In the timeline that is my life, I’ve been through many trends and fads of my own making, as I watched certain foods fall in and out of favor with my kitchen, only to return triumphantly with a freshness that opens my senses to the point where they seem once again new. Greek turkey burgers were a thing for a while. There was an Asian-style ham and pineapple dish I used to eat with Kubrick-ian regularity. There was an open-faced corned beef and green onion on rye that was a college favorite. Something we called “macaroni and gold” had a grasp on our taste buds randomly for a couple of years. Kale was a thing. Quinoa … don’t get me started.
Not unlike the Members Only jackets of my yesteryear and the ever-changing phases of sunglasses, many of these dishes became outdated relics, unwelcomed in my kitchen. Although Crockett and Tubbs never fell out of favor with me, you youngsters may think it’s something new when linen suits and pink t-shirts make a comeback (fingers crossed); I have a few of those recipes that never left the building. But looking back at the menus of my childhood, adolescence and adult years, the thing I cannot remember eating was spaghetti squash.
No one has ever said to me, “When I was a kid my mom made this spaghetti squash that was amazing.” It was as if it didn’t exist in a pre-Internet, Food Network driven world. It was like it was engineered when they ran out of things to cook.
Maybe you’re intimidated by this yellow gourd the size of a pee wee football and haven’t a clue what to do with it. It gets its name from the way the flesh scrapes from the rind in stringy noodle-shaped bits about the size of angel hair pasta, and can be used in much the same way. Speaking of the outer layer, there is not a squash much tougher than this beauty. You had better grab the sharpest knife in the drawer to cut this genetic crossover in half. I will make it easier on you.
I’ve developed a way to cook spaghetti squash that keeps it fairly simple. I’m uncertain how common this practice is, but it works well for me. I take the raw squash and pierce it several times with a fork or knife. Next I wrap it in paper towels and pop it in the microwave for 10 minutes. After a few minutes of cooling, the squash can easily be cut in half lengthwise.
On a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil for easy cleanup, I bake the halves face down for about a half an hour at 400 degrees. With a regular fork, I scrape the flesh horizontally and a bird’s nest begins to form. This is how every recipe for spaghetti squash begins with me. The variable is in what comes next.
Basically you can treat this vegetable as grain-free pasta. It may not fool all of the people some of the time, but it will definitely fool some of the people all of the time. Who’s fooling? There is no reason. It may be medically perfect as a replacement for a marinara loving celiac patient. It may be great as a low carbohydrate version for the goofballs who are perfectly skinny but on the Atkins diet. I think spaghetti squash is fantastic no matter what your diet is.
Thankfully it has been popping up at some of our local restaurants from time to time. I was once at an event where the fine folks of Balance prepared a fantastic pasta and sauce dish with spaghetti squash that blew my mind. You may see it on one of their menus. The locally owned prepackaged meal service (www.getbalanced.us) at 2351 Airport Blvd. keeps everything nutrient rich and delicious. Your own version could be similar with your best spaghetti sauce and meatballs.
Queen G’s on Old Shell Road serves up a buttery version that simply allows the squash to speak for itself. Maybe a sprinkle of kosher salt helps the flavor explode in your mouth.
The way for my kids to enjoy it is also a simple version that involves parmesan cheese. True, it is not fit for just any cheese, but I have an open mind. Hard shredded cheese can make this squash a hearty side or potential entrée. Either way it passes the finicky 5-year-old test. Graham likes to pretend he’s eating worms. I pick my battles.
With an endless supply of recipes on the Internet, spaghetti squash is becoming the new super squash of modern times. It excels in casseroles, holds up well chilled and incorporated into salad, works well with pesto and complements chicken well. As far as meats are concerned, I think it works best with pork. I’ve already planned my next recipe. I look forward to trying it with carbonara.
We’ll see if this is a passing phase, a fad or here to stay, but right now my plans are to keep spaghetti squash as a regular part of my diet. Its healthy makeup, glorious color and versatility have me wondering why I missed out for so long.