Squash gift leads to 2 recipe successes

Published 7:43 pm Saturday, September 24, 2016

Sarah Condley

Sarah Condley

Recently, we visited Brad’s friend, Lynn, in Oakridge, Tennessee, to attend a Young Life Banquet.

Young Life is a wonderful Christian organization that focuses on mentoring high school youth.

As we were packing our car to head home, Lynn approached Brad with two squash and insisted that we take them. Evidently Lynn doesn’t like squash.  While we were driving, I asked Brad what kind of squash they were, he didn’t know and we ended up texting Lynn to ask – they were spaghetti squash.  By now you’ve probably guessed that I don’t care for squash, but I’ve heard spaghetti squash is good so I decided that I would give it a whirl.

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When we arrived at home, I jumped on the computer to find out how to cook the squash.

I found several recipes that were all basically the same.

I settled on a recipe for spaghetti squash in the oven, which I found at thekitchn.com.

While searching for the spaghetti squash recipe, I viewed several options for how to serve it and settled on a marinara sauce I found on the Pioneer Woman’s website (thepioneerwoman.com).

I have one of Ree Drummond‘s cookbooks and I just love watching  her cooking show. She seems so down to earth.

Because the marinara sauce needed to cook for 1-1/2 hours, I decided to start by preparing it. Then I would move on to cooking the spaghetti squash.

Marinara Sauce

— ¼ cup Olive Oil

— 1 whole yellow or white onion, diced

— 5 cloves garlic, minced

— 2 whole large carrots, peeled and finely diced

— 2 cans (28 oz. each) whole tomatoes

— ½ teaspoon salt

— ½ teaspoon black pepper

— 2 teaspoons sugar (more to taste)

— 2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano (optional: use whatever dried or fresh herbs you like)

— 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, plus more for serving

— Cooked pasta for serving

— Fresh parmesan cheese, for serving

— 3 tablespoons tomato paste (optional)

In a medium pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.Add the onions, garlic and carrots and cook 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pour the tomatoes and juice in a large bowl and use your hands to gently squish/mush the tomatoes so the juices are released and they are all broken up.  Add the contents of the bowl to the pot and stir.  Add the salt, pepper, sugar and oregano (or other dried or fresh herbs).

Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered for 1-1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Add minced fresh parsley at the end and taste/adjust the sauce for seasonings.

Toss with pasta, then serve on top of the pasta with parmesan and more parsley (or fresh basil if you have it).

If you like a slightly deeper flavor, add the optional tomato paste when you add the tomatoes.

First thing I did was chop up the carrots and onion using my food chopper, then minced the garlic.

As a tip from the “Eating on the Wild Side” book that Brad is fond of, you should let your minced garlic sit for about 10 minutes before using it so that it has time for allicin to develop and you can get the full benefit from it.Allicin is a chemical formed when garlic is crushed. The benefits of allicin are in its anti properties — antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral, anticlotting and anticancer.

After the garlic had time to rest, I heated up the olive oil and added the vegetables and garlic. The smell of those things cooking made me hungry.

The recipe calls for using canned whole tomatoes, but I didn’t have those so I decided to use what I had.

I substituted a 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes and two 15 oz. cans of petite diced tomatoes.

I poured one can of the diced tomatoes out into a bowl and tried to squish them as directed, but they really didn’t squish much, so I just dumped all of the tomatoes, including the un-squished diced ones, into the pot of sautéed vegetables.

I added the spices (I used dried because I didn’t have fresh) and turned the heat down to let the mixture simmer, stirring occasionally.

While the sauce was simmering I started preparing the spaghetti squash.

You will need one spaghetti squash, about two or three pounds.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Slice the squash in half lengthwise from stem to tail using a chef’s knife.

Spaghetti squash are really tough and hard, so be cautious and work slowly. You can cradle the squash in a balled-up dish cloth to keep it steady as you cut.

Use a spoon to scrape out the seeds and stringy bits of flesh from inside the squash.

Be careful of actually digging into the flesh though, you don’t want to do that. The inside should look clean and fairly smooth.Discard the seeds or save them to roast for a snack.

Place the squash in a roasting pan, cut side down.

Pour a little water in the pan, just enough to cover the bottom.Your squash will roast fine without it, but the water helps the squash steam and become more tender.You can also cover the pan with foil or just tent the foil over the squash

Cook the squash for 30-45 minutes.

Smaller squash will cook more quickly than larger squash. Check the squash after 30 minutes to gauge cooking.

The squash is done when tender (when you can easily pierce a fork through the flesh all the way to the peel.  The flesh will also separate easily into spaghetti-like strands.

You can also taste it right now. If the noodles are still a bit crunchy for your taste, put the squash back in the oven for another 15 minutes or so.

Using a fork, gently pull the squash flesh from the peel and separate the flesh into strands.

The strands wrap around the squash horizontally.  Rake the fork, in the same direction as the strands to make the longest “noodles.”

Serve the squash with your favorite topping (marinara, butter, olive oil, etc).

Spaghetti squash will keep refrigerated for up to a week, or frozen up to three months.

The first thing I did was weigh both squash to see if I needed to cook both of them or just one.  Each one weighed right at 2 pounds, so I opted to just roast one of them.

The squash was a little hard to slice, but as suggested in the recipe I just took my time.

It took a little time to scrape the seeds and fibers out of the center of each squash half, but I was able to finally get that done.

I got out my 9×13 pan and placed the squash in it, cut side up.I sprinkled a little olive oil on it along with some salt and pepper, then turned the halves over to so they would bake cut side down.  I added about 1/2 cup of water and tented the dish with foil.  At this point, I decided to wait to put the squash in the oven because the marinara sauce still needed to cook about an hour.

Because we were having “pasta” I decided to go ahead and fix some Easy Peasy French Bread (highlighted in an article I wrote a few weeks ago) to go with our meal.

When the marinara had about 30 minute left to cook, I put the squash in the oven and set the timer. After 30 minutes, the squash appeared to be done to me.

So I took it out and started shredding the flesh, this was easy and the only thing I was not sure about was how close you could get to the peel/rind of the squash.Turns out you can completely get all of the flesh out of the squash.

I heaped some of the squash noodles in our pasta bowls and topped it with the marinara and a little parmesan cheese.

Brad blessed the food and we dug in.We both liked the marinara and, though the squash didn’t have much flavor, it certainly reminded me of spaghetti.

I nailed both of these recipes and will not hesitate to either have Brad grow spaghetti squash or purchase it at our local Farmer’s Market in the future.

The marinara sauce made enough for at least two meals so I’ll be cooking the second squash Lynn gave us for a second meal.

But I’ll be adding some shiitake mushrooms per Brad’s request. If I hadn’t had another spaghetti squash I would have put the rest of the marinara in the freezer for a quick meal in the future.

Just so you’ll know, I did save the seeds from the spaghetti squash to roast.

I’ve never roasted squash seeds before and had never even eaten roasted pumpkin seeds, but thought since I had these, I shouldn’t waste them.

I rinsed the seeds and removed the stringy stuff that came out of the squash with the seeds and placed the seeds on a paper towel to dry.

After we ate supper, I placed the seeds (about 1/4 cup) in a small bowl, sprinkled them with a little bit of olive oil and salt, placed them on a cookie sheet, then put them in a 300 degree oven for 25 minutes.  When they came out and cooled I tried a few and wasn’t impressed; however, Brad said they reminded him of roasted pumpkin seeds and he would eat them. I found this recipe at thekitchn.com.

Two more recipes have been added to my self-made cookbook.