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Krazy for Kabocha

If you hang around my blog long enough, you’ll soon find out that I love kabocha squash, a wonderful winter squash with a dark green skin, deep orange interior, and more flavor than you’d ever think could be possible in a squash. I can’t find them locally, so every time we travel to the Asian market (an hour away) I stock up on a few — where they’re also less expensive than in a regular supermarket anyway.In previous posts, I’ve used the roasted squash in a variety of ways including this luscious soup:

Because it has a large cavity, the kabocha squash is also ideal for stuffing with your favorite bread or grain stuffing:

 

 One of my favorite ways to enjoy the kabocha is to transform it into a rich, creamy (and colorful!) sauce for pasta. Last year, I tossed the sauce-cloaked pasta with chestnuts and cranberries for an amazing autumn meal.

For another take on the pasta-kabocha sauce combo, I tossed the sauce with some cooked gnocchi and used it as a topping for cooked lentils and kale as shown in the top photo. Wow! Talk about a powerhouse of nutrients. And of course, there are all those wonderful flavors and textures going on that complement each other perfectly.Here’s how to make it:

1. Roast the squash: cut the kabocha it in half, scoop out the seeds and then place it in a shallow baking dish, cut side down. Add a small sliced onion or a few quartered shallots to the pan, along with a little water. Cover and roast at 400 degrees until very soft.
2. Make the sauce: Scoop out the roasted squash and transfer to a food processor, along with the roasted onion or shallots, and salt and pepper to taste, and some ground dried herbs like a little sage and thyme. Process until smooth, adding a little almond milk or vegetable broth to achieve the desired consistency of a creamy sauce. Transfer to a saucepan and heat it, stirring. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if needed.
3. Cook the lentils and steam the kale, then heat a little oil in a skillet and add some minced garlic and cook until fragrant, then add the cooked lentils and kale season with salt and pepper, tossing to coat with the garlic.
4. Cook the gnocchi (or pasta). Drain well and return to the pot. Add as much of the sauce as needed to coat.

Is anyone else a fan of this amazing squash?

Ultimate Veggie Burgers Revisited

Back in 2002 when I developed the recipe for Ultimate Veggie Burgers in Vegan Planet, my goal was to make a firm-textured patty that looked more like a burger than a veggie. What I came up with was a combination of cooked lentils, ground walnuts, and (most importantly, for the texture) wheat gluten flour. Judging by the volume of positive e-mails I’ve received about it over the years, I’d say the recipe was a success.

What I like most about the basic recipe is that it can be modified in a number of ways. Sometimes I leave out the ground flaxseed mixture and they turn out fine. Sometimes I add garlic. Other times I saute the onion (rather than leaving it raw). When I don’t have cooked lentils on hand, I just mash up whatever beans are handy, although the resulting burgers are lighter in color, but still delicious. I’ve even left out the walnuts, opting instead for a little more each of the lentils and wheat gluten.

The recipe is very flexible and fun to experiment with. You can also trade in burger rolls for brown gravy and serve them as cutlets. If you’ve somehow missed out on this old standard from Vegan Planet, you might want to given it a try. And if you come up with your own variation, I’d love to hear about it.

Ultimate Veggie Burgers
Serve on burger rolls with all the trimmings or top with brown gravy. (Adapted from Vegan Planet.)

1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 cup walnut pieces

3/4 cup cooked brown lentils, well drained
1/4 cup grated onion
1/2 cup wheat gluten flour (or more, if needed))
1/2 teaspoon browning sauce (such as Gravy Master or Kitchen Bouquet)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil for frying

1. In a blender combine the flax seeds and soy sauce, blending until viscous. Set aside.
2. In a food processor, pulse the walnuts to coarsely chop. Add the lentils, onion, wheat gluten flour, browning sauce, flax mixture, and salt and pepper to taste. Process until well combined, but with some texture remaining.
3. Shape the mixture into 4 patties, adding a little more wheat gluten flour if the mixture is too wet. Place the burgers on a plate and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
4. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the burgers and cook until browned on both sides, turning once, about 4 minutes per side.

Serves 4