipes. This recipe was inspired by a dish we made in class, but is by no means macrobiotic. I learned new cooking techniques and new ingredients. I learned about mixing cooking techniques, flavors, and textures to create a satisfying meal. According to Mary, you really should blanch your greens as a side dish, but I didn’t this time. Often I add a pressed salad to this meal, but didn’t have the ingredients on hand today. If you’ve never tried a pressed salad, I recommend trying it on a fasting day. This salad making process produces a salad that feels lightly dressed with no oil at all.
The kabocha squash is a Japanese pumpkin that is sweeter than a butternut squash. You should be able to find them at your closest Asian supermarket, or maybe even Whole Foods. To find the best squash, look for a squash that feels heavy for it’s size and has golden orange peeking through the green. Also be careful to one with no blemishes or nicks in the skin. Mold can form if the skin has been compromised, so look carefully to ensure a long shelf life. As with all winter squashes, you can add these to soups, make squash fries, and even toast the seeds. If you can’t find a kabocha, sweet potatoes or a butternut squash would be good substitutes.
Adzuki beans (sometimes “aduki” or “azuki”) are a Japanese bean that pairs nicely with the kabocha squash. I’ve loved them since before the macrobiotic cooking class, and I hope you will, too. Adzukis are so sweet that they are often used in Japanese desserts. That use is an acquired taste in my experience, so I prefer to stick to savory options. You will find these at your local Asian supermarket, but I sometimes purchase mine through Azure Standard. I’ll tell you more about them another day.
Kombu (Sometimes “konbu”) and dulse are varieties of sea weed. They are both great sources of trace minerals. The kombu can increase the digestibility of beans when cooked together and can be used with any bean variety. Dulse is great when added to a stir fry and on a DLA sandwich. Think something like a BLT, only vegan and with avocado. Check your local health food store for these ingredients. I have only found kombu at the local Asian market.
Warning: This is one of my biggest recipes. Feel free to cut it in half for your first trial and make fries or soup from the other half of the squash.
Adzuki Beans with Kabocha Squash
4 cups adzuki beans, rinsed and soaked overnight (6-8 hours)
1 onion sliced
1 tsp dried thyme
1 inch square dried kombu (optional)
1 tsp salt
1 kabocha squash, peeled, seeded, and diced into 1 inch cubes
1/2 bunch of kale, to taste, cut into ribbons
millet or brown rice, cooked
2 T sesame seeds or pepitas, toasted and lightly ground (I use a suribachi and a child for this task, but a coffee grinder would work, too. )
2 T dulse flakes or a light sprinkling of salt (or toasted whole dulse, but then to grind this too)
In a heavy bottomed soup pot, place kombu, then layer the onions, sprinkle with 1 tsp salt. Top with adzuki beans and thyme. Add water to cover the beans by about a half inch of water. Bring to a boil and reduce to low simmer. Cover with a lid and cook for at least two hours. I like to do four hours if I can. Trust me, low and slow is the secret to this dish!
Check routinely to ensure that you maintain the water at about level with the beans for most of the cooking. I’ve never tried this, but wonder if you could put this part in the slow cooker on low all day. Let me know if it works for you.
About an hour before dinner, put your grain on to cook according to package instructions. I used millet this time, but often use short grain brown rice. You could use quinoa, but I can’t…
Mix the seeds and dulse (or salt) together into a rough powder to make gomasio. Store leftovers in an airtight container.
About 30 minutes to dinner make sure the water is level with the beans, then place the squash cubes in an even layer over the top of the beans. Cover with the lid and steam for 20 minutes.
Add a layer of kale and steam with the lid on until wilted. Stir until the squash and kale are nicely distributed. In theory you can take out any remaining kombu chunks at this time, but I’ve never found any.
Serve the millet with a light dusting of gomasio. Add the beans and any additional sides you’d like.