Sauteed Spaghetti Squash

I will readily admit that Spaghetti Squash has never been a favorite. That’s probably an understatement – I couldn’t stand it. So, I wasn’t very excited to get two from our CSA – they hung out in my pantry for a few weeks as I pondered whether to try them or to give them away. Yes, yes, I know…shameful. In the end, I consulted with a few great cooks and decided to keep them and give them another try. I’m happy to report that this preparation changed my mind. This was a total hit with the family! I served it as a side dish alongside pork chops. You can change the herbs and the amounts for what you prefer but the sage was absolutely amazing.

Sautéed Spaghetti Squash

SAUTEED SPAGHETTI SQUASH
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2 sm-med. Spaghetti Squash
4 Tb. butter (you could sub olive oil if you are vegan)
1 large clove garlic, minced
2-3 Tb. Fresh Sage
1-2 Tb. Fresh Parsley
1-2 tsp. Fresh Oregano
Salt & Pepper to taste

Cut Spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Place cut side down on a shallow baking sheet (like a bar pan or jelly roll pan). Add water to 1/2 inch. Cover with foil and bake at 375 for 45 minutes, uncover and bake for another 10-15 minutes (I actually turned mine over). Scrape out seeds. In a separate bowl, scrape out the squash.

In a skillet, melt butter. Add garlic and herbs. Cook for a few minutes until garlic is softened and the herbs are aromatic. Add the squash and sauté for 5 minutes until heated through and combined with butter and herbs. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Off The Shelf: March Magazines

(Heather) – Now that we are well into 2010, the food magazines have begun to arrive en masse. First up this month is Food Network. The March issue encompasses 140 pages. Along with all the normal features (such as Food News, Star Kitchen, Fun Cooking, He Made-She Made, and Copy That), there are a number of great feature articles which include: cooking with orange juice concentrate, 11,375 stir-fry possibilities complete with some amazing photos, easy green snacks for St. Patrick’s Day, Weeknight Cooking and Weekend Cooking — all of which have very appealing recipes, a Ravioli how-to, and a pull-out booklet on 50 Pizzas. The magazine ends with a lengthy spread devoted to the upcoming Oscars, including Hollywood-specific recipes.

I chose a recipe from the On The Road feature — Green Apple-SourDough Pancakes. I love the smell and taste of sourdough and these pancakes were lovely. And my kids ate them right up too!

GREEN APPLE-SOURDOUGH PANCAKES
(Food Network Magazine March 2010)
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For the sourdough starter:
1 cup whole milk
1 tsp. active dry yeast (1/2 packet)
1/2 cup apple cider (I had to substitute apple juice with 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar)
3 Tbsp. packed light brown sugar
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 cup all-purpose flour

For the pancakes:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1 tsp. baking soda
1 small tart green apple (such as Granny Smith), unpeeled and diced
1-2 Tbsp. butter
maple syrup or honey, for serving
chopped pecans, for garnish (optional)

Make the sourdough starter: Warm the milk in a small saucepan over low heat to about 110F. Transfer to a medium bowl, sprinkle with the yeast and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the cider, brown sugar, butter and 1 cup flour until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature overnight.

The next morning, make the pancakes: whisk 1/2 cup flour, the egg, baking soda and apple into the sourdough starter. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a cast-iron griddle or non-stick skillet over medium heat and swirl to coat. Pour about 1/4 cup batter onto the griddle for each pancake. (Alternatively, cook on an electric pancake griddle.) Cook until the tops are bubbly and the edges set, about 3 minutes, then flip and cook until golden and cooked through, 1 to 2 more minutes. Repeat with the remaining batter, adding more butter as needed. Drizzle with syrup and garnish with pecans, if desired.

Makes about 12 pancakes.

(Heather) – Next up is Everyday with Rachael Ray which boasts 462 easy recipes, tips & deals. The magazine opens with a number of regular features and this month includes a section on beating the winter blahs. There are focus pages on cauliflower, coffee, slow cookers, supermarket traps. My favorite section of this magazine is the five-page Meet the Grains feature, introducing us to brown rice, millet, barley, farro, buckwheat, and quinoa. I hope to obtain most, if not all, of these grains and begin to incorporate them into our diet. (Perhaps you’ll read about the results on this blog!)

