Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Spaghetti Squash Recipe

Most often when it comes to spaghetti squash, I find that there are two camps: those who love it and those who wonder why it is called that?! In my case, I had always had a passing interest in learning more about it, but just had never taken the time until last fall after I purchased a cookbook called "A Harvest of Pumpkins and Squash" in a markdown bin at Williams and Sonoma.

I love this recipe for several reasons. First, because when you take out the pasta and replace it with spaghetti squash, you are taking a ton of calories out and replacing it with something really healthy and in-season.

Second, this recipe gives you a great basic spaghetti squash primer course. Once you see how really easy it is to prepare, you will find yourself coming up with ways to insert it into some of your other "go to" pasta sauce recipes.

Finally and most importantly, the flavor of this dish is just totally unique with the inclusion of the pickling spices. It is also really has a seasonal flavor. Once you make the sauce, the squash is really easy to prepare and both hold up well as left overs.

A couple of cooking notes:
-Why it is called SPICY in the title I have no idea! It is not remotely spicy. You can tell that by just looking at the ingredient list. Really a bad name for this dish!
-When we cook it, we first halved the butter(it originally called for 4 T) and now we eliminate it all together. The flavor of the sauce overpowers the small boost of flavor the butter gives the squash anyways.
-I always go with the leanest ground beef when there are this many dominant flavors in a dish. I suggest ground sirloin just to eliminate more unnecessary calories.

Spaghetti Squash with Spicy Meat Sauce (pg 57)
Greek Meat Sauce:
2 T olive oil
1 onion
1.5 lbs ground beef or turkey
1 C water
9oz tomato paste
2 T red wine vinegar
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tsp whole mixed pickling spice (this is the secret me!)
1/2 stick cinnamon

1 large spaghetti squash (about 3lbs)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 T unsalted butter (or none!)
1 avocado, diced
12 cherry tomatoes (red and yellow) halved
1/2 C fresh Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese shavings
2 T chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

To make the Greek Meat Sauce, in a large saucepan, heat the 1 T of the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Transfer the onion to a plate leaving the oil in the pan. Brown the meat in the reserved oil over medium-high heat, stirring to break it up into even crumbles. Return the onion to the pan. Add the water, tomato paste, vinegar, garlic, slat and pepper. Tie the pickling spice and cinnamon in a small piece of cheesecloth and add to the stew. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally and adding additional water if it threatens to scorch. Discard the cheesecloth.

Preheat the over to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the the seeds. Place the squash, cut side down, on the prepared pan. Bake until the flesh can be easily scraped into strands with a fork, 50-70 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Using a fork, scoop out all the flesh into a bowl and fluff the spaghetti like strands. Toss in the salt and pepper.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook until it turns a light brown. Pour over the squash strands and toss with a fork to blend. Top the squash with the hot meat sauce. Scatter the avocado and tomatoes over it and sprinkle with the cheese and parsley.

Serves 8

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