If you like the circus act where a crowd of clowns emerges from a tiny car, then you'll love spaghetti squash.
It's just plain fun to cook a vegetable the shape of a watermelon, open it up, and pull out yards of crisp-tender, golden strands. It only adds to the fun when you learn that something this pasta-like can be low in calories (45 per cup), free of gluten, and rich in folic acid, fiber, potassium and carotenes.
A Change of Seasons and VeggiesSmack dab between the end of the summer squashes and the beginning of the hard-skinned winter squashes, the delightful Spaghetti Squash comes into season. Its arrival signals that our summertime friends -- the tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, and okra -- are winding down, and that the lovely fall greens and winter roots will soon be here.
But right now is the time to enjoy this beautiful oblong squash whose skin can run from pale ivory to deep yellow. No matter what it looks like on the outside, the flesh inside separates into long pasta-like strands when cooked, and it's just plain fun -- to cook and to eat.
Simple and Fun to Cook!Even vegetable-skeptics find it hard to resist spaghetti squash's summery lightness and ease of preparation. Simply bake, boil, or microwave, then combine the hot swirls with the sauce or flavorings of your choice, and serve as you would spaghetti.
To Bake Whole: Prick the squash with a sharp knife in 3-4 places to prevent an explosion. Place in a pan in a 350Âº oven and bake (about 60 minutes for a 2-3 pound squash). Remove from oven and halve at once. Let cool briefly, then scoop out the seeds. With a fork, comb strands from each half until only the shell remains.
To Steam: Halve the squash lengthwise with a sharp, sturdy knife. Scoop out the seeds. Halve each piece lengthwise again, then place on a steamer rack above boiling water. Cover and steam 20-30 minutes. Gently pull strands from the shell.
To Microwave: Put the squash halves cut-side down in a glass baking dish. Pour 1/4 cup water around it, and cover the dish tightly. Microwave at high power for 12 mins, or until soft when pressed. Let stand, covered, for 3 minutes before teasing out the strands.
Once your squash is cooked, use a fork to tease out the strands. Then toss with whatever you like, from simply herbs and olive oil, to cheese, pesto, tomato, garlic and herbs, or soy sauce and sesame oil.
Spaghetti Squash with Basil, Tomatoes, and ParmesanLike all members of the Curcurbit family, this curious squash is an American native, one of the many â€œnew worldâ€ vegetables that went back to the old world, and from there spread across the rest of the world. Most of the breeding of the current varieties of spaghetti squash was done in Japan over the last 40 years, and the taste has improved greatly in the past ten years. If you haven't tried one lately, you are in for a treat!
One spaghetti squash, cooked (see methods above)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup torn fresh basil leaves, plus additional leaves for garnish
1/3 to 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 cup chopped tomatoes
In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, basil, and half of the Parmesan. Stir in the tomatoes, and season with salt and pepper. While the squash is still warm, scrape it with a fork to form strands. Add the strands to the tomato mixture, and toss well. Place the mixture into serving bowls, sprinkle the remaining Parmesan on top, and garnish with the additional basil.
Herbed Spaghetti Squash with Cheese1 spaghetti squash, cooked, strands teased out while warm
1 cup grated gruyere cheese (or cheese of your choice)
1/4 cup chopped parsley (or herb of your choice)
2 tablespoons butter
1 garlic clove, chopped fine
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Place the spaghetti squash strands in a large bowl. Add all the other ingredients and toss well. Enjoy!
Seasonal Cook's Notes: Be sure not to overcook spaghetti squash, as it can get watery and lose its sweetness.