This easy one-pot meal is the kind of dish that looks and tastes like something you’ve been simmering all day, but it actually comes together in under 45 minutes—with very little attention. It’s creamy, savory, and perfect for fall. This recipe takes advantage of the deep, sweet flavor and smooth texture of kabocha squash. You may have seen this squat, green-skinned beauty at the farmers market or eaten it in a Japanese restaurant. When simmered beyond 20 minutes, its dense flesh breaks down and becomes smooth and creamy, creating the perfect velvety background for chewy barley and vibrant leafy greens. The dish is flavored with a combination of white miso, fresh ginger, and tamari—which combine beautifully to create a fortifying and delicious meal that is sure to warm you up on chilly autumn days.
This recipe calls for mellow or sweet white miso, but other types will work, too: If you choose to use a darker miso, like brown rice or barley miso, start with 1½ tablespoons and increase to taste. The darker the miso, the salter it tends to taste.
As much as I love this bowl served straight up, sometimes I like to dress it up with toasted seeds (pumpkin, sesame, or sunflower), gomasio (sesame salt), sliced scallions or chives, or a drizzle of good olive or flax oil, or all of the above. If you’re lucky enough to have leftovers, it stores well for up to 4 days in the fridge. Just warm it up with a splash of water and remove from the heat as soon as it begins to simmer—this way you don’t harm the naturally occurring enzymes in the miso.
- Prep time 4 hours 55 minutes
- Cook time 45 minutes
- Serves 4
untoasted sesame oil or olive oil
medium yellow onion, diced
pearl barley, soaked in 1 cup of water for 4 hours (or up to 12)
1 1/2 pounds
kabocha squash (about half of a medium squash), seeded, peeled, and cut into ¾-inch pieces (4 cups)
fine sea salt
mellow or sweet white miso
chopped leafy greens, such as chard, spinach, baby kale, or tatsoi
piece fresh ginger, finely grated
tamari, plus more as needed
- Warm the oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 1 minute, then reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring frequently for 8 to 10 minutes or until the onion is soft and golden.
- Drain and rinse the barley and add to the pot along with the squash, 3 cups filtered water, and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the barley is soft.
- Remove ½ cup of cooking liquid and place in a small bowl or liquid measuring cup. Stir the miso into the cooking liquid until dissolved. Set aside.
- Stir the chard into the barley mixture and cook for 3 minutes, or until wilted.
- Using your hand, squeeze the grated ginger into a small bowl to extract the juice. Compost the ginger pulp (or use in tea). Stir 1 tablespoon ginger juice and the dissolved miso mixture into the pot. Cook until the mixture is heated through but not simmering, then remove from the heat. Season with tamari to taste (start with 1 teaspoon and increase from there) and serve hot.