Fall is my favorite season for produce. I love seeing all the earthy, rich colors: dark green squashes, red and yellow beets, orange pumpkins and purple potatoes. They really get me into the holiday spirit. But 10 years ago I found it to be the most intimidating season. I’m a physician, not a chef. I didn’t grow up cooking or baking.
At that time, I was overweight and unhealthy–and tired of it. In my quest for a new way of eating, I’d walk around the farmers’ market looking for inspiration, but I’d leave empty handed and sad because I didn’t know how to cook any of those beautiful vegetables.
Around the same time, I had the most delicious macrobiotic platter at a restaurant. It contained a piece of deep-orange squash with a green edible skin that was a little less sweet than butternut squash, but with a firmer, potato-like texture. It was called kabocha squash or Japanese pumpkin, and I was hooked. I looked up the nutrition profile to see if it was a food I could incorporate into my diet and still lose weight.
I was ecstatic to find out that kabocha had only 40 calories per cup and 7 grams of carbs (less than butternut squash or sweet potatoes), and you could eat the skin for additional fiber. Kabocha squash is rich in beta carotene, iron, vitamin C, potassium and smaller traces of calcium, folic acid, with minute amounts of B vitamins. All the health benefits of sweet potato with more fiber and less sugar…sold!
I asked the waiter how they made it, paid my bill and went back to the farmers’ market and bought the first kabocha I saw. I’m proud to say it has become a staple in my diet. Whenever I’m feeling hungry but am trying to watch the amount of carbs in my diet, I have a serving of kabocha with some protein and I feel satisfied and can still fit into my jeans.
The following recipe is my favorite way to prepare it, and it’s a wonderful vegan, gluten-free side dish for the holidays. The creamy tahini adds healthy fats, protein and calcium to this savory dish. I like to eat it with two soft boiled eggs for breakfast or lunch. Swap it for sweet potato with marshmallows at Thanksgiving dinner, and your body (and waistline!) will thank me!
Roasted Kabocha Squash with Tahini Dill Dressing
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Wash and cut squash in half; remove seeds with a spoon and discard stem. Cut squash into1/2″ cubes.
- Toss squash with oil and salt, then place arrange on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Bake squash for about 30 minutes or until tender, flipping half-way through.
- To make dressing (while squash is cooking), combine all ingredients in a bowl and or whisk until you reach a whipped, smooth consistency.
- When squash is cooked, transfer to a serving dish and drizzle on dressing.
- Sprinkle with gomasio for a beautiful finishing touch.