Japanese Pumpkin to Calm the Moving Vata Energy of Autumn
My lifelong obsession with pumpkins spans back to my single digit years. I fantasized about growing one as tall as I was, like the pumpkin pictured next to the kid on the seed packet. I never did. I also never even thought about eating one. Maybe the shorter growing season in northern Newfoundland was to blame, but I never saw anyone actually grow a pumpkin. Most families in my little community had a garden to grow potatoes, carrots, cabbage, even some lettuce in the later years, but never pumpkin. In my early 20’s I moved to the west coast and found out that pumpkins, in addition to being carved on Halloween, were also food!
I never looked back. Life brought me to Japan for a few years where the autumn pumpkin dishes made me even more in love with pumpkin (or kabucha in Japanese), and then to India where pumpkin is not only beautifully incorporated into meals but used in Ayurveda as a healing food. The markets in both these countries sold only a green pumpkin variety that I eventually realized is a lot more like what we call butternut squash here. The flesh is not as wet as our orange pumpkins and seems to work better in my pumpkin recipes.
The recipe below was inspired by my most recent squash/pumpkin epiphany, that pasta doesn’t need to always be topped with tomato sauce. Indeed “pasta” doesn’t even necessarily need to be pasta with all the zucchini available to be spiralized at the market these days. Zucchini is probably my second favourite vegetable…or maybe third behind beets, argh…so hard to choose!
Adding squash/pumpkin to your diet will help create physical and mental balance as the seasons change. Fall brings an increase in vata energy, which ayurveda teaches can leave you feeling scattered and overwhelmed. Pumpkin soothes this by bringing a calming kapha element to your foods. A tasty way to enhance your ability to navigate the high energy schedule of the season.
This recipe is especially easy to make if you have pumpkin pureed and frozen in your freezer already. The recipe portion is for one person because often I pull this together when I am home alone for a fast lunch. You can easily multiply it by however many people you are serving.
- 1 cup baked and pureed butternut squash/pumpkin* I have never used the can puree but that may work too.
- ½ onion chopped finely
- 2 cloves pressed garlic
- One large zucchini (spiralizeded)
- Salt/ pepper
- Your favourite cooking oil
Saute the chopped onion and garlic in oil in a frying pan. Add the squash puree and salt/pepper to taste. Mix in pan for 2-3 minutes. Put aside. Saute spiralized zucchini in oil/salt/pepper to taste until desired softness. Top zucchini with squash sauce. You could use pasta instead of zucchini. Or you could top pasta with the zucchini and the squash sauce.
*No pureed squash/pumpkin in your freezer? Just cut a whole squash in half, scoop out the seeds & pulp. Brush oil the edge. Place cut side down on parchment paper in tray. Cook on 350 for 1 hour (or until soft and easily punctured through with a fork). Remove from oven, let cool, scoop the meat away from the peel and puree.
I like to freeze the puree into 1/2 or 1 cup portions for smoothies or single portion dishes like this one!