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Spaghetti Squash

photo 1Many years ago one of my sisters and I were joking around, got giggly and started pretending we were little kids having temper tantrums and demanding spaghetti squash. We flailed about on the floor, pummeled the carpet with our fists and, through racking sobs, demanded “Pisgetti squash.” Then we’d collapse in peals of laughter.

It probably wasn’t that funny when we were kids, and it certainly isn’t funny now that we’re middle-aged adults. Alas, that doesn’t stop us from occasionally reprising the spaghetti squash schtick whenever we get together, much to the dismay of our spouses and children.

The fact is, I’ve never met anyone who likes spaghetti squash as well as my sister. As a starving medical student, she ate it with green-canister Parmesan cheese and ketchup. But her cooking became more sophisticated with time, while her love of spaghetti squash never abated.

She has since stirred tomato sauce into it and melted cheese over the top (Spaghetti Squash Italiano!), added maple syrup and walnuts (Vermonter’s Delight!), and blended it with large curd cottage cheese and Mrs. Dash seasoning (Weird Low-Cal Concoction Only My Sister Can Stomach!).

Me, I’ve always liked spaghetti squash well enough but found that the times it was served to me at other people’s homes and in restaurants was sufficient. I have never felt the need to, say, work it into the familial vegetable rotation. I’m much more likely to buy a butternut or acorn squash, cook it until it’s soft, creamy and perfectly submissive, and then make a hard sell to the family by blending in copious amounts of fat. Butter, cream cheese and the like can do a lot to recommend the creamy texture of winter squash.

But spaghetti squash, by its nature, resists this treatment. You need to cook it until it is no longer firm but not yet totally soft. It should yield to a fork, but just enough to separate into those long strands. You don’t want it crisp, per se, but it should have enough body to twirl around a fork like actual spaghetti.

When I was shopping recently at the DeKalb Farmers Market I espied an enormous and overflowing bin of spaghetti squash, and so I began texting my sister pictures of it. After some ensuing silliness, I decided I should at least buy and cook one.

With tri-tip steak, baked potato and arugula salad; nice meal

With tri-tip steak, baked potato and arugula salad; nice meal

I decided to go with the popular two-stage method of preparation. First you have to cut it lengthwise, a process I like because it gives me an opportunity to take out my heaviest knife and make a satisfying thwack. But if you prefer not to thwack them, you can make a couple of incisions in the squash and put it in the microwave for three or four minutes to soften enough to cut with ease. There is no shame.

Then you scoop out the seeds like you would for any squash and put the cut side down in a pan with a half-inch of water and roast it at 350 degrees. After 45 minutes, you take the squash out and turn the halves so the cut side is up.

And now you decide which way you’re going to go with this thing: more spaghetti or more squash?

I opt for more squash and put a tablespoon of butter, two tablespoons of maple syrup and a good sprinkle of salt in each half. I cover them with foil and return them to the oven for about 20 minutes.

Now comes the fun part. With two forks I begin pulling the strings of squash away from the shell and toss them with the melted butter and syrup pooled in the cavities.

This squash looks terrific served right in its half shells: two big, appealing mounds of spaghetti-like substance. The flavor is nice, too, perched right on the edge between sweet and salty. The family makes appreciative noises about this relatively healthy dinner item, though I don’t think anyone is actively in love with it.

I begin to plot my next spaghetti squash. Maybe some roasted pecans or plumped white raisins should be tossed in at the end. Or even some pesto and Parmesan cheese. I had best consult my sister. After 30 years of joking about spaghetti squash, I now want to learn how to cook it.

11 comments Add your comment

Reds

February 28th, 2011
2:36 pm

I love spaghetti squash… not sweet, please. It’s something I don’t cook enough though.

Kar

February 28th, 2011
2:51 pm

I get the walnuts and maple syrup but ketchup? Even for dorm-room cooking that’s desparate. I’m thinking maybe with some linguine, melted butter or cream and sage. Sort of a deconstructed squash ravioli.

Or maybe with carrot/zucchini “ribbons” for a pasta primavera version.

david c

February 28th, 2011
4:10 pm

While your squash is cooking, fry up a pound of Italian Sausage until browned and cooked through. Drain grease and de-glaze with two tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar. Add a stick of butter and as much dry Italian seasoning as you like, stir all together and toss with shredded squash. Pass the Parmesan and enjoy.

FoodFan

February 28th, 2011
5:46 pm

Well, David – a pound of Italian sauasage + a stick of butter will make pretty much anything taste good – including spaghetti squash. Kind of defeats the purpose of eating this “vegetable” if it’s just going to be a vehicle to get butter & sausage into your mouth!

david c

February 28th, 2011
6:03 pm

Better than a pound of pasta!

Ganners

March 1st, 2011
9:22 am

Kar, I like where you are going with the sage. I like mine savory as well. Every time I have taken the time to spaghetti my squash it seems bland. I think sage and brown butter would be lovely….maybe a few crispy sage leaves on top with some fresh garic chips. Dang, I need to go get a squash and see what is possible!

TH

March 1st, 2011
3:22 pm

15 minutes in the microwave works well too. You’ll have a wait a few minutes for it to cool down before you can slice it open and scoop out the seeds. Add butter, parm cheese and fresh sage. Yum!!

Mea

March 1st, 2011
3:25 pm

Village Tavern in Alpharetta taught me to love spaghetti squash. Theirs is tossed with lightly sauteed, but still crisp, vegetables, pine nuts, and Parmesan. It’s wonderful and tastes much better than I can describe it.

revkce

March 1st, 2011
4:09 pm

I enjoy spaghetti squash, but didn’t love it until I had it braised ( I think at Woodfire Grill). I haven’t been able to recreate it at home. Anybody have suggestions?

Loree

March 2nd, 2011
12:23 pm

Mea- What other vegetables do they add and how are they prepared before mixing with squash?

Whitney

March 3rd, 2011
6:14 pm

Love spaghetti squash. Try Shorty’s restaurant in Toco Hills area for a great salad. Served room temperature with ricotta salada, it is great. I like mine with fresh lemon juice, olive oil and crumbled feta.

Easy to grow and one vine can produce a ton.