Saturday, July 26, 2014

Spaghetti Squash with deconstructed pesto

Please do not let the simple ingredients make you think this recipe is not a winner. Every time I make this recipe for anyone new, they always ask for the recipe. Also it is one of those dishes that people are shy about taking at first and then they go back for second and third helpings later. I started making this recipe long before I was celiac, but now it is just part of my favorite recipes; especially if we are entertaining. The total best thing about it is the robust but clean flavours of each element in the recipe. These ingredients work together without the squash as together they are magic together.The ingredients are very similiar to pesto but lighter.

I like to grow spaghetti squash in my garden. The deer do not eat it, which is crucial this year as they have devoured most of my garden. 

These two little babies have taken up residence in our neighborhood. It is hard to get mad at them for eating my garden when they are just so adorable. I will be buying my green beans and peas in the store.

The other great thing is if you soak your squash in a mild bleach and water solution when you harvest it or buy it whichever works for you, it will last all yearif kept in a dry and cool place. After soaking wipe off any residue as bacteria is what will rot your squash if it is not properly cleaned. 

I used my squash as part of my autumn decor last year in ways I would normally use pumkins. I am thrilled that they grew so well in my garden last year. I ended up with almost enough to last until now. 

These spaghetti squash added a little extra decorations to my autumn decor. What could be better than using your garden bounty as part of your seasonal look. I arranged the spaghetti squash on a wrought iron plate stand in the corner of my kitchen countertops. You can see the remainder of my autumn decor here at autumn decor 2013 

This year I have three plants started so we will not run out. As I have not found a suitable pasta replacement as yet, spaghetti squash is my friend. 

One medium to large spaghetti squash, washed
2 tablespoons of cold pressed olive oil (any olive oil is ok but the cold pressed is better for you according to my naturopath docter)
2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup of fresh basil, chopped roughly (not too small)
1/4 cup of feta or goat cheese, crumbled
2 cloves of fresh garlic
1/4 cup of fresh oregano, chopped finely or 1 tsp of dried oregano
1/2 tsp of salt and fresh black pepper to taste or other none sodium seasoning
1/2 cup of toasted pine nuts (toasting is very important)
A few sprigs of basil and oregano for garnish

This is a very quick and easy recipe, and is great to serve at a dinner party for that reason. It is one of those recipes that guests assume is time consuming and difficult as it is so rewarding. In stead you get massive looks and flavour with only a little effort.

There are several methods to cook spaghetti squash. For both methods I recommend that you give your squash a good washing before you cut into it half. You never know where that squash has been... The first cooking method is in the microwave. Cut your spaghetti squash in half lengthwise (from stem to bottom). Use a large knife or it can be difficult to cut. Remove the seeds now or after cooking your choice. Place the squash cut side down on a microwave safe dish. I usually use a very simple dinner plate (it goes in the dishwasher). Add a little water to the plate, just enough to add a little moisture. Wrap the plate and squash in plastic wrap leaving a small opening along the edge.Or cut a few openings into the plastic wrap for the steam to release from. 
Cook it on high in the microwave until it is easily pierced with a fork. Usually I start at 10 minutes on high setting. Rarely will it require more cooking time. Be very careful when you remove it from the dish from the microwave. Keep the dish level so the hot water does not burn you and secondly be very careful when opening the plastic wrap. Let your squash rest for 5 minutes before you unwrap it. This is very important as it will keep you from acquiring a nasty steam burn. They are one of the most painful types of burn. This is something I only want to do once in my life.

For many years I thought the squash cooked in the microwave was the easiest and best method, and then I tried cooking it whole in the oven. I really love the roasted flavour of the squash cooked in the oven as it gains a deep roasted flavour that goes very well with extra seasoning. Wash the outside of the squash and then prick it a few times to keep it from exploding in the oven. The steam trapped inside needs an outlet otherwise it will burst (not a mess you want in your oven). It takes about an hour to cook in the oven depending on the squash size. I cook mine at 350 degrees as this is the temperature I use most often. If your squash is small check it after 45 minutes, if it is very large it may take an extra 10 or 15 minutes. Now that your squash is cooked you are almost done. Take a spoon and clean out the seeds from the center of your spaghetti squash. Then take a fork and separate the strands of spaghetti. You want to separate all of the strands to resemble spaghetti noodles while the squash is still hot. During the summer months, the microwave is favourable as cooking in the oven in the summer is not always the best idea. 

If you are having a dinner party and you want to prepare the squash early, you can reheat the squash in the microwave before mixing in the other ingredients. Cook the squash the day before or that morning it will work either way. Only mix in the other ingredients just before serving. The fresh herbs would not keep their fresh texture and wow factor if you 
mix them in too soon. For best results you want to prepare the mix in ingredients just before serving. 

While you are cooking your squash prepare the remainder of ingredients. Mix everything except for the pine nuts in a large bowl. Quickly toast the pine nuts until they are very lightly toasted. Watch them closely as they can burn very quickly. I usually pop my pine nuts in the oven to roast, but you can toast them in a toaster oven or even a stove top pan. I find pine nuts slightly bitter until they are toasted; toasting brings out the nutty flavour. Whatever works best for you. Give them a stir until the aroma changes and they are lightly browned. If you over cook them, throw them away and start again.  Set them aside until just before serving. They are horrible when too dark. Add the spaghetti squash to the mixing bowl and toss the ingredients lightly. This should be done just before serving as you want the squash to absorb the flavours and this is best done when the squash is still warm. Just before serving toss in the pine nuts to your dish. Transfer the mixture to a nice serving bowl and garnish with a few whole leaves of basil and oregano.

This dish has a very intense but pleasant flavour. It is best served warm or hot. Try to serve it with lighter tasting options. I love to have spaghetti squash "noodles" when my family wants spaghetti and tomato sauce, but this is my all time favorite recipe for spaghetti squash. For me there is nothing more gratifying as a cook than when your guests ask for the recipe or go back for extra helpings of your dish. The only other thing that makes me feel more gratified after serving a great meal as when someone hops up to do the dishes. 

I hope you enjoy Cherie.

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