Kabocha Squash Dip with Sesame and Sage [CYOB]

Forget about boring hummus or preservative-rich dips. This kabocha squash mix is a sweet and nutty spread guaranteed to leave behind a clean bowl.

Forget about boring hummus or preservative-rich dips. This kabocha squash mix is a sweet and nutty spread guaranteed to leave behind a clean bowl.

Create Your Own Bite #30

1 1/2 Pound Kabocha Squash (About half of one medium-sized squash).

1/2 Cup Non-Fat Greek Yogurt

2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice

3 Cloves of Garlic, Whole

5 Sage Leaves

1 Tablespoon Sesame Seeds

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil, Divided

1 Tablespoon Light Butter, Divided

Salt and Pepper

Estimated Calories: 75 Per 1/4 Cup Serving

Makes six servings.

Pot-luck parties always make me exceptionally nervous. You want to create a fun, flavorful dish that appeals to a wide variety of palates, while also avoiding common allergens and dietary restrictions. You want to impress the guests and always leave with an empty bowl. The pressure is always on at a pot-luck party.

Last night, two of my best friends hosted a pot-luck latke party. They provided fresh, gluten-free latkes and spiced spiked cider for guests, and encouraged everyone to bring along a treat.

All week, I thought about what I would make. But when Saturday morning rolled around, I found myself at the Borough Hall Greenmarket with two full bags from Trader Joes, and still no clue what I was going to make.

That’s when I saw a lovely assortment of Kabocha Squashes – also known as Japanese pumpkins. And, having never actually tackled this winter squash in my own kitchen, decided that feeding a group of 20-something 20-somethings was the perfect night to improvise a recipe, using ingredients I had never used before.

Genius.

The kabocha squash is a favorite amongst winter squashes – it’s flesh is very sweet, and when roasted, the skin becomes soft and edible. Like its cousins, it’s packed with cartenoids, and the vibrant orange meat is loaded with iron, potassium, and Vitamin C.

After consulting with a variety of recipes that used kabocha squash, dips that used butternut squash, and spreads that had a mix of ingredients from both, I decided to wing it. This recipe is what occurred in the frantic Saturday afternoon I spent in the kitchen, preparing for a night I both couldn’t wait for, as much as I couldn’t wait for it to be over.

Because pot-luck parties are as much of a coin-toss with people as they are with food.

To start, preheat the oven to 425 and halve the kabocha squash. Remove the seeds and pulp, and butter the inside of the squash with a teaspoon of light butter. Take a full sage leaf and rub it into the flesh. Press it into the center of the squash, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and turn over. The squash should roast for about 45 minutes, with the green skin-side up.

For added flavor, make a sage gremolata with lemon zest, sage, and roasted garlic.  Pile in center of dip so guests can add as much - or as little - as they'd like.

For added flavor, make a sage gremolata with lemon zest, sage, and roasted garlic. Pile in center of dip so guests can add as much – or as little – as they’d like.

Make the sage butter while the squash is baking. Add the rest of the butter to a small saucepan, and melt over medium heat. Add in 4 sage leaves, and cook until the butter begins to brown and the leaves begin to crisp. At this point in time, your kitchen should be thick with the fragrant aroma of sweet squash roasting in the oven and buttered sage.

Like the pot-luck party, this dip was the combination of a very diverse group of ingredients. Some that always go together (butter and sage), some that I have never used before (kabocha squash), and a few that I was hoping I’d never have to use ever again. The oil, for instance, is integral to turning this from mashed-squash into a savory dip. But I do avoid it whenever possible.

Take 2 teaspoons of olive oil and add it into your food processor, along with the yogurt, lemon juice, a few cracks of salt and pepper. Pulse until combined.

When the squash is tender and the flesh easily pulls away from the skin, remove it from the oven and reduce the heat to 350. Drizzle a little olive oil over the garlic cloves, and pop them in for about 15 minutes, or until soft and beginning to turn translucent. Let the squash cool before scooping out the flesh into the food processor.

In a tahini-inspired moment, I decided to toss in the sesame seeds for a little nuttiness and crunch. When the garlic is done, add that in along with the browned sage butter. Reserve the leaves for garnish. Pulse together all the ingredients, adding in water if the dip needs to be thinned, and a pinch or two of salt and black pepper to taste.

Improvisation in the kitchen is sometimes necessary. It forces you to try things you wouldn’t normally, and pushes your boundaries. Even if your kitchen counter is littered with ingredients that bear no resemblance to one another and are rarely used together, you never know when things might actually mix and mingle smoothly.

When the dip is done, transfer it to a decorative bowl and top with the fried sage leaves. Drizzle the remainder of the olive oil over the top. A generous sprinkle of sesame seeds makes a perfect final touch. Serve with sesame crisps or – as it turns out – on latkes with a dab of fat-free sour cream.

Nutty and sweet, this colorful dip is the perfect centerpiece to a pot-luck spread.

With its bright orange hue, a squash-based dip is the perfect centerpiece to a pot-luck spread.

I’m dedicating this post to my friends. In one way or another, everyone I’ve ever known seemed to be at that latke party last night. There is nothing like a pot-luck party, with all of your pasts dipping their fingers into your Kabocha Squash dip, that makes you so grateful for the true friends in your life. And seeing how past, present, and new friends can all drink together, warmed and ruddy by cider and latkes and pressed paper-thin in a railroad apartment, is a reminder of how wonderful, insane, and nutty life can be.

Here’s to sharing healthy bites with the people in our lives, and always having on hand a second bottle of wine.

-Melanie

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