Recipe: Gjelina’s Grilled Kabocha Squash with Mint-Pomegranate Pesto

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Gjelina - Grilled Kabocha (Vertical)
Travis Lett of Gjelina in Venice dresses up simple, Grilled Kabocha Squash with his Mint-Pomegranate Pesto. (Photo by Michael Graydon and stylist Nikole Herriott) (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

True to his focus on “grain-and-vegetable centric, globally inspired cuisine,” chef-owner Travis Lett’s new book, “Gjelina: Cooking from Venice, California,” follows on the success of its namesake restaurant, GTA and sister spot, Gjusta. Featuring many of the seasonal SoCal-inspired salads, toast, pizza, mains and dessert recipes that have made his neighborhood spots a favorite among locals and a destination for many out-of-towners, this cookbook is sure to become a kitchen staple for many.

Japanese kabocha squash is a winter favorite. Grilled, roasted or steamed, its sweet, nutty flavor is intensified when seasoned with a bit of flaky sea salt and olive oil. If you can’t find it, red kuri squash has an identical flavor but a more delicate skin, making it an excellent substitute.

In this Gjelina recipe, kabocha is roasted until it’s softened, then slapped on a grill pan to char the edges. If you make the pesto in advance, this dish is very easy to pull together. This grilled kabocha can be enjoyed on its own or together with rich meats such as duck, rabbit, pigeon or even goat. You can also be serve it alongside wild rice and wilted broccoli rabe leaves.

The versatile Mint-Pomegranate Pesto is a nice accompaniment to all sorts of dishes. Travis likes to serve it with strongly flavored cuts of lamb, such as braised neck and shank, as well as on duck and chicken. It also pairs well with other sweet-fleshed, roasted fall vegetables.