Monday, September 21, 2009

Squash - Spaghetti Squash!

I've been on an angel hair pasta kick for months. Simply can't get enough of it. There's nothing inherently wrong with that... except that I'm not really someone who can eat all the pasta I want and not have it affect me. And by me I mean my weight. Dang those dangerous processed carbs and their yummy goodness!

To pull myself off the pasta train I decided to go to nature's own spaghetti: the awesome spaghetti squash! Of course it doesn't taste like processed pasta, but it allows you to have the same kind of mouth feel, eye appeal and it goes beautifully with things you would typically put on your pasta. What's not to love?

Spaghetti squash used to make me apprehensive because I was always afraid I'd somehow cook it wrong and mess up the strings that make it such a neat pasta alternative.

I'm no longer apprehensive.

It's really very simple to make, and once you've done it a couple of times you'll wonder why you didn't do it before.

To prepare:
Simply cut the squash in half down width-wise (if you've bought a particularly wide one that you can't cut through - you can cook it whole, it just takes a little longer). Put the two halves cut-side down into a baking pan with a couple of inches of plain water in the bottom, pop it into a 350 oven and let it bake for about 45 minutes, or until the skin pierces easily with a fork. If you're cooking it whole you want to slice into the skin in a few spots, or prick with a fork, the way you would with a baked potato.

After you remove it from the oven let it sit for a few minutes until cool enough to handle, then scoop out the innards. Some people stress that you have to flake it with a fork to get the strands to separate, which works, but don't let it worry you - I have pulled out the entire 'meat' of the squash and then separated it outside it's shell and it works just as well. Just be kind of gentle with it and you won't mush up the strands too much. Really.

Then serve it however you would serve pasta!

I did this dish with a quick tomato basil sauce. Just saute some garlic in a saucepan, throw a couple of freshly chopped tomatoes into the pot, add a bit of fresh basil, salt, pepper, some red pepper flakes if you like a little kick and cook it down for maybe 10 minutes. It's that simple. I like to throw a few pine nuts on top for a little extra protein.

The cauliflower and string-beans were VERY lightly coated with olive oil and roasted in the oven while the squash cooked.

This is my new obsession dish. I'm hoping it will keep my pasta demons at bay for at least a couple of weeks. And you know, if you have kids who aren't too fond of squash - they might discover they like it if you make it like pasta! Try it.