The Humility of the Spaghetti Squash

The spaghetti squash is like a black actor in Hollywood: often overlooked, but deserving of accolades and top billing.  My first taste of this winter squash was years ago in Philadelphia, when my ever-resourceful roommate Heather brought one home from a green grocer.  Being from South Jersey, I was most familiar with only one member of the squash family, zucchini—in tomato sauce, in olive oil and lemon, as fritters.

But the spaghetti squash was a delight, if not for its adaptability, but for its surprising transformation once it was cooked. Once baked or roasted in the oven for 60-90 minutes, depending on size, and cut open, it revealed lots of pulp and seeds. Not so surprising. But then you start shredding the guts with a fork and the flesh breaks down into long thin strands, looking very similar to—yes—pasta in the form of spaghetti.

Besides the fun of cooking and preparing it, spaghetti squash is a nutritional dynamo: it’s low in calories and carbohydrates, contains more protein than pasta, and is rich in antioxidants (such as vitamins A and C, B vitamins, beta-carotene, and lutein). It also provides the essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6, and has antimicrobial properties.

Because it is humble, spaghetti squash can be used in a number of ways, as a vegan main course, a pasta substitute, or an excellent complement to pork or lamb (or any meat or fish really). It possesses a mild, nutty flavor, and whether you want to use savory (salt, pepper, dill, thyme, olive oil) or sweet (agave, cinnamon, butter) seasonings, the spaghetti squash will be more than the journeyman dish of a meal.

However, while it’s an outstanding choice for almost any dinner menu, it is a surprising, tasty addition to a breakfast or brunch menu. You can cook it the night before and refrigerate it, and on the morning of your breakfast, heat up a few mounds of spaghetti squash in a frying pan, and season with a bit of salt and a drop of agave nectar. Flip them over with a spatula, making sure both sides get cooked. In a separate pan, fry up some eggs and when done to your liking, place the eggs on top of the spaghetti squash piles and serve, perhaps with some grilled tomato slices and bacon, and some thick toast and preserves. A hearty breakfast, with no potatoes needed.

How to Generally Cook a Spaghetti Squash:

  1. Find a nice yellow oval of a spaghetti squash.
  2. Preheat your oven to about 350 degrees.
  3. Stab it (the squash, not your oven) with a fork 6 or 8 times.
  4. Let it bake until very soft
  5. Let it cool a bit, and then cut it lengthwise.
  6. Scoop out all the pulp and seeds.
  7. Use a fork to rake or shred the flesh into a bowl.
  8. Season to choice: salt, pepper, and either of the combinations above, or invent your own. The spaghetti squash will gladly handle it.

-William Stavru

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