There are two kinds of people in this world. First, those who will tell you that spaghetti squash tastes exactly like spaghetti. These people will swear up and down that if you close your eyes and take a bite of spaghetti squash in your favorite pasta recipe, you won’t know the difference and you’ll never crave carbs again. These people have probably eaten so much fat and protein (I’m talking way too much of a good thing) that they’ve become a bit delusional. I’m in the second camp. The group of people who adore spaghetti squash for being just what it is: a squash. A squash which happens to have a sweet, subtle flavor that pairs well with endless savory and spicy toppings, and a unique stringy texture that wraps itself around those flavors with every fork-full.
Actually, there’s a third and forth group too. The third consists of people who’ve never tried spaghetti squash and have no idea what they’re missing. The fourth group are former members of the third who try to go straight to the first. These people expect pasta, and when they don’t taste it, go straight to the “I’m never eating this crazy vegetable again (and I’m probably really picky about a lot of other vegetables too)” crowd.
One of my favorite people who I’ve never met in real life, Joanne, recently made the jump from #3. Joanne is one of my favorite people because her food rocks, her stories are hilarious, and we seem to have an endless number of loves in common (Grey’s Anatomy, pumpkin, and our loud-but-loving families come to mind. But there’s one particular thing Joanne and I don’t share: this girl eats a lot of pasta. I hear that’s considered good for ya when you’re training for a marathon. And if your body is good at that sort of thing, great. Mine is much better at lifting heavy things and eating tons of protein than it is at running long distances and eating lots of carbs.
Anyway, I was saying, when Joanne decided to step outside the bounds of group #3 (smart move), I think she landed somewhere between #2 and #4. Which is to be expected because I can’t picture Joanne fitting snuggly into any sort of compartment (and I mean that in the nicest of ways; it’s one of those traits that puts her on my list of favorite people I’ve never met.) My advice to her was to try to become a #2, which I think can be easily achieved by subbing spaghetti squash in her recipe for Pasta with Ruby Chard and Cranberries.
Yeah, you read that right. I just told you all about how spaghetti squash is so glorious as something much more than a mere pasta substitute. And then I told you to go replace some noodles with it. That was actually my first thought when I came across that recipe from Joanne. It just sounded way too good to pass up, but I wasn’t sure it was worth the carb splurge either. I’m sure she would have told me it was, if I asked. But I didn’t. I secretly plowed ahead and made it with spaghetti squash. And some other things she didn’t call for, like chickpeas, hazelnuts (hey, it’s what I had) and feta. And I am here to tell Joanne (and all of you) that this dish is totally 100% spaghetti-squash worthy.
Even though I never tried it with pasta, I can say with confidence that whatever was left out was more than made up for by the squash. Actually, as good as the recipe sounded to me, I couldn’t quite imagine what it would taste like (that’s probably why it was so appealing.) Upon first bite, I knew that the squash was completely at home in this recipe and more than made up for what I supposedly left out. Trust me, you wouldn’t think anything was missing in this marriage of tart and chewy dried cranberries, earthy hazelnuts and chickpeas, and salty feta, all held together by the sweet strands of bright yellow squash. And the chard – let’s not forget that! Ruby chard is definitely best here; I find it the most flavorful. So much so that I worry about enough of the chopped stems making it into the pot, because I can’t help munching on them as I’m cutting. (Does anyone else find their slight saltiness rather addicting?) Lastly, despite what intuitions you think you have, don’t skimp on that “pinch” or crushed red pepper. In fact, don’t be afraid to make it a “punch.” Because it’s that final bite of contrast that makes this all work together so well.
So where does that leave you? If you’re a #1, you might want to reconsider joining us on Earth. Eat a carb once in a while (unless of course that one shot will result in binging on an entire bread basket or family-style portion of macaroni.) If you’re a #2, stay right where you are – and make this dish, immediately. You already know you’ll love it. If you’re a 3 or a 4, consider making this your first (or next) venture into group 2. I’m waiting with open arms, and a fork.
1 large spaghetti squash, roasted (to yield 8 cups)*
1/2 cup (1 ounce) chopped hazelnuts or pecans
1/2 (60gm) cup dried cranberries
1 large bunch swiss chard (to yield ~ 1 1/4 lb)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
pinch red pepper flakes
1 15oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 oz crumbled feta cheese
Place the cranberries in a small bowl and cover with piping hot water.
Toast the nuts in a dry skillet over low heat, shaking the pan occasionally, until fragrant and lightly browned. Turn off heat.
Chop about 1/2″ off the stems of the swiss chard and discard. Tear the leaves away from the thick stems. Cut the stems into 1/2″ pieces; set aside. Roughly chop the leaves into 2″ pieces.
Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large, nonstick skillet or dutch oven. Saute the chard stems for about one minute, then add the chard leaves and the garlic. Continue cooking for about five minutes, stirring occasionally, until garlic is lightly browned and the chard is wilted down. Add the chickpeas