As always the magazine includes some great suggestions for 30-minute meals, as well as a section on classic dishes (think chicken noodle soup, chocolate cake, apple pie, lasagna). Recipes for Oscar night fill several pages and, wouldn’t you know, there’s a lengthy article on the nation’s best pizza and how to make it (do magazine editors consult each other?).

I will mention that my biggest pick with this issue was from their Supermarket Traps article. The article actually encourages you to “save produce shopping for last; this will prevent overbuying.” Their argument being that produce has the highest profit margin and supermarket owners want you to buy a lot. In my opinion, fresh produce is what you should be filling the bulk of your cart with. The more fresh food we eat the more likely we are to have good health.

The Spaghetti Squash with Sausage and Greens from the $10 Dinners caught my attention. The recipe worked well and tasted great and one could even substitute regular pasta for the spaghetti squash.

SPAGHETTI SQUASH WITH SAUSAGE AND GREENS
(Everyday with Rachael Ray March 2010)
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1 spaghetti squash (about 3 1/2 pounds), halved lengthwise
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
1 1/2 tsp. olive oil
12 oz. sweet Italian sausage
1 bunch spinach, stems discarded and leaves coarsely chopped (I used a 10 oz. bag of fresh spinach)
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper

The magazine has you cook the spaghetti squash in the microwave. Because I try to avoid microwave cooking I placed my halved squash in a baking pan, added about 1-inch of water and baked it at 350F for 45-60 minutes until tender.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook until no longer pink, about 6 minutes. Add the spinach and crushed red pepper and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes; season with salt and pepper.

Using a fork, comb the cooked squash into strands into a bowl. Toss with the parmesan and season with black pepper. Serve the spinach and sausage over the squash.

Serves 4.

(Alaina) – Everyday Food is focused on spring! It has some wonderful looking salad recipes, a whole section on poaching eggs and recipes for them, five different uses for homemade pizza dough (which all look amazing!), as well as their usual meal plan with grocery a list. I continue to be impressed with this magazine. They make gourmet food easy! The Beer-Braised Sausages with Warm Potato Salad, Almond Torte with Pears and Whipped Cream, and the Swiss Chard Pie are just a few of the recipes I would love to try!

I decided to try the Orecchiette with Bacon and Tomato Sauce – Orcchiette is a small shell-like pasta which I didn’t happen to have on hand so mine was actually Orzo with Bacon and Tomato Sauce. Orzo is a small pasta that looks a little like rice. It worked well. This was a little spicy for my kids, so I would reduce the red-pepper flakes to 1/4 tsp. The smoky bacon is so good in this simple dish!

ORECCHIETTE WITH BACON & TOMATO SAUCE
(Everyday Food, March 2010)
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1 Tb. extra-virgin olive oil
4 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. red-pepper flakes
1 can (28 oz.) whole peeled tomatoes
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 lb. orecchiette or other short pasta
Grated Parmesan and chopped fresh parsley, for serving

In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium-high. Add bacon and cook until browned and almost crisp, about 4 min. Add onion and cook until softened, 3 to 5 min. Add garlic and red-pepper flakes and stir until fragrant, 1 min. Add tomatoes, breaking them up as you go, and season with salt and pepper. Bring sauce to a boil; reduce to a simmer and cook until slightly reduced, 15 min.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of salted water, cook pasta 1 minute less than package instructions. Reserve cup pasta water; drain pasta and return to pot.

Add sauce and pasta water to pasta and toss to combine; cook over medium-high until sauce thickens and coats pasta, about 2 min. Serve pasta topped with Parmesan and parsley.

(Alaina) – Cooking Light has a wide variety of recipes including many different proteins and vegetarian dishes. The photos are inspiring and the articles interesting. I especially enjoyed the article on 25 Most Common Cooking Mistakes – and yes, I’m definitely guilty of some of them! The Lentil-Barley Burgers with Fiery Fruit Salad, Apricot-Ginger Bellinis, Pear & Prosciutto Pizza, and Braised Short Ribs with Egg Noodles all look amazing.

I decided to try the lightened up Sour Cream Coffee Cake which was actually one of the Cooking Light staff favorites! And I agree – it was surprisingly delicious! I used yogurt which is the perfect substitute for sour cream if you don’t have any and since mine was fat-free plain, it reduced the fat in this recipe even more!

