POSTED ON October 22, 2011
Nishimi is a cooking style, that means long cooked with little water. I think of it as the opposite to oshitashi, which is vegetables that are briefly cooked in lots of water, like the blanched watercress you may have eaten in Japanese restaurants. Nishimi is best suited to the cooler months and for root vegetables or winter squash.
It has been years since I prepared squash this way and I’d forgotten how sweet and meltingly smooth it becomes. This cooking method is perfect for dense squash, like kabocha or buttercup that have a tendency to become dry when baked.
You can prepare any vegetable Nishimi-style. Some recipes layer 3 types in the same pot; what ever vegetable you use, you will end up with a depth of flavor that is hard to believe came from such simple ingredients.
When I worked at Shizen a Japanese restaurant in Amsterdam, Bastian, one of the gifted chefs who worked there, would trim the edges and carefully cut a decorative design in each wedge of squash before it was cooked. This became one of the many dishes in the beautiful, daily bento box.
The cooking liquid that you are left with when the squash is done is deliciously sweet and can be poured over the squash when serving. Or, you can drink it, as I love to do.
½ a medium winter squash, use either butter cup or kabocha
2 inch piece Kombu
1 cup filtered water
1 teaspoon mirin
1 teaspoon tamari
Pinch sea salt
Toasted black sesame seeds to garnish
Remove seeds from squash and cut into 1 ½ inch wedges. Cut each wedge in half so you have triangular shape pieces. Place the kombu in a heavy bottomed pot, one that will snugly fit all the squash. Pour in water and lie the squash skin side down over the kombu.
Add the mirin, tamari and a pinch of salt to the center of the pot. Place over a high heat and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, or until squash is soft all the way through. The cooking time will depend on how thick the flesh of your squash is. Remove from heat and gently life squash into serving bowls and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Serves 6 as a side dish.