開けゴマ (hirake goma): open sesame!
Sesame oil is my new favorite cooking oil. It’s high in antioxidants and, as a result, has a long shelf life. As friend once said, the flavor of Japan is sesame oil, and I use it whenever I’m going for Asian-inspired flavors rather than European (olive oil) or neutral (grapeseed oil).
Sesame suits Japanese vegetables well and is a lovely complement to kabocha, a sweet orange squash. I hadn’t considered it as an oil for roasting vegetables before, but it’s perfect for this simple dish.
If you chop the kabocha ahead of time, this is a easy side-dish to have in the oven or oven range while you make Komatsuna and Chicken Stir-Fry, which also uses sesame oil.
Serves 2-3 as a side dish.
¼ of a kabocha (かぼちゃ、南瓜)
1-2 Tablespoons sesame oil (goma abura, ごま油)
Salt and pepper, to taste (shio, 塩; koshou, 胡椒)
Optional: Sesame seeds (irigoma, いりゴマ)
Variations: try sage (seiji, セージ), thyme (taimu, タイム), or herbs de Provence (furenchi haabu, フレンチハーブ), to taste; may also use olive oil (oriibu oiru, オリーブオイル) instead of sesame oil.
A pan for roasting (oven-safe glass or a sturdy metal pan)
- Preheat the oven to 210 C (400 F).
- Wash the kabocha skin well. Leave the skin on. Scoop out the seeds and stringy bits.
- Cut the piece in half horizontally, and slice vertically into slivers about 1 cm thick. (See picture below.)
- Toss the kabocha with the sesame oil, salt, pepper, and seeds (or spices) and arrange in a single layer in the roasting pan.
- Roast for 20-30 minutes, until the kabocha is tender and lightly browned.