Photo: Danny Palumbo
I really enjoy October and November out here in Los Angeles. Warm days, cold nights, and squash sandwiches at every deli. Sweet, fluffy, nutty kabocha squash, or Japanese pumpkin, hits its peak season every Fall and it becomes readily available at nearly every grocery store in town. Professional sandwich makers are quick to roast it, put it on some local bread, and add their own chef-driven (vroom vroom) twist to this seasonal gourd.
Take this sandwich from Wax Paper Co. in Los Angeles. Spicy kabocha squash, pecan pesto, honey burrata, sage lemon honey, and savory pepita seeds. This sandwich is baller, both filling and deeply flavorful. I like it because Wax Paper doubles down on three distinct flavors: spicy, sweet, and nutty. You get that classic Fall nuttiness from the kabocha, the pecan pesto, and the pepitas. Then, there’s the spiciness from the chile seasoning roasted with the pumpkin. Lastly, the spiciness and the nuttiness are rounded out with some honey. It’s a powerhouse of a vegetarian sandwich, both decadent and balanced. It also proves an important point: kabocha is best when it’s got some heat to it.
Another great example of squash sandwich supremacy is the roast pumpkin spice sandwich at Jeff’s Table. It features spice roasted kabocha and kuri squash with goat cheese, fermented jalapeno garlic salsa, shaved pickled fennel, red onion, wild arugula, and house made hoisin. This sandwich, again, infuses spice into pumpkin. Jeff and his crew throw a lot of bitey flavors at it, too.
Both of these sandwiches absolutely rip, and they both highlight kabocha as an incredibly versatile vegetable. Cook it just right, and when you pierce it with a knife it’ll remind you of a perfectly prepared russet potato (pumpkin potato salad, anyone?). The Japanese pumpkin responds well to just about any flavor you throw at it, making it the perfect canvas for Fall flavors.
In the spirit of kabocha squash season, I made my own version of a spicy kabocha sandwich. A version that comes together fairly easily at home. It’s fat-rich and gives you an excuse to fill your home with the smell of sautéed onions and garlic. What’s not to like?
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Roast Kabocha Squash Hoagie with Onion + Garlic Mayo
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