SOUR CREAM COFFEE CAKE
(Cooking Light, March 2010)
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3/4 c. old-fashioned oats, divided
1 c. flour
1/4 c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. packed brown sugar, divided
1/3 c. butter, softened
2 lg. eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 (8-oz) carton light sour cream (I used fat free plain yogurt)
2 Tb. finely chopped walnuts (I used pecans because we love them!)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tb. chilled butter, cut into small pieces

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Spread oats in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 6 minutes or until oats are barely fragrant and light brown. Coat a 9-inch springform pan (I used a regular 9-in. round glass baking pan) with cooking spray; set aside. Reserve 1/4 c. oats; set aside. Place remaining oats in a food processor; process 4 seconds or until finely ground. Combine flours, processed oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; stir with whisk.

Place a granulated sugar, 1/4 c. brown sugar, and 1/3 c. butter in a lg. bowl. Beat with a mixter at medium speed for 3 min. or until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture. (Batter will be slightly lumpy because of oats.) Spoon batter into prepared pan; spread evenly.

Combine remaining 1/4 c. oats and 1/4 c. brown sugar, nuts, and cinnamon in a bowl. Cut in 1 Tb. butter with a pastry blender until well blended. Sprinkle top of batter evenly with nut mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 38 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, top is golden, and cake begins to pull away from sides of pan.

Cool cake in pan for 10 min. Serves 10.

Off The Shelf: Pumpkin Cookbooks

I have come across several lovely cookbooks devoted entirely to pumpkins and squash. Their covers, table of contents, and photos make me feel all warm and cozy and in the mood for this fall comfort food. (Not to mention I like their size — they are all just about 7 or 8 inches square.)

IMG_7404It’s hard to choose a favorite, but perhaps it would be A Harvest of Pumpkins and Squash by Lou Seibert Pappas. The book begins with helpful information on buying, storing, and cooking squash, as well as different types of squash. Then, it delves into Breads and Breakfast, Soups, Salads and Sides, Entrees, and Desserts.

Have a look at some of the recipe titles: Pumpkin-Orange Waffles, Butternut Squash-Pear Bisque, Roasted Butternut Squash Polenta, Lemon-Roasted Chicken with Garlic, Winter Squash, Apples and Onions, Cranberry-Pecan Pumpkin Drop Cookies, Five-Spice Pumpkin-Ginger Cake, and Pumpkin Flan.

I found the recipes in this book so tempting that I made two for today’s post: Cranberry-Walnut Pumpkin Coffeecake, and Spaghetti Squash with Spicy Meat Sauce (see below).

IMG_7405Next up is Pumpkin Butternut & Squash: 30 Sweet and Savory Recipes by Elsa Petersen-Schepelern. This book is also filled with mouth-watering photos and tempting titles: Roasted Pumpkin Salad, Italian Pumpkin Bean Soup, Pumpkin and Pepper Kabobs, Pumpkin Risotto, Pumpkin Gnocchi (this is EVERYWHERE this Fall and I am just dying to make some. It just hasn’t happened yet), Pumpkin Biscuits, and Pumpkin Raisin Bread.

I made the Spicy Butternut Curry for Sunday lunch recently and it was incredible. I wanted the leftovers to go on and on. The recipe is included below.

IMG_7407Finally, we have Cooking with Pumpkins and Squash by Brian Glover. This is the newest book of the three, just out this past February. The photography is outstanding and the recipes look like they are too!

The book begins with a description of many types of squash and then launches into 75 pages of scrumptious recipes such as: Squash & Sage Frittata, Roasted Squash Wedges with Pumpkin Seed Pesto, Spicy Pumpkin & Coconut Soup with Ginger & Lime, Roasted Squash with Leek & Barley Pilaf, Pumpkin Fondue, Sweet Squash, Pecan & Maple Syrup Tart, and Pumpkin & Ginger Jam.

