Doeden: Spaghetti squash a tasty alternative to noodlesHard-skinned winter squash is at its best right now. I enjoy browsing through the farmers markets and picking my way through bins at the grocery stores, admiring the unique shapes and various colors of these striking fruit.
Hard-skinned winter squash is at its best right now.
I enjoy browsing through the farmers markets and picking my way through bins at the grocery stores, admiring the unique shapes and various colors of these striking fruit. The hard, thick-skinned squash is a nice change from the summer squash I’ve enjoyed the past couple of months.
Cool evenings get me geared up for butternut squash soup. And Kabocha and sweet dumplings are a couple of my favorite winter squash to bake and eat like mashed sweet potatoes. The one I have most fun with, though, is the versatile spaghetti squash.
Spaghetti squash is a cylindrical fruit with pale, yellow skin. When cooked, its slightly deeper yellow, mild-flavored flesh can be raked out with a fork and fluffed into pleasantly crunchy spaghetti-like strands. It offers little flavor on its own, but is excellent when topped with sauces.
Fresh garlic sautéed in butter, tossed with cooked spaghetti squash and sprinkled with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and lots of black pepper has always been my favorite way to serve the pasta look-alike. It’s a step up from the buttered noodles my best childhood friend and I used to slurp up when we lunched together.
Until a few weeks ago, the thought of stirring cooked spaghetti squash into soup had never occurred to me.
But during a potluck dinner night on a recent camping excursion, I ladled hot soup from a large pot over some wild rice. It was dark as our group huddled around the campfire to eat. I wasn’t sure what I was spooning into my mouth, but it was full of satisfying flavor.
Later, I tracked down the young woman who prepared the soup. She was able to give me a list of the ingredients she used, and I was surprised to learn the warming mixture included spaghetti squash. After the camping trip, I went home and prepared my own version of the tasty soup.
But first, you need the squash.
When shopping for spaghetti squash, choose one that is firm and has the darkest yellow skin. Be sure there are no soft, mushy spots on the squash.
Spaghetti squash can be cooked in the microwave, baked in the oven, boiled in a pot or steamed on the stove. I prefer to wash the outside of the squash and put it on a foil-lined baking sheet. After about an hour of baking in a 375-degree oven, the skin will give a little when you put pressure on it with your finger and the tip of a sharp knife will easily slide through the skin into the tender flesh.
Spaghetti squash does take longer to cook than pasta, but once it is cooked, the flesh can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days.
It’s hard to handle the hot squash immediately after removing it from the oven. Be careful of escaping steam as you cut off both ends and slice it lengthwise through the middle. Use a spoon to scrape out the seeds. And a fork works well for scraping the noodle-like tendrils of squash from the skin.
Southwestern-Style Spaghetti Squash Soup is a healthful mix of vegetables and beans, seasoned with smoky ground cumin to add zing. And it’s worth nothing that when you bake the spaghetti squash a day or two ahead, Southwestern-Style Spaghetti Squash Soup becomes a 30-minute meal.
Life with spaghetti can be creative, low-carb and healthful when it comes from a squash.
Sue Doeden is a food writer and photographer from Bemidji, Minn., and a former Fargo resident. Her columns are published in 10 Forum Communications newspapers. Readers can reach Doeden at firstname.lastname@example.org.