All of the craziness means that my food choices have been of the "quick and easy" variety. So, today I'm sharing two recipes that are simple, fast, and go great together: spaghetti squash and peanut sauce. They're easy and delicious, and in a pinch you can make the entire meal in the microwave (as I did when our kitchen sink was clogged and stove top cooking was out of the question).
Spaghetti squash is a really interesting vegetable. At first glance it just looks like a big yellow squash:
|2 1/2 pounds of squash-y goodness.|
But once you hack it open (and believe me, hack is the right word), it's full of pumpkin-like seeds and pulp, and a thick layer of flesh made up of little strands or "noodles."
You can treat it like a vegetable and turn it into a side dish, or use it like a noodle and make it the foundation of a meal. You're probably not going to fool anyone into thinking it's pasta, but the spaghetti squash is delicious in its own right, and you still get to twirl it around your fork.
Oh, and did I mention they are cheap? Spaghetti squash usually goes for about $.69/pound at my Kroger, and I snagged this one for $1.75. A 2-1/2 pound squash is plenty for two people to eat as a main course; if you're cooking for one, just wrap the uncooked half in plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge. It will keep for several days until you are ready to use it.
Quick Spaghetti Squash
1 small spaghetti squash (about 2-1/2 pounds)
Desired toppings (meat, veggies, and/or sauce of your choice)
1. Remove any stickers and wash the spaghetti squash with soapy water.
2. Pierce the spaghetti squash at least once with a knife. Microwave it on high for one to two minutes. This softens the squash just enough to make it easier to cut and clean. (I don't think your squash will explode after two minutes in the microwave, but I pierce it just in case!)
3. Remove the squash from the microwave and place on a cutting board. Use a large knife to cut it in half either way. The thing you need to know about the spaghetti squash is that the strings run in rings around the squash, not from end to end. If you cut it in half lengthwise (which is more difficult, since you have to deal with the stem), you're cutting the strands in half. If you cut it across its "equator" (which is easier) you'll get full strands but the halves are a bit trickier to deal with as they are less stable.
|Aside from pre-cooking for a minute or two, I really |
haven't discovered the "trick" to making this easier.
(Or, poke some holes in it, cook it whole, and deal with it later--but it's going to be very hot, so be careful!)
4. Use an ice cream scoop, melon baller, or a sturdy spoon to scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp. Word on the blogosphere is that you can clean and roast the seeds just like pumpkin seeds, but I haven't tried it.
|I love my ice cream scoop for this.|
5. Place both squash halves cut side down in a microwave-safe dish (like a glass pie pan). Add about 1/3 cup of water to the dish. Microwave on high for about 7 minutes, then check it and continue to cook in 1-minute intervals as needed. When cooked, the flesh should be soft and easily pierced with a fork.
6. Hold a squash half with a potholder and carefully use a fork to fluff the strands (works best if you pull the tines against the grain of the squash). Scrape the strands out into a bowl or cutting board.
|How neat is that?|
7. Eat the squash as is, add some butter and Parmesan, or top it with a sauce. Spaghetti squash is one of those foods that can take on other tastes very well. Help it along by undercooking the squash just slightly, and then tossing the strands with the sauce in a pan over low heat for a minute or two. The sauce will latch on to the squash, and you'll end up with perfectly cooked strands.
Although many of the recipes you see for spaghetti squash treat it like pasta, I think it works better with Asian flavors. Like peanut sauce. My recipe below is the result of reading a lot of recipes and testing a few. Many recipes call for coconut milk, which I don't particularly care for, but if you like it you can replace half the water with it.
Enough for one 2-1/2 pound spaghetti squash
1/4 cup peanut butter (creamy or crunchy, your choice)
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp lime or lemon juice
1 clove crushed garlic
1/2 cup water
Sriracha hot sauce and/or crushed red pepper, to taste
1. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and heat over medium-low heat until bubbling and thick. Or, combine the ingredients in a microwaveable bowl or container and heat in 30-second intervals until combined. Add more water for a thinner sauce.
|You can serve the peanut sauce hot or cold.|
2. Store any leftover sauce in the fridge for about a week. You may need to thin the chilled sauce with water before serving.
Combine your spaghetti squash, peanut sauce, and any veggies or proteins you like.
|Spaghetti squash with peanut sauce and some stir fried chicken.|
How do you like your spaghetti squash?