Saturday, June 23, 2012

TWO Spaghetti Squash for a Buck...Call it Dinner!

I have written of my love for the cheap produce stands at The City Market here in Kansas City.  It truly is one of the largest (and best!) farmer's markets in this part of the Midwest.  You will find SOOO many farmers from all over the Missouri and Kansas farmland who pull in their trucks, set up their tables, and offer us some of the best home-grown, organic, and all natural fruits, veggies, herbs, and other edibles you can imagine.  And I love to support our local guys.  But what I REALLY get excited for the is the cheap stuff.  I LOVE a good bargain, and especially a bargain on my produce.  I go through so much of it!  I enjoy seafood and small amounts of turkey, but aside from that I'm not much of a meat-eater.  I'm not sure if I could totally embrace a vegan lifestyle (although I admire those who can), but I certainly do enjoy vegan meals.  And that means going through MANY POUNDS of veggies each and every week.  So you can only imagine my childlike delight when I came across a stand that had saved (just for me) a pair of spaghetti squash for only a buck!  That's crisp, green, U.S. dollar.  Well, in my case it was a crumpled, faded dollar in the bottom of my purse, covered with lint, but whatever.  I was also delighted because I had a fun time deciding in my mind whether to actually eat the squash or stuff them in my bra...

I thoroughly enjoy just about any squash that exists, my favorite being yellow summer squash and zucchini.  (They make excellent kabobs on the BBQ grill, paired with mushrooms and cherry tomatoes!)  But for some reason spaghetti squash has eluded me.  Perhaps it was the supermarket price, or maybe it was the very fact that I had NO idea what a spaghetti squash actually was.  So I decided to embrace an AMAZING invention called Google and figure out this whole spaghetti squash debacle.  Turns out the spaghetti squash really isn't all that complicated, and it has its namesake for a reason.  When cooked, the 'meat' of the squash actually shreds easily with a fork, creating little strands that resemble rice noodles.

I decided a hearty mushroom marinara would pair well this interesting squash-spaghetti thing.  I love mushrooms, tomatoes, basil, red wine, and balsamic vinegar.  So I threw those things into a hot tub of love atop the stove and called it dinner.  Does spaghetti squash kill a craving for actual pasta?  Not really.  But it gently guided me into exploring another avenue of flavor-town, and I'm very happy I took that tour.  How does it get any better?

Spaghetti Squash with Mushroom Marinara (serves 3-4)

  • 2 spaghetti squash, cut in half lengthwise and seeds scooped out
  • 2-3 Tbsp. good olive oil
  • 16 oz. mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 small red onion, minced
  • 5-7 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 C. of fresh tomatoes, pureed
  • 1/2 C. water
  • 1/4 C. red wine (merlot or cabernet)
  • A small bunch of basic leaves, chopped (about a Tbsp.)
  • A small bunch of Italian parsley, chopped (about a Tbsp.)
  • A few good shakes of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. organic sugar
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the squash:
1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2.  Lay squash, 'meat' side down, on a prepared baking sheet.
3.  Bake until squash is easily pierced by a fork.  (Mine took 30 minutes, times will vary by oven.)

4.  Once squash has cooled, 'shred' the insides with a fork until you reach the skin. Set aside in bowl.

For the Marinara:
1.  In a large sauce pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
2.  Saute the mushrooms, onions, garlic, and a pinch of salt for 5-7 minutes, until softened.
3.  Add the tomatoes and season well with salt and pepper; cook for an additional 5-7 minutes.
4.  Add in the water and red wine; allow to cook for another 5 minutes or so.
5.  Reduce heat to med-low, and add in the vinegar, parsley, and basil.
6.  Test the seasoning level, and add more salt/pepper if desired.
7.  Reduce heat even further to low and allow to simmer for about an hour.
8.  The wine will cook out, and the liquids will have reduced to a thicker and richer tasting sauce.
9.  Once it's finished cooking, allow the sauce to rest for another 30 minutes at least.  This will allow the flavors to further develop.

Serve over the top of the spaghetti squash.

Enjoy.  :-)

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