For my 101st (!!) post, nishime: a warming, strengthening Japanese dish. Vegetables are steamed for about 15 or 20 minutes, depending on their density. I used onion, Napa cabbage and buttercup squash (aka “kabocha”). The dish balances and strengthens the stomach, pancreas and spleen. Its softness makes it ideal to introduce in the morning, after the body has been fasting since the previous night’s dinner. This is vegan comfort food at its most delicate.
1 2-inch long piece of kombu or kelp
1 yellow onion
3-4 large Napa cabbage leaves
½ kabocha squash
pinch of sea salt
1 teaspoon good quality soy sauce
Wash the cabbage leaves well; rinse the skin of the squash. Remove the skin of the onion and cut it in half, lengthwise. Continue to cut the onion into wedges, about 4-5 per half.
Use a heavy pot with a heavy lid (enameled cast iron works well) and place the piece of dried kombu in the bottom. Add about 1 inch of filtered water.
Lay the onion over the kombu, creating a bottom layer of onion wedges.
Roll up each leaf of cabbage and fit them neatly into the pot, creating a second level.
Finally, cut the squash in half, lengthwise, remove the seeds but leave the skin on; cut one half into about 5 wedges.
Arrange the squash on the top layer in the pot, fitting the pieces together like a puzzle, gracefully.
Cover and place on a medium to high flame. When you see steam coming out of the lid (after about 2-3 minutes), reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes until squash is soft. Season with a pinch of sea salt and soy sauce and simmer 5 more minutes. Remove the kombu and discard or slice into fine strips and return to pot.
©Nancy Wolfson-Moche 2013
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