Sunday, July 10, 2016

Do you think people really make spaghetti with spaghetti squash? Give me a break.

That's what I thought. Then I talked to a friend who had actually done it. She described roasting the lovely spaghetti squash in her oven with a little butter or olive oil and salt and pulling the strands out when they were just tender...and listening to her describe the process made me want to try it.

I put the possibility away in the back of my mind, but this week, for some reason, I have been craving spaghetti. Omigod. The thought of it just won't leave me alone.

Problem is, I'm gluten-intolerant and trying to give up all wheat products, including pasta. Everybody should give up wheat. Read books like Wheat Belly and google "Is wheat unhealthy for me?"

I've tried rice, corn and quinoa pastas, but you have to get organic to avoid GMO corn in those replacement pastas, and I don't like them enough to pay what organic gluten-free spaghetti costs.

Besides, they are empty calories--and carbs to boot--and I'm really trying to stay away from empty carbs and stick with some meat, lots of veggies, healthy fats and nuts, tons of herbs, and small amounts of fruit. (That's my eating plan in a nutshell).

Spaghetti doesn't really fit in well with that plan because a plate of spaghetti is made up mostly of empty carb pasta. Unless this spaghetti squash trick really could work for me....

Why not just give up spaghetti? Well, it's long story. Spaghetti and I have a history together. I think I was in fifth grade when it started. My Catholic school was having a spaghetti dinner fundraiser. I was always so good at selling tickets for school fundraisers. The nuns loved me. I sold my little heart out for that particular Italian Night Spaghetti Dinner, so much so that the nuns awarded me free dinner tickets for me and my parents to go. I was so proud and was counting the days...and then I got sick with a horrible winter cold. I was so sick, running fever, half-delirious, and couldn't get out of bed to go on the big night. I insisted mom and dad go, and they brought me back my little carton of the prized spaghetti dinner the nuns had slaved over. Mom fed it to me in bed. I'd been so sick, I hadn't eaten much in days, but my appetite had just returned and it tasted...well, heavenly. I have never forgotten the taste of that spaghetti dinner, and so I think spaghetti and I are forever bound in this passionate love affair of ours. When spaghetti calls my name, I cannot say no.

Funny the associations we make with food in our minds (and hearts).

And spaghetti has been calling my name all week. So yesterday when I saw a lovely little organic spaghetti squash sitting there at Kroger, I nabbed it and brought it home in hopes that spaghetti and I could be friends again.

Roasting it presented some issues for me.

I didn't know if roasting it required oil, and I really didn't want to add extra oil. Healthy fat is a good thing, I've learned, and important as a pairing for veggies to absorb all the fat-soluble nutrients. But I knew my spaghetti sauce would have fat from the organic ground meat, and that was enough fat for me. All this new thinking on good fats does not change the fact that fat is calorie-dense and fattening.

Also, roasting means cutting that bad boy in half, and I wasn't sure I wanted to try that particular feat with a big knife home alone. I might have cut off my hand or something and bled to death on my kitchen floor. (I've heard it's not easy)

So I just stuck the whole thing in my huge stockpot and steamed it whole. Never heard of anybody doing that, but it worked beautifully.

One of the problems with cutting it in half and roasting or steaming it open, they say, is that it can overcook and the strands become mushy (and who likes their spaghetti mushy). But my method seemed to work well because they were slightly undercooked after 45 minutes of steaming.

Also, I easily--albeit crookedly--cut it in half now that it was soft.

Once I had it open, I removed the dense fiber mixed with seeds and put it aside (to roast the seeds later).

I then began to pull at the actual "spaghetti" strands with a fork while it was hot to get them all loose, then I closed the squash shell back up to store the spaghetti in the fridge--and pull out a portion at a time. I thought that was a nifty little system since being only one person, I couldn't eat the whole spaghetti squash in one day. It helped that it was slightly undercooked and firm so it wouldn't get even mushier and could be heated.

When my spaghetti sauce was done (I didn't start the sauce until I knew the spaghetti squash experiment had worked), I went to harvest a portion of the squash noodles from my squash shell in the fridge.

I took the cold portion of "spaghetti" out of the shell and put it in a ceramic frying pan, seasoned it with pink Himalayan sea salt and black pepper, and stirred it around a bit with some raw garlic until I got it just the al dente texture I like. A tiny bit of butter or olive oil to lightly grease the ceramic pan allowed it to slide around just right and it didn't stick.

Then I transferred it to a plate and slathered it with my spaghetti sauce. I grated some pecorino romano and parmigiano-reggiano onto it, threw some fresh basil and spicy oregano (from my daughter's herb garden) on top and had at it. What a Sunday dinner.

It was so good I had to have a second plate. I'd had enough meat sauce after one heaping plate, so I tried something different. I took another serving of "noodles" out of my spaghetti squash shell in the fridge, put into my lightly buttered pan with some more raw garlic, pink salt and pepper, and this time, when it was just right, I grated my pecorino romano into the mix and let it melt...and I just ate it like that. Butter, salt, pepper, garlic and the romano on top of the spaghetti squash noodles. I realized I could make a meal of just that, and that would be a vegetarian version. 

So do people really make spaghetti with spaghetti squash? Apparently they do, and I just did. You try it and let me know what you think.

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