Makes about twelve 3-inch rounds
Called kabocha no chakin in Japanese, these little orange rounds are made from kabocha pumpkin, a variety originally from Japan (chakin is a pouch). This is a different winter squash than buttercup, which it resembles. Short, squat kabocha has a tough dark green skin with dense, low-moisture flesh. After mashing, set mounds into pieces of plastic wrap and twist into rounds to resemble the squashes they’re made from. To remove the skin, microwave the squash, and if the puree seems to have too much moisture, use a square of paper towel instead of plastic wrap to shape them; you can reuse the towel because the mash does not stick. Sweet potatoes work as well.
|1||kabocha pumpkin (2½ to 3 pounds)|
|1||tablespoon soy sauce|
|12||frozen edamame beans or green peas|
1. Halve the kabocha; use a spoon to scoop and discard the seeds.
2. Line the bottom of the microwave with a piece of parchment paper. Set the squash, cut sides down, on the paper. Microwave for 6 minutes (save the paper).
3. Cut the squash into 2-inch chunks. Peel off the skin.
4. In a skillet large enough to hold the squash in a single layer, combine the water, sugar, salt, and soy sauce. Add the pumpkin pieces. Trim the parchment paper to fit into the skillet. Lay the paper over the pumpkin and tuck the paper in around the edges. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 minutes. Cover and cook for 3 minutes more or until almost all the liquid is absorbed. Test the squash with the tip of a knife. If it isn’t tender, add more water to the pan and cook a few minutes more.
5. With a potato masher, mash the flesh in the pan until smooth. Stir in the butter. The mixture should be the consistency of mashed potatoes. Turn the heat to low and continue cooking, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes, or until most of the liquid evaporates and the mixture seems dry. Transfer to a bowl; cool.
6. Meanwhile, bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Add the edamame or peas and cook for 2 minutes or until tender; drain.
6. Tear off a 5-inch piece of plastic wrap. Scoop a generous ¼ cup of the squash into the center of the wrap. Bring up all the sides and gently twist until you have a round shape with vertical lines on top. Carefully open the package and set the pumpkin on a serving platter. You can make about 4 rounds with the same piece of wrap. Continue in this way until all the pumpkin is used. Garnish the tops with an edamame bean or green pea. Serve at room temperature.
Debra Samuels. Adapted from “My Japanese Table”