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    In the frying pan, nearly ready to serve. I made this one with carrots, curry spices, chile-garlic paste, allspice and cinnamon, and a little vinegar and lemon for acidity.

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Spaghetti Squash Too Many Ways

Just half of a microwaved spaghetti squash makes 5 or 6 cups

Just half of a microwaved spaghetti squash makes 5 or 6 cups!

This week my local Trader Joe’s had crates of beautiful–and hefty–spaghetti and butternut squash for less than $2 apiece–on the order of 30 to 50 cents/lb. So of course I got two of each and wobbled out of the store unsure which bag was pulling me down further. And then came the task of cooking them.

One spaghetti squash–a good-sized 5-6 lb. beast–will feed a lot more people than you’d think. It’s got some serious advantages over standard pasta: more fiber, no sodium, some vitamin A and potassium, perhaps fewer calories and carbohydrates per ounce. And it’s incredibly versatile. And you can cook it in the microwave in about 10 minutes rather than spend an hour baking it and heating up the house.

But there’s one big disadvantage–if you cook the whole thing, you have to eat the whole thing. Cooked spaghetti squash doesn’t hold up in the freezer–the strings go flat and shrivelly. And reheating too long can make it wilt as well. So can very acidic dressings.

So the choices are (for a small, moderately but only moderately tolerant family unit):

  • Cook half at a time and store the other half raw and wrapped in the fridge for a few days
  • Cook both halves, use one right away, and store the other half in the fridge for a few days, either wrapped in its shell or else scooped out into a container  (recommended)
  • Give the other half to a friend–but not too good a friend…
  • Cook it all and make it for a big potluck. Maybe people will think it’s innovative and exotic…depends on what you do with it (I don’t so much recommend marinara for this if you’re looking to impress–maybe a peanut-curry sauce or an Alfredo-style sauce with lemon peel, or something involving oyster mushrooms)
  • Cook it all and serve it a couple of different ways over the course of the week
  • Make a couple of the variations ones that taste good cold and eat the leftovers for lunch (recommended)

One important tip (learned the hard way):

The strands grow crosswise inside the spaghetti squash, not lengthwise. If you cut the squash in half the way you would a watermelon, you’ll be cutting the strands into shorter bits–not what you want. Cut the spaghetti squash in half across the middle of the SHORT side, NOT from the stem to the flower end.

If you have kids, let them count the seeds in each half of the squash–it’s a good lesson in plant survival strategies. My daughter and I counted about 80-90 seeds per half and decided to wash, dry and save them for her school’s garden. At this rate, they’ll have spaghetti squash for several years. Note of caution: out of 10 that we thought had been lost down the sink but actually got caught in the drainer, a full 9 germinated, so be careful what you wish for… even commercially grown, these things are very, very determined. But we’re not ready to name any of them “Audrey II”–yet.

Microwaved Spaghetti Squash

Start by scrubbing the squash well and removing obvious blemishes. Cut the spaghetti squash in half crosswise (across the shorter dimension, halfway between the stem and flower ends). Scoop out the seeds and sticky connective pulp. Stand the halves cut side down on a pyrex or other microwaveable plate, pour a scant quarter-inch of water on the plate, and microwave on HIGH for 10 minutes. Let them sit a few more minutes to continue cooking and perhaps cool down enough to handle. The shell should give slightly when pressed with a finger.

When you can stand to deal with them, grab one of the halves (with a kitchen towel if need be), and start pulling the strings out into a big bowl using an ordinary fork. You should be able to scrape the “spaghetti” strands just about to the shell itself. It’s an awful lot.

But then what? A few of the several zillion possibilities:

  • Pesto–of course
  • Mushrooms, garlic, wine, herbs
  • Mac-and-cheese-style cheese sauce (white sauce with grated cheddar and onion, grating of nutmeg)
  • Italian-style cheese sauce (white sauce with garlic, lemon peel, basil or pesto, mozzarella, and grated nutmeg)
  • Vinaigrette (not too much, and serve lukewarm to cold)
  • Peanut butter or sesame paste made into a hot dressing with garlic, ginger, hot pepper or z’khug, cilantro, and low-sodium soy sauce (with a drop or two of Chinese sesame oil if you have it), and thinned with water to a pourable consistency before tossing with the spaghetti squash. You can add curry powder to the peanut sauce but I wouldn’t add it to the sesame paste sauce.
  • Peanut butter or sesame paste sauce as above, but brought up with yogurt instead of water for a cold tangy version–don’t reheat this one or the yogurt will probably break up. Slivered scallions taste good with this (actually, they taste good with all versions).
  • Aglio-olio (garlic and olive oil)–saute the spaghetti strands in olive oil and garlic for a minute or so, and hit it up at the end with some sage and/or hot pepper flakes to taste. Grate parmesan if you like it.
  • Carbonara–toss the hot spaghetti squash with lightly beaten eggs and let them cook from the heat of the squash. Grate parmesan and toss. I’m not recommending bacon because I can’t; some inexpensive chopped lox or smoked provolone might taste good here, so might browned onions or sauteed mushrooms and a grating of nutmeg and chopped thyme or basil…
  • Frittata–Make a frittata (between an omelet and egg fu yung) by beating eggs, stirring in the spaghetti squash, adding chopped onion and garlic and herbs, and frying the whole thing on both sides in a big skillet.
  • Egg fu yung–sliver some onions or scallions and bok choy, with a little grated ginger and garlic if you have them, stir into eggs with spaghetti squash and a spoonful of cornstarch or flour, fry as thick pancakes and top with stir-fried vegetables.

I also have thoughts of a sweet version, basically a spaghetti squash kugel with chopped apples, raisins, some vanilla and cinnamon as well as eggs, milk and maybe labaneh or cream cheese, but I haven’t tried it yet. That’s for the next spaghetti squash. Which is sitting in a big paper bag on my kitchen floor because there’s no room for it yet on the counter…

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