As I very carefully removed the kabocha from the oven, it reminded me that how you plate and present your food can make a substantial impact on the overall enjoyment of your meal. When you focus on colors, smells, textures, presentation - it engages all of your senses and as those neurons fire sending messages up to that big brain, it amplifies all of the excitement about what's in front of you.
If you take time to plate your food and note what's going on with all of your senses, you might get more out of your meal than you expected, you might get an experience. Mireille Guiliano, former Veuve Cliquot CEO and author of "French Women Don't Get Fat" suggests using linens and sitting down at the table for even the most mundane of meals. You'll enjoy it more and actually eat less.
A Kabocha is also called a Japanese pumpkin, and is a variety of winter squash that makes a fantastic, tasty vessel for all of your cool weather stews. This adaptation was made paleo friendly by yours truly after I saw a recipe in Sunset on unusual spice blends.
Heat 1 tbs oil in a large dutch oven and brown about 1 lb of beef stew meat. Remove the beef and add 2 very large diced shallots, 1/2 diced yellow onion and 1/4 cup beef broth. Cook until shallots and onions are browned. Return meat to pan and sprinkle with baharat*. Add 2 more cups beef broth and stir. Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer for about an hour. Stir in grated cauliflower, 1 diced tomato, 1 chopped rutabaga, 1 chopped carrot, and 1 chopped zucchini.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375. Cut and hollow out the kabocha just as you would a pumpkin you're about to carve on Halloween. Brush the interior with olive oil, prick it in a few places with a fork, and put it on a baking sheet. Fill the squash with as much stew as it can hold and replace the top. (the rest can be left to simmer on the stove, or placed in the oven in a baking pan covered with foil). The recipe says to bake for 70 minutes, I had mine in for 90 minutes - but just make sure the squash is tender.
Remove squash very carefully - this was a 2 person job - and stir in 2 heaping tbs of sliced chives. When you're serving the stew, be sure to scrape some of the kabocha out with it.
*What the heck is baharat you ask? It's an arabic spice blend that I had trouble finding and didn't have time to order online so I had to make it. I used a combination of allspice, pepper, cinnamon, fresh grated nutmeg, 1 ground clove, 5 ground cardamom pods, cumin and paprika. While these are the correct spices in the blend, I'm unsure of the ratios, so I had to wing it.