Squash for Breakfast?

At El Rey Coffee Bar & Luncheonette in New York City, chef Gerardo Gonzalez explores the sweeter side of kabocha squash—and serves it for the first meal of the day.

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Since October, your Instagram feed has been riddled with images of soup made with various root vegetables. A typical weekend post: "Netflix and chill with butternut soup #farmersmarket #winterveg"

You cannot eat any more soup.

Squash is in season through March, so make the most of it by trying it in a new way: for breakfast. Kabocha squash, also called a Japanese pumpkin, is the butternut's even sweeter cousin, and it's small enough to split between two people. Rich in beta carotene and iron, it also does a body good. 

Gerardo Gonzalez
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"Winter vegetables can be so sweet if you coax out the natural sugars with a little heat," says Gerardo Gonzalez, chef at El Rey Coffee Bar & Luncheonette in New York City. He roasts kabocha squash and serves it with yogurt and granola as a warm breakfast. Gonzalez plates it on top of a healthy dollop of tart yogurt and tops it with a house-made granola of gluten-free oats, sesame, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds, and flax meal. Fresh pomegranate seeds add a pop of acid, and a sprinkle of toasted coconut flakes "rounds out the whole dish."

"There's something inherently clean and sweet about kabocha squash...Why not have it for breakfast?"​

"It's a very Mexican thing, to treat vegetables as sweets," says Gonzalez, whose parents are from Guadalajara. "We simmer big chunks of pumpkin in water with brown sugar and cinnamon, cook it until it's almost gelatinous, and serve in bowls with heavy cream and syrup." He grew to love kabocha squash, in particular, by eating it in dashi, Japanese-style, for breakfast. His dish at El Rey is a healthy mashup of the Mexican way, the Japanese way, and Gonzalez's own San Diego-bred way.

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"There's something inherently clean and sweet about kabocha squash," he says. "Why not have it for breakfast?"

Try the recipe below and let kabocha squash show you what it can do outside of the afternoon. 

Roasted Kabocha Squash with Yogurt and Granola

Servings: 2

At El Rey, Gonzalez likes to pair kabocha squash with maple syrup, but you can use whatever you have: honey, sorghum syrup, or malted syrup.

Ingredients

1 small kabocha squash

1 tablespoon olive oil

Kosher salt

Fresh-cracked black pepper

4 tablespoons raw coconut flakes

1 cup Greek yogurt

1/2 cup granola or Grape Nuts

Seeds from 1/2 pomegranate

1 tablespoon maple syrup

How to Make It

Preheat the oven to 425°F. 

Halve the squash lengthwise and remove the seeds. Season squash with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then place on a sheet pan, cut side down. Roast for 25 minutes. Remove squash from oven and let cool. Meanwhile, reduce oven temperature to 325°F. Spread coconut flakes on a sheet pan and toast until golden-brown, about 10 minutes. Set aside. 

Once cooled, remove skin from squash and discard. (Or leave it on, the way Gerardo likes to eat it.) Cut each half in two, if you want.

To serve, fill each bowl with yogurt, then place 1/2 squash on top of each dollop. Top with granola or Grape Nuts, then pomegranate seeds, and then drizzle with maple syrup. Finish with a little more salt and pepper.

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