Friday, October 1, 2010

Squeamish about Squash?

It's that time of year again.  Fall brings us a bounty of all types of squash for a whole new flavor and texture to enjoy!  Today I created a lower calorie comfort classic and used spaghetti squash to bulk up the recipe with great results.  I'll be sharing it soon so be sure to check back or subscribe to future posts.  In the meantime, let's focus on what the heck we do with a spaghetti squash in the first place.

First of all I need to caution you to be careful when cutting into a winter squash.  Their outer skins are super hard and if you're not careful you can hurt yourself in the process of getting into them.  You'll have to use some force so just be sure to keep fingers out of the way in case there's a slip-up.

Slice your squash in half lengthwise and use a large spoon to scrape out the seeds.  It's a little like cleaning out a small pumpkin but I find spaghetti squash to be drier and less messy.  Once you've removed the seeds and their connective fibers you can spray the flesh with cooking spray or lightly coat it with olive oil.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place the squash with the cut side down.  Slip it into a preheated 400 degree oven and find something else to do for 45 minutes to an hour.

Test the squash for tenderness with a knife.  You'll want to bake until the knife slides through the skin and into the flesh of the squash easily.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool.  You'll be rewarded with something like this:

At this point you can scoop the cooked squash out of the skin very easily.  In fact, with very little effort mine just lifted right out of the skin!
I was toying with the idea of using the squash skins as serving "boats" but the particular recipe I was working on really didn't need that type of presentation.  I might just have to revisit that idea in the future though . . .

Now, I will admit that these babies probably could have baked for a shorter period of time because the flesh was super soft.  For the recipe I was developing this was a plus but if you would like to take advantage of the threadlike characteristic of spaghetti squash as a substitute for pasta you'll probably want to check for doneness beginning around the 30-minute mark.

My small fruit (yep, I said fruit!) yielded a little over a cup and a half of cooked squash.  At this point it can be used as is or pureed.

Incidentally, the way I prepared this spaghetti squash is exactly the same way I treat a pumpkin.  It's really easy to bake like this and puree for use in recipes for pie, soups, muffins, cookies, breads, etc.  I like to puree the squash and place 2-cup portions into freezer bags.  If you squeeze out the air in the bags and lie them flat in the freezer, your pureed squash will thaw later in no time.

Oh, and did I mention that spaghetti squash is a ZERO POINT food on the Weight Watchers program?!

If you've never bothered with winter squash I really encourage you to give it a try.  If you're baking something in the oven anyway it makes sense to multi-task and let your squash bake, too.  If you don't feel like scooping it out or pureeing right away, that's fine.  Let it cool, place it in the fridge overnight and come back to it the following day when you're able.

Leave a comment if you have a favorite squash recipe.  I want to hear what YOU'RE going to do with YOURS!

See you to the left of heft . . .

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