Sunday, January 31, 2010

Moroccan-inspired spaghetti squash

Please, for the love of all that is true, don't believe all those health nuts out there:
Spaghetti squash does not taste like spaghetti... it will not lead you to renounce all pasta.

I love myself some pasta and spaghetti squash will never, ever replace it. And it shouldn't. Pasta is pasta. Spaghetti squash is squash. Don't get me wrong, I love spaghetti squash. It has a great texture, it's light in flavor and it's super-duper healthy for you. But it's not pasta. And it shouldn't be treated as such.

I've tried spaghetti squash a few times before, but I think this may be my favorite way of preparing it. (Although to be honest, I don't really remember how I prepared it before. It's reasons like this that I started my food blog in the first place: so I'd always have recipes that I tried out on file and on hand.) Again, it's from Smitten Kitchen. But this recipe was simply *inspired* by what I read on her site. I actually used a lot more spices in preparing my version, using this AMAZING butternut squash recipe from Epicurious to guide my spice selection.

Before I continue, you may be scratching your head asking yourself "What the hell is she talking about?!? Spaghetti squash? WTF is that?" Yes, spaghetti squash is what it's called. It's a winter squash (kinda like butternut, but less sweet) whose flesh separates into long, thin strands that resemble spaghetti when you cook it.

So how do you get from this...

... to this?

Three simple answers: spices, garlic and parsley (or cilantro).

I added a bunch of Moroccan-inspired spices in this dish, including (from top to bottom): paprika, salt, black pepper, coriander, cumin, turmeric, ginger and cayenne pepper.

Along with the simple but fresh flavors from the garlic and parsley, this dish has a clean but complex flavor that pairs perfectly with the squash.

If you've never prepared spaghetti squash before, fear not, it's quite simple.

You can either use your microwave (keep the squash whole) or your oven (roast the squash whole or sliced in half) to cook the squash. I used my microwave since it only takes 20-25 min vs. 45-60 min in the oven.

After the squash was soft to the touch I figured it was done. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. (Hot tip: clean/cook the seeds for a delicious treat!)

Then grab a fork (I'm using my handy-dandy grapefruit spoon) and just start breaking apart the flesh. It naturally breaks down into thin strands that look like pasta (but have a crunchier texture).

See- it really does look like spaghetti!

After you're done you'll have a cool hollow shell left over. The squash may not seem that huge, but you get quite a bit of "pasta" from it.

To prepare your dish, infuse butter with the garlic and cook until the garlic is softened. Add the spices and cook for another minute or so. Pour butter mixture over the "pasta", toss to coat, and add parsley/cilantro to taste.

And holy cow, did it taste fabulous!


Moroccan-inspired spaghetti squash, adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Serves 4

1 (3 1/2- to 4-pound) spaghetti squash
1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp cumin (I used less b/c I'm very overly-sensitive to cumin)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or flat-leaf parsley

* Note: All of the following spices are to taste. These are the approximate amounts I used. Use more or less as you like.

To cook the squash in a microwave: Pierce squash (1 inch deep) all over with a small knife to prevent bursting. Cook in a microwave safe dish on high for 6 to 7 minutes. Turn squash over and microwave until squash feels slightly soft when pressed, 8 to 10 minutes more. (My microwave is pretty weak, so I had to cook it for an additional 5+ minutes.) Cool squash for 5 minutes.

To roast the squash, there are two methods. Whole-roasted squash: pierce it all over with a small sharp knife to prevent bursting and bake in a 375°F oven for one hour. Alternatively, cut the squash in half lengthwise with a sharp kinfe, scoop out the seeds and roast on an oiled baking pan (cut-sides down) for about 40 minutes in a 375°F oven.

While the cooked squash is cooling, melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until the garlic is soft and the butter is barely golden. Stir in spices, cook ~ 1 minute and remove from heat.

If you have microwaved or roasted your squash whole, carefully halve it lengthwise (it will give off a lot of steam) and remove the seeds. Working over a bowl, scrape squash flesh with a fork, loosening and separating strands as you remove it from the skin.

Toss with the spiced butter and top with the parsley and/or cilantro.


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