roasted black futsu with jasmine-kale rice


As you may know, I am a sucker for a produce stand. Seeing as the state I'm currently occupying is the Garden State and seeing as I live within minutes of acres of farmland, it's kind of hard to travel in any direction without finding yourself in front of a farm stand or a farmer's market or both. It's a good place to be. So many good sights and smells to take in, lots to learn about varieties and growing your own food.

Our CSA at Honey Brook Organic Farm (officially over for the season this week, sad) boasted a super beautiful and rare variety of winter squash this year: the black futsu. A short, squat and heavily ribbed variety of pumpkin, this Japanese heirloom fruit (yes, fruit) is, wait for it, rich, creamy and tastes distinctly like roasted hazelnuts. Due to their rarity, so far we only snagged one this season (and I picked up another at a Whole Foods that within days was riddled with mold, so: not cool, WFM), but oh man, was I impressed. Usually when someone tells me that something tastes like something else, I think, why? Shouldn't it taste like it's own thing? If I wanted hazelnuts, wouldn't I just have hazelnuts? Maybe, but then you'd be missing out on this beautiful squash that gets chewy and crisp at the edges. 

So while you could totally make this recipe with your favorite winter squash (and you might have to, seeing as this one can be tough to track down), black futsu will take it over the top. A little tip: wait until the black skin has faded to a ruddy brown color. That way you'll know it's ready to eat. Do not, of course, wait until it starts sprouting a white, fuzzy beard. Ahem.

For this recipe, you'll need:

One medium black futsu squash, quartered and sliced
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup brown jasmine rice or other fragrant variety, prepared according to instructions
2-3 whole cloves
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 1/2 cups of kale (any kind), finely chopped
1/2 cup dry toasted pumpkin seeds, from your pumpkin of course (optional, but: seriously?)

Start by getting that squash in the oven. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and arrange your squash pieces (skin on) in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Toss them in your olive oil, salt, pepper, paprika, cinnamon and cayenne until evenly coated. Transfer to the oven for about 35-40 minutes or until the squash has softened and easily peels away from the skin, rotating halfway through.

Meanwhile, get your rice started according to package instructions. Add your cloves, fennel seeds, salt and pepper to taste and just a touch of olive oil. As always, I'm super partial to the jasmines or basmatis. I don't know, they just add a little something extra and make the food feel a little fancier, plus they pair beautifully with the headier spices like cinnamon and cloves. 

In a small skillet over low heat, add your (rinsed and dried) pumpkin seeds. These will toast up quickly and can burn if you don't watch them closely. Stir them often until just barely browned, then remove from the pan and set aside.

When the rice is just about done, stir in your chopped kale. You want to just wilt it down, not cook it, so wait until you're just about ready to serve. Toss in your golden raisins. Serve alongside your beautiful slices of black futsu and top with your toasted pumpkin seeds. You could peel the skins off of the pumpkin before serving, but that way you may risk losing a lot of the glorious goodness within them. Besides, the skin gets beautiful and almost reddish in color, and fighting for your food is part of the fun, right?