Thursday, September 27, 2012

Baked Spaghetti Squash with Tomato Basil Walnut Pesto

Living in Florida, even North Florida, almost inevitably means that when the stores start putting up Halloween and Fall decorations, when department stores are schlepping tanks and shorts on sale racks and adorning their displays with sweaters and other things with bulk and sleeves, one is deep in the throws of Florida's schizophrenic weather. One morning you wake and it's sixty degrees. you bust out your favorite jeans and a light but long-sleeved top and contemplate opting for 'real shoes' over your usual sandals or flip flops. Then it's noon an you're sweating in the high eighties temperatures, longing for that sundress you smirked at before leaving home. Or you  are graced with a breeze one day that hints of fall and a house full of open windows and clean, crisp air around the corner. The next time you walk outside it's muggy and the rain clouds are looming, threatening to leave muddy prints all over your newly mopped tile floors. 

All this is to say while the various colorful squashes are starting to make their entrances into produce sections across the sunshine state, I'm still partial to picking up a spaghetti squash in September. Yeah, all that to say just that. Sorry. ;)

Spaghetti squash is easily my favorite hard squash. It's light but has body, it's fun and versitile, it doesn't have an overpowering flavor one would get bored with which is great because one yellow beauty easily lasts for many meals.

Shopping at my local health food store last week I was enchanted by one lone giant organic spaghetti squash. One look at it and I thought, 'Ooooooh, I have some pesto in the freezer I want to use!', and dinner was born.

The pesto was inspired by some olive oil cured tomatoes and a giant handful of fresh basil I had had on hand after a small dinner party. I just threw the tomatoes with some of their oil, the basil, some toasted walnuts, a dash of salt, three cloves of garlic, and a heap of nutritional yeast into a deep cup and zapped it with my immersion blender until it was pureed. When I'd made it, I had no use for it so I split it into two freezer bags, each with about five servings of 1 1/2 T each in the bag. Into the freezer they went. that was about a month ago. The  other day when I brought home the squash I just popped one of the bags into a bowl of warm water until dinner time.

Spaghetti squash, like most squashes, is intimidating to cut into. It's hard and unforgiving and, to me, feels like a sharp knife accident waiting to happen. This is why I opt to bake mine whole before cutting into it. I just pierce it about four or five times with a sharp paring knife, toss it on a baking sheet, and pop it in a 375 oven for an hour or until a knife pierces the skin and sinks in without much resistance. Once out of the oven, I let it sit for a few minutes and then cut in half, scoop out the seeds and discard, then use a fork to ply the spaghetti like strands from the skin and place in a container. You can nuke the squash if you're so inclined or if you're pressed for time. I find that baking it, however, yields the perfect consistency. Cooked squash strands that haven't lost their shape and still retain some bite and slight crunch, not mushy.

Wanting to green up my meal, I used my mandoline's shred attachment to shred one large zucchini and used half of that and tossed with about 3/4 cup of squash. I tossed these with 1 1/2 T of pesto and sprinkled liberally with hemp seed.

This has been my go-to lunch for a few days now. I will sometimes heat up an Original Sunshine Burger and smear that with a tiny bit of horseradish just to amp up the protein of my meal. By dinner I'm still not tired of the squash so it makes a second appearance. Stay tuned for that! 

1 comment:

Jenni (aka Vegyogini) said...

You're brilliant! I have sadly steered clear of purchasing spaghetti squash after my one and only experience with it because it was a beast to cut. I will definitely buy another one this fall and roast it before using. Thanks for the great tip!