Friday, 29 November 2013

Spaghetti Squash

I'm writing this blog post today, offering it up as an antidote to all the Black Friday deals that are, if yours email inbox is anything like mine right now, filling to overflowing your electronic device with enticements, offers and images that scream "buy! Buy! BUY!" I think that talking about a rock hard vegetable is about as far away from maddening lineups and door crashing specials as you can come. Think of it as a dose of back-to-earth sanity-saving humbleness. That, and you still save money.

Spaghetti Squash is a vegetable that is available & in season now at year-round farmers markets. Hard skinned, it is storable for many months without spoiling and is one of the simplest and least expensive vegetables out there to prepare. If you think you don't like squash, give it another try. It is so unlike other squash varieties in its taste & texture that it is worth the experiment. Its smooth strands pull apart easily with a fork when cooked and, depending on the size of the squash that you are preparing, can range from angel-haired pasta to thick spaghetti in consistency.

Squash is thought of one of two ways: either summer squash or water squash. Summer squash are vegetables like the cute bright yellow or green little pattypans, that are wonderful to sauté, or (also yellow or green) zucchinis, that can be eaten raw because their skins are so soft. Winter squash have a hard shell on them and are very difficult to bruise, dent, cut or.... well... squash! Pete Luckett, in his great kitchen companion book called The Greengrocer's Kitchen, writes "Winter squash are harvested in the fall, when their rinds have hardened, and they keep well under the bed all winter, or so says the Yankee lore of New England and the Maritimes." As you're heading to bed tonight, think about those Maritime bedrooms with their squash stored under the beds fighting with the dust bunnies for longevity....

When buying winter squash like Spaghetti Squash, select one that is hard and that seems heavy for its size. Don't worry if you see scabs or scars on its shell, but make sure there is no mild, soft spots, lumps, bumps or cracks. It should be very hard and watermelon shaped with a smooth, yellow skin. If it has a greenish hue, it may be immature. The larger the squash, the denser the pasta-like strands. Don't spoon the squash out of the shell once it is cooked; rather, use a fork like a comb to tease the strands away from the skin. Don't worry... it's super easy to do!

How to butcher a squash 
Winter squash are notoriously difficult to cut because they are so incredibly hard. The Greengrocer recommends that you place a damp cloth under the squash to prevent it from sliding. Then, using a long, sturdy, shape knife and a mallet, hammer the knife into the squash to split it vertically, to one side of the stalk. Now our son, he would like the axe or hatchet to become a kitchen tool... and then he'd embrace helping me with meal prep!

Roasted spaghetti squash
This recipe comes to us from Adam Mickelson whose wife, Trisha, volunteers at our market. Trisha always raves about Adam's cooking, and she shares one of his easy-to-prepare ideas with us today.
1 Spaghetti squash
1 tbsp. butter
1. Slice a spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Poke skin several times with a fork.
2. Scrape out seeds.
3. Place two halves on foil or parchment lined cookie sheet, flat side down.
4. Bake 50 minutes in pre-heated oven at 375 F.

5. Remove and let cool about 5 minutes until able to handle.
6. Scrape flesh out of skin with a fork to create spaghetti-like strands.
7. Place in serving dish and stir in 1 tbsp. butter, add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Top with fresh grated parmesan cheese and serve as side dish.
  • Use in place of pasta for a lower calorie spaghetti dish.
  • Add a tablespoon of maple syrup to enhance its inherent sweetness.
Recipe from Adam Mickelson
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Contributed by Trisha Mickelson, SWEFM Volunteer
Intro by Sheri Hendsbee, SWEFM Volunteer Steering Committee Member

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