Friday, July 13, 2012

Ingredients; Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti Squash seems to be getting a bit of a name for itself! I keep seeing it pop up in recipes, but few of those recipes talk about how to find and prepare this little known food, so it took me a while to take the plunge and try it. Now that I have, I wish I had tried it sooner as it is so easy (and fun!) to prepare, a wonderfully nutritious alternative to regular spaghetti as the name implies, and it is naturally gluten free.

This is what a whole, uncooked Spaghetti Squash looks like;

As the name implies, it is a member of the squash family of foods, and the taste, texture and cooking methods follows suit. It is also known as vegetable spaghetti, noodle squash, spaghetti marrow, and gold string melon.

Most grocery stores are carrying varieties of squash like this, often in a mixed bin of assorted squashes like butternut and acorn. Locally, my HyVee and Skagway both sell it year round. I have not seen it at Walmart, but I don't go there very often, and even less often to buy groceries. 

So how do you cook Spaghetti Squash?

If you don't want to have to deal with cutting something this big and solid you can bake it whole for an hour at 375F, or boil it (submerged in a very large pan/pot of water) for 20 to 30 minutes.

To cook it a little faster you can cut it in half. Do this by poking the end of a big chefs knife in, then twisting/pressing it around until you have "sliced" the squash in half - if the end with the stem on it is being stubborn, just slip the knife out and just pull the two halves all the way apart with your hands.

It is easier to scoop the seeds out after the squash is cooked, so I left them in;

You can see the texture of the squash even before it is cooked;

Then you can either bake it at 375F for 30 to 40 minutes, or microwave it face up in a microwave safe pan with about a quarter inch of water in the bottom for 9 to 12 minutes. 

Whichever method you choose, make sure to poke holes in it with a fork before cooking it to prevent it from exploding!

It is done when you can poke a sharp knife into the skin easily and it comes out all nice and stringy and golden;

Let it cool until it is a safe temperature to handle, 10 to 20 minutes, then scoop out the seeds with a spoon;

Then use a fork to fluff up and separate the strands of squash out from the skin.

One large squash will easily feed four people.

Some people eat it pretty plain with a little bit of butter, salt and pepper, but most people find that it is bland enough to require a good strong sauce. (Ever eaten pasta plain? Me either!) I like it with the traditional spaghetti bolognese sauce:

Recipe: "Spaghetti" Bolognese

It would be good with anything you typically serve with spaghetti or noodles including alfredo sauce and oriental style soups!

As with all squashes, you can save and roast the seeds, just like pumpkin seeds.

How do you deal with intimidating looking foods, especially hard gourds? Have you tried anything new lately?

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