I’m sitting here trying to write this post about the delicous dinner we had on Monday and all I can think about is the week I’ve had since then.
Its been a long, long short week filled with lots of stress at work, a very messy house and just generally feeling grumpy and moody. Which is too bad because all of that stuff has completely ruined the chilled out vibes I’d had coming off of the long holiday weekend.
JiT and I made the trip to Ohio to visit my inlaws over the weekend. They live in a small down surrounded by beautiful rolling hills in their full Indian-summer splendor. We made a trip to the county fair where we ate corndogs and kettle corn and got half-sick on the tilt-o-whirl. We golfed, we grilled and we even had an impromptu camp-out with our 5-year old nephew; setting up a campfire for s’mores and stories. The night culminated with JiT and I spending the night with the little guy, crammed in a 4×6′ tent in the backyard. I am a brave wife.
Before heading home we even made a trip to my favorite town in Ohio: Hudson. They were haveing a festival and I felt like I’d just walked into a Norman Rockwell painting. I love that town. We even visited a few open houses for these big, 100 year-old colonials. Someday maybe we’ll get to move there and buy one….a girl can dream, right?
Anyway, when it was time to leave, my mother-in-law was sweet enough to pack us a giant care-package of garden fresh veggies, including a couple of gorgeous spaghetti squashes. This is one of mine and JiT’s favorite late-summer meals. Its easy, flavorful and very healthy.
When cooked, the flesh of spaghetti squash, through one of Mother Nature’s little miracles, has a texture remarkably similar to actual spagetti. Plus the flavor is quite mild, with a slight nutty taste and just enough crunch in texture to resemble el dente pasta. If you have kids, this might be a great way to sneak in some extra vegetables. As for the sauce, I use canned fire-roasted tomatoes, which are an amazingn time-saver and flavor booster. Unlike other red sauces that require several hours of simmering, this sauce can be pulled together in about 30 minutes.
If you have enough remaining after dinner, this makes a great casserole if you bake the leftovers in a casserole under a layer of mozzarella cheese for about an hour at 350. Yum!
Baked Spaghetti Squash
1 large (3 or 4 lb) spaghetti squash
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Pierce the outer skin of your squash with a sharp knife all over the outside. This will help it cook more evenly. Place the whole squash in a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, turning occasionally in the oven.
At the end of the hour, pull the squash from the oven and slice lengthwise (use a towel or potholder to protect your hands). The flesh should be tender and starting to pull away from the skin and look like its separating into strands. If note, place back on the cookie sheet in the oven for another 10 to 15 minutes and try again.
Once cooked, let the squash set for about 10 minutes until cool enough to handle (still use a potholder). Once cool enough to handle, use a large spoon to scoop the seeds and “guts” out and discard. Then, using a large fork, scrape the remaining flesh back and forth to separate into spaghetti-like strands, dumping into a serving bowl as you go. Continue scraping the strands into a serving bowl until all that remains is the hollowed out shell. Discard the shell and repeat with the other half of the squash. Serve hot with fire-roasted tomato or your favorite sauce.
Fire-Roasted Tomato Sauce
1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small yellow onion, diced
3 cans diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
1 cup low-sodium beef broth or stock
1/4 cup red wine (I used Merlot because thats what I was drinking)
2 Tbs. sugar
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/4 cup half & half (optional)
Salt & pepper to taste
Place a large pot on the stovetop over medium heat. Add olive oil, garlic and onion and cook for about 2 minutes until fragrant and translucent. Do not brown. Add all remaining ingredients, stirring until thoroughly incorporated. Bring to a low boil, then turn heat down to simmer and cover with a lid. Continue simmering for at least 15 minutes, longer if possible.
Just before serving, purree sauce using an immersion (stick) blender or, ladle small batches into a regular blender and blend for about 10 seconds, until the sauce reaches your desired texture. I like mine to be mostly smooth but still have a few chunks. Pour back into pot (if using a regular blender) and add cream (if using). Stir until well combined. Adjust seasonings to taste.
Serve hot over spaghetti squash or your favorite pasta.