 

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SPAGHETTI SQUASH WITH SPICY MEAT SAUCE
(A Harvest of Pumpkins and Squash)

1 large spaghetti squash (about 3 pounds)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
4 Tbsp. butter
1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and diced
12 cherry tomatoes, red or yellow, halved
1/2 c. fresh Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese shavings
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Greek Meat Sauce:
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 1/2 pounds ground beef or turkey
1 cup water
1 1/2 cans (9 ounces total) tomato paste
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tsp. whole mixed pickling spice
1/2 stick cinnamon

To make the Greek Meat Sauce, in a large saucepan, heat 1 Tbsp. of the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Transfer the onion to a plate, leaving the oil in the pan. Brown the meat in the reserved oil over medium-high heat, stirring to break it up into even crumbles. Return the onion to the pan. Add the water, tomato paste, vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper. Tie the pickling spice and cinnamon in a small piece of cheesecloth and add to the stew. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally and adding additional water if it threatens to scorch. Discard the cheesecloth.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds (a grapefruit spoon works so well for this). Place the squash, cut side down, on the prepared pan. Bake until the flesh can be easily scraped into strands with a fork (about 50-70 minutes). Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Using a fork, scoop out all the flesh into a bowl and fluff the spaghetti-like strands. Toss in the salt and pepper. Place on a large, warmed platter or the cleaned squash shell.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook until it turns light brown. Pour over the squash strands. Toss with the fork to blend. Top the squash with the hot meat sauce. Scatter the avocado and tomatoes over and sprinkle with the cheese and parsley. Serve immediately (spaghetti squash looses its heat very fast).

Notes: If you don’t have pickling spice and cinnamon sticks, you could switch to Italian seasoning by adding some dried basil and oregano. To save money, omit the avocado and chopped tomato, as well as the Parmesan cheese. I omitted the browned butter and just put a large pat of butter into the bowl of spaghetti squash.

Serves 4-6.

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CRANBERRY-WALNUT PUMPKIN COFFEECAKE
(A Harvest of Pumpkins and Squash)

1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup white or yellow cornmeal
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
2 large eggs
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 c. canola oil
1/3 c. sour cream
1 cup pumpkin or winter squash puree, canned or homemade
1 cup fresh or dried cranberries
3 Tbsp. Demerara or raw sugar

Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter and flour a 9-inch square baking pan.

Spread the walnuts in a small baking pan and bake until lightly toasted, about 8-10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, granulated sugar, brown sugar, oil, sour cream, and pumpkin and beat with a large whisk or an electric beater until smooth. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix just until incorporated. Stir in the cranberries and 2/3 cup of the nuts. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Scatter the remaining 1/3 cup nuts on top and sprinkle with Demerara sugar.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 30-35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pan to room temperature, then cut into 9 squares. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days, or wrap tightly and freeze for up to 1 month.

Serves 9.

Notes: I omitted the nuts and went with only half the amount of sugar called for (this was for my children and I just didn’t want them having all that sugar!). I used fresh cranberries, which tasted wonderful. However, since my cranberries were frozen, the baking time took about 20 minutes longer than listed. Also, I didn’t want to sprinkle nuts and sugar on top so went with a simple dusting of rolled oats, just to keep it from looking too plain. It would also be worth trying this with whole-wheat flour.

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SPICY BUTTERNUT CURRY
(Pumpkin Butternut & Squash)

2 Tbsp. sunflower oil
1 Tbsp. mustard seeds
1 lb. butternut or pumpkin, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 onions, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and grated
a pinch of ground tumeric
4 chicken breasts, skinless and boneless, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes
1 cup heavy cream
1 large package of spinach, about 1 lb.
a pinch of ground cumin or garam masala
salt & pepper

Heat the oil in a large pan and add the mustard seeds, stir-frying until they pop. Add the butternut squash and the onions and stir-fry gently until the onions are softened and translucent. Add the garlic, ginger, salt, and pepper and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the tumeric and stir-fry for 1 minute more.

Add the chicken, stir-fry until sealed on all sides, then add the tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, and simmer, covered for about 20 minutes, or until tender.

Add the cream, bring to a boil, and simmer, stirring until thickened — the cream will first boil with large bubbles, then small. Stop at this point or the cream will curdle. Add the spinach and cumin or garam masala, cover with a lid, and steam for 2 minutes until the leaves collapse, then stir in the rest of the ingredients. Serve with steamed rice or naan bread.

Serves 4-6+.

Notes: I keep my fresh ginger in the freezer and grate from frozen when needed. You could use frozen spinach, just thaw and drain before using.