Temperatures are about to drop here, and a big snowflake is hovering over the predicted forecast for this Saturday. I’m ready. Warm, spicy, slightly exotic, with a touch of sweet… this Moroccan-inspired stew is perfect for a chilly fall day. Kabocha squash is tossed in fragrant spices like smoked paprika, cinnamon, and nutmeg and roasted until carmelized before being added to an aromatic stew bubbling with tomatoes, onions, white beans, and even more spices. Mmmm… take that cold weather!
I’m going to admit something here, and you’re probably going to think I’m crazy (heck, even I think I’m crazy), but I’m actually kind of excited about winter. I can’t believe I just said that out loud, er, typed that in a post. I was actually looking longingly at my skis in our storage closet the other day, reminiscing about some of my favorite cross county ski adventures. I will probably regret saying this, but I’m looking forward to some snow (insert monkey with hands over mouth emoji). Today, while organizing our basement, I even stopped and stared at our boxes of Christmas decorations, like with intent. Intent to do what I’m not sure, but I’m starting to get the itch. You know what I mean, don’t you? That itch that can only be scratched by baking cut-out cookies, watching every favorite childhood holiday movie for the 500th time, and listening to the Classic Holiday station on Pandora while adorning the entire house in home-made decorations found on Pinterest. I told you, I’m crazy.
Of course I’m saying this after 12 gorgeous days of weather in the upper 50’s to upper 70’s. With sunshine! It’s been pretty surreal, especially since we live in one of the cloudiest places in the U.S. Last year by this time, we had already been hit with over 25 inches of snow, and ended up breaking a century-old record for the snowiest November in Michigan. Coincidentally, I was not the least bit excited about snow last year, and found myself having a difficult time getting into the holiday spirit.
Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself talking about snow and Christmas. After all, we still have 8 days until Thanksgiving, 12 days left of November, and about 25 more squash recipes I still want to share before December. Starting with this spicy kabocha stew. Now, typically you would see this Japanese pumpkin as part of a veggie tempura dish or in a Thai curry, but I decided to take it on a little culinary vacay. Basically, we all should be putting this squash in every dish, all day, every day. Not only is it ridiculously delicious, it is brimming with health benefits. If you haven’t made this winter squash your bestie yet, it’s time to make a new friend.
Let me introduce you to kabocha! Here are some of the impressive benefits of this stunning squash:
- It is an excellent source of beta carotene, which is converted to vitamin A. A one cup serving will provide you with 70% of your recommended intake, and helps support healthy eyes, skin, hair, and immune system.
- It also provides a good source of vitamin C (with about 1/3 of the daily value in one cup), plant-based iron, B vitamins, and fiber.
- It’ll give you all that nutrition, with only a small amount of calories (we call that nutrient dense). One serving has only 40 calories and 7 grams of carbs. Butternut squash has about 60 calories per cup and 16 carbs.
- All squash varieties have been found to be excellent sources of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.
- While squash is a low fat food, it does contain omega 3 fats, like walnuts. Although the content is about a third of that in the omega 3 superstar, the walnut, it is an impressive amount for a food that is only 15% calories from fat (compared to 90% calories from fat in walnuts).
- Squash has the potential for blood sugar regulation, which might come as a surprise since it is a starchy food. More studies need to be done, but preliminary research shows an improvement in blood sugar and insulin regulation following the consumption of foods from the gourd-squash-melon family. Researchers believe it is due in part to their unique cell wall polysaccharides, as well as it’s impressive B vitamin content (B1, B3, B6, folate, and pantothenic acid).
- A few other notable kabocha-specific advantages: it cooks faster than butternut, the skins can be eaten if you so choose, and it has a naturally sweet flavor.
I love the sweetness of the squash combined with the spicy and aromatic seasonings. You’ll notice there’s about oh, a hundred or so spices in the ingredients list (I exaggerate). I really liked this combination, though, so I didn’t leave anything out. If you don’t have all of the spices, don’t worry, I would say the main ones to have are cinnamon, smoked paprika, ginger, cumin and nutmeg. This stew is delicious on its own or served over rice or quinoa. It’s best to buy all squash organic, when possible, although I don’t always do this. I have read recently that squash has the ability to pull contaminants from soil, and it is sometimes used by farmers for that purpose alone. Local is always better too, for nutrition and the health of the environment. If you can find it at your local farmer’s market, grown organically, then I say stock up!
With that stock of squash, I encourage you to set aside at least one kabocha to make this hearty plant-based stew! Then play around with it! The squash-abilities are endless! I made the most delicious squash oatmeal the other day, I’m considering adding it to a smoothie, and I can picture some pretty delectable desserts coming from the naturally sweet kabocha. (It’s also delicious just roasted with a sprinkling of cinnamon and a little coconut oil. Yum)
Kabocha Squash and White Bean Stew with Moroccan Spices
makes about 4 – 6 servings
For the caramlized squash:
- 1 kabocha squash, cut into 1 inch cubes, I also cut off the peeling, but you don’t have to
- 1 Tbsp of coconut oil
- 2 tsp coconut nectar or maple syrup
- a few dashes each of smoked paprika, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt
For the stew:
- 1 tsp coconut oil
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 large clove of garlic, minced
- 1 14.5 oz can of stewed tomatoes and their juices
- 1 can of cannelini beans, rinsed and drained well
- 1 1/2 cups of vegetable broth
- 3/4 – 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp ginger
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp coriander
- dash of white pepper
- dash of turmeric
- dash of cloves
- dash of allspice
- optional: cayenne to taste if you want a little heat
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 – 2 tsp coconut sugar
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare a rimmed baking pan with parchment paper or silpat. Add the squash to a large bowl along with the oil, spices, and coconut nectar and toss to coat. Transfer to the baking pan and roast for 15 minutes, flipping about halfway through. I also set my oven to broiler and set the pan under the broiler for about 3 minutes after roasting, to carmelize a bit more. They should be almost soft but still firm. They will continue to cook in the stew
About halfway through roasting the squash, get the stew going. Heat the oil over medium heat and saute the onions and garlic until the onions become transparent. Add the tomatoes, broth, and spices. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and simmer for about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust spices. Remove the squash from the oven and add to the stew, along with the beans and simmer for about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust the spices and salt as needed.
Serve over cooked rice, if desired.
I haven’t had a chance to try any alternative methods for cooking this stew, but next time I make it I’m going to try carmelizing the squash in a saute pan, then adding it to the stew to cook and pull in more flavor from the spices. I imagine more broth will need to be added if you want to try this, and you may also have to fry it in batches, since you’ll have a lot of squash cubes. I’ll edit the recipe after I try it, or let me know in the notes if you go that route.