Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What's for dinner? Spaghetti with a twist

I was in a conversation last week where the gal had never heard of substituting spaghetti squash for noodles. I was shocked. So I asked another. They too, were a deer in headlights admitting they've never even bought one. "What do they even look like?" she asked.

Sound familiar? You're not alone. Those big yellow things are intimidating. Heavy. Hard to peel. Hard to cut. Not an everyday item on the grocery list.

But as intimidating as they look, spaghetti squash is strangely simple to cook.  Just plop it on a baking sheet and pierce a few times all around with a sharp paring knife or bamboo skewer. No cutting, no peeling, no marinating, no massaging. Just plop. And carry it to your oven. Just don't drop on your foot. Ouch. Alternatively,  microwave for 2-4 minutes, slice in half, roast bake cut side down for 30 min or just microwave the entire thing. I've had the best success with the oven.

This is a staple in our house. An amazingly low carb dish with many nutrients, including folic acid, potassium, vitamin A, and beta carotene. I also love that it's low in calories, averaging 42 calories per 1 cup (155 grams) serving. There are so many different dishes you can prepare using spaghetti squash. Tomato and basil is yummy. Loaded with sauteed or steamed vegetables. Or with 'ol fashioned marinara sauce. Here is one that's easy to start...

~Baked Spaghetti Squash with Garlic & Butter~

1 small spaghetti squash (about 3-4 pounds)
2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup finely minced parsley (or basil)
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Optional: vegetables of your choice and/or marinara or meat sauce

1) Preheat oven to 375F.

2) Pierce squash a few times with sharp paring knife (to let steam escape).

3) Bake spaghetti squash for 60 minutes, or until a paring knife pierces easily through skin with little resistance. Let squash cool for 10 minutes.  Baking time really depends on how big your squash is - try to get the smallest one, especially if you’re only feeding 4 people. It’s ready if you can pierce the squash with a paring knife with little resistance.

4) Cut squash in half, lengthwise. Use a fork to remove and discard the seeds.

5) Continue using fork to scrape the squash to get long, lovely strands. If the squash seem difficult to scrape, return the squash to bake for an additional 10 minutes.
6) Heat a large saute pan with the butter and the garlic over medium-low heat.

7) When garlic becomes fragrant, add parsley, salt and spaghetti squash strands. Toss well.

8) Sprinkle in the Parmesan cheese and taste to see if you need additional salt. The spaghetti squash should have a slight crunch (i.e. not mushy) - but if you like it softer, cover the pan and cook 2 more minutes.

WARNING: If you want to top with spaghetti sauce, DO NOT add it immediately to the squash; this makes the squash runny and mushy. Instead garnish the dish with a little bit of sauce atop the squash, and then offer more sauce on the side, in a separate dish.

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