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VOL. 35 | NO. 15 | Friday, April 15, 2011

You won’t have to wait for spaghetti squash

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Spring is in the air. All the tulips, buttercups, azaleas, redbud and dogwood trees are blooming! Just don’t take too big of a whiff. That could cause some major sneezing since the pollen count is so high! Before too long, all the beautiful blooms will be replaced with green dust. You know, the dust that makes your car temporarily green?

With spring also comes the bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables at the Farmers Markets, one of my favorite things. I love to go and just walk around and look at – and photograph – them almost as much as I like to eat them.

However, until we reach the time of luscious strawberries, juicy tomatoes, and sweet, ripe peaches, let me share a recipe for one of the vegetables we often overlook but is ripe for the picking now – Spaghetti Squash.

I know, doesn’t sound too appetizing does it? Maybe it’s the name? I mean seriously, spaghetti is spaghetti, and squash is squash, right? However, once you have cooked this, you will see where it gets its name; when baked, the inside resembles spaghetti. The name may make you turn-up your nose and pass it on, but you might find that in doing so, you are the one that missing out!

Below is a recipe for a great springtime salad using spaghetti squash, but let me offer up a few tips on preparation and baking first. It isn’t something you can just pop in the oven for a quick meal.

Usually only four to eight pounds, spaghetti squash is generally available year-round. A true spaghetti squash is pale ivory to pale yellow in color, but an orange variety, “orangetti,” was developed in the 1980s and is what is mostly found in supermarkets. Orangetti is higher in beta-carotene, and a bit sweeter than the paler squash, although both have a mild flavor. A four-ounce serving of either has only 37 calories.

Look for hard fruit that is heavy for its size, about eight to nine inches in length, and four to five inches in diameter, with a pale even color. Avoid soft spots, and a green color is a sign of immaturity. Usually a four-pound spaghetti squash will yield about five cups.

Spaghetti Squash can be stored at room temperature for about a month. After cutting, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Spaghetti squash also freezes well once cooked. Pack into freezer bags, and freeze. Partially thaw before re-using, then steam about five minutes.

Spaghetti squash salad

3-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 spaghetti squash, split in half, seeds removed

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into thin strips

3 red potatoes, peeled and sliced into thin strips

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped

Sea Salt and pepper to taste

2 Roma tomatoes, diced

1 pound sugar snap peas

Ricotta cheese

Lemon Vinaigrette

1 tablespoon lemon zest

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Sea Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat bottom of a baking sheet with olive oil; pierce squash and place face down. Bake until a fork goes in easily (about an hour). Lightly toss potatoes with olive oil, rosemary, salt, and pepper, and place on a separate baking sheet. Bake until a fork goes in easily, about 30 minutes.

Remove spaghetti squash and potatoes from oven. With fork, gently pull lengthwise through the flesh to separate into long strands, and place in a colander. Allow to cool and drain about 15 minutes. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add peas and cook until bright green, but still crisp, about three to five minutes. Remove, and plunge into ice water to stop cooking.

To make vinaigrette, whisk together lemon juice and olive oil. Add lemon zest and season with salt and pepper. Dress each ingredient separately and then place side by side on plate. Lightly spread Ricotta cheese on top.

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