Roasted kabocha squash with coconut gremolata
Kabocha is my #1 favorite squash in the whole wide world - it’s sweet and nutty with a creamy (as opposed to stringy or grainy) texture. The skin is edible so you don’t even have to peel it. I love it steamed, braised, baked; in curries, salads, or desserts. I like them best with these crispy edges that form on thin roasted slices.
This recipe is simple but so good - I could eat a whole bowl of it, on top of the handful of roasted squash pieces I snuck off the hot tray. They’ve got all the flavor of the holy trinity (fish sauce, lime juice, and garlic) that defines dishes from my childhood. Brown sugar on the roasted squash imitates the sweetness of palm sugar that often accompanies the holy trinity - I added the sweetener before cooking for deeper flavor and extra caramelization. The gremolata is easy to make, but adds lots of crunch and flavor layers.
One bite and you’ll be a kabocha convert too. Serve as an appetizer, or with protein and a simple salad for a full meal.
1/2 medium kabocha squash (about 1 pound of squash)
1/3 cup oil
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp brown sugar
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/3 raw cup unsalted cashews
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
zest of 1 lime, about 1 tsp
1 tbsp fish sauce
juice of one lime - about 1-2 tsp
2-4 Thai birds eye chilies, thinly sliced (optional)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. With a sharp, heavy knife, cut the kabocha squash in half. Scoop out seeds with a spoon and discard. Leave skin on, then cut into slices about ¼” thick. Cut in the middle again so you have short, flat pieces. Peel shallots and cut into slices about ¼” thick.
Toss the squash and shallot slices on a lined baking sheet (you will probably need 2) with oil, salt, brown sugar, and minced garlic. Space them evenly - you want them to get crispy, not steamed. Bake for 15 minutes and then rotate baking trays. Bake for 10-15 minutes longer until soft and edges of squash begin to caramelize, turning a golden brown.
While squash is baking, prepare the gremolata: Toast coconut flakes and cashews in a pan on low heat over stove for about 10 minutes, until most flakes and cashews are golden brown around the edges. Remove from heat, then gently toss with chopped cilantro and lime zest.
Place roasted squash and shallots in a serving bowl. Season with fish sauce, lime juice, and Thai chilies if using. Add gremolata and gently toss to coat. Taste and add more fish sauce or lime juice if needed - it should be sweet with umami flavor and a bit of tang.