Spaghetti Squash w/ Peas and Parm

Alright, alright: I know I skipped a week there and I’m sorry. But, when you’ve gotten to the point where you’re spending 8 hours on a single problem of a multi-problem assignment, in one assignment out of many, which are all put on hold until you’ve gotten your TA work finished…well, posting here really becomes a tiny blip on the radar if you know what I mean.

I was able to squeeze in a mini-adventure last week when a friend and I set out to find the climbing gym located in the next town over. It took us nearly two hours of bus-hopping to get there, but we made it and had a blast! I’m hoping to find a climber from my side of the water that I can carpool with in exchange for gas money and the occasional box of baked goods. Know any climbers in downtown Halifax? (email me!)

This post is about a meal that falls into my “scrap dinner” catagory. Have I not mentioned scrap dinners before? They’re pretty self-explanatory: meals made up of all the “scraps” you have lying around in your fridge/freezer/cupboard that you’re trying to use up. Most of my scrap dinners are nothing to brag about; usually they’re edible and some are even rather good, but never good enough to be worth recreating…until this dish.

I had bought a spaghetti squash for Canadian Thanksgiving, planning to make one of my grandma’s recipes for side dish, but due to the very underwhelming support for squash in general from Brad’s family (I’m going to have to work on this) I made Pumpkin Cornbread instead. Nearly two weeks later I knew I had to cook that squash, but wanted to make it a bit more hearty so we could enjoy it as a meal in and of itself. Scrounging around I uncovered the last of our garlic, a shallot I had completely forgotten about, and…frozen peas. “Ok,” I thought, “I can work with this.” The challenge resulted in a very tasty vegetarian and gluten-free dinner:

Spaghetti Squash w/ Peas and Parm

Ingredients:

Note: I used only half of my squash for this one meal and it was enough for the two of us alone (the other half will feed me at work this week, yay!). If you are serving more than two people (or if you want leftovers) double the other ingredients in the recipe and cook it all at once.

1 medium-sized spaghetti squash (I forgot to weigh it, but see it to scale here)

2 large cloves of garlic, minced

1 shallot, minced

1   C   frozen peas

1    T   unsalted butter

1   C   grated fresh parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Procedure:

1) Preheat the oven to 375°F. Carefully slice the tough ends off the squash before halving it lengthwise (or ask a kind person to do it for you if you have had a bad history with large veggies and knives in the past). Scoop out the pith and seeds (as you would a pumpkin), saving the seeds for a quick and easy snack later. Place the squash halves skin-side up in a 9×12″ glass baking dish that has about a quarter-inch of water on the bottom. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the skin offers little resistance when pricked with a pairing knife. Set aside until cool enough to handle.

2) When squash is cool enough to handle, gently scrape a fork lengthwise down the inside of one half to free the “spaghetti”. Be diligent: the skin itself is quite thin so you can get a lot of squash from just one half of the whole vegetable. My skins are always completely mangled by the time I’ve gotten all the “spaghetti” out. If you are cooking for two, one half squash should do the trick – you can wrap the other up for another super-quick meal (it’s already cooked!). If cooking for 4 or more, scrape out both halves and double the other ingredients.

3) Melt butter in a pan over Medium heat. Add the shallot and garlic and cook until fragrant and slightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add peas and toss in pan until soft, about 2 minutes more. Add squash, salt and pepper as desired, and toss to fully incorporate all the ingredients. Plate the dish and top with cheese. Serve immediately.

Beezer’s Notes:

This faux-pasta dish is really yummy! If you haven’t learned by now, Brad isn’t a big fan of meals without meat and – to top it off – he isn’t a fan of squash in general (now I know where he’s gotten that from, haha)…BUT he really liked this recipe. I always know when I’ve got a winning dish when it pleases the folks you’d normally think would hate it. Spaghetti squash in particular is a good way to ease more winter vegetables into your diet: its mild, sweet taste is subtle enough to work with most flavors and its fun shape makes it very kid-friendly. Give it a shot and tell me what you think!

Overall Enjoyment:  ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥

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Spaghetti Carbonara

Ok, I’m going to fess-up: as much as I hate to admit it, I really do enjoy Olive Garden. Their Ravioli di Portobello was the first dish I ever tried and it continues to be my favorite. Zuppa Toscana, Chicken Piccada, and Spaghetti Carbonara are also winners in my book. I don’t eat out often – and when I do it’s usually Thai – but a great dinner/movie combo for my boyfriend and I involves Olive Garden. You’d think I’d be more inclined to try to replicate scratch versions of my favorite movie night meals, yet a recipe for Zuppa Toscana has been collecting dust in my recipe box for almost a year now. Bacon must trump sausage in my mind, ’cause when I found a recipe for Spaghetti Carbonara in America’s Test Kitchen‘s 2010 Light & Healthy edition (!!!) it jumped to the top of the stack. The raw egg worried me a bit and if you are pregnant, feeding children, and/or are immunosuppressed you should use pasteurized eggs (learn how to pasteurize them yourself) or leave them out entirely. I am a healthy child-free young adult, so I took my chances and was fine.

Spaghetti Carbonara (from America’s Test Kitchen)

Ingredients:

1  1/3     oz.     grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese (about 2/3 C)

¼          C        fat-free evaporated milk (I only had regular)

2            T        mayonnaise

1     large   egg

1     large egg white

2          oz.        Canadian bacon, chopped coarse

2        slices      bacon, chopped coarse

3        cloves     garlic, minced

1             t          pepper

1/3         C         dry white wine

1         pound of spaghetti (I used whole-wheat)

1             T        chopped fresh parsley (I used thyme)

Procedure:

  1. Process the cheese, evaporated milk, 1 ½ Tablespoons of the mayonnaise, egg, and egg white in a food processor until smooth – about 15 seconds. Leave the mixture in the processor.
  2. Cook the Canadian bacon and bacon together in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until the fat has rendered and the bacon browned – about 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels and blot gently. Set aside.
  3. Add the garlic and pepper to the fat left in the skillet and cook over medium heat about 30 seconds or until fragrant. Stir in the wine, bring to a simmer, and cook until thickened slightly – around 1 minute. Cover to keep warm and set aside.
  4. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add the pasta and 1 tablespoon of salt and cook, stirring often, until al dente. Reserve ½ Cup of the cooking water then drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Toss the pasta with the remaining 1 ½ teaspoons of mayonnaise until evenly coated.
  5. Back to the food processor: with the processor running, slowly add the wine mixture and ¼ Cup of the reserved cooking water to the egg mixture, and process until smooth and frothy. Immediately pour the egg mixture over the pasta and toss to combine, adjusting the sauce consistency as needed with the remaining cooking water as desired. Stir in the bacon and season with salt to taste. Sprinkle with parsley (or herb of your choice) before serving.

Beezer’s Notes:

This “low fat” version of Spaghetti Carbonara could fool anyone, it certainly tastes rich and flavorful enough to be served at any restaurant. I know that – with the bacon and mayonnaise – this dish still isn’t the healthiest choice out there, but man if this is the healthier version of Spaghetti Carbonara I don’t think I ever want to eat the original again. America’s Test Kitchen did a great job on this recipe (as per their usual) and while it is a bit more complicated than my usual Spaghetti with Parm & Pepper (very self-explanatory, I won’t insult you by posting a recipe), I won’t hesitate to make it again…especially for certain members of the family that love everything with bacon. Have you ever tried bacon-flecked milk chocolate? Well this guy loves it. *shudder*

Overall Enjoyment: ♥    ♥    ♥


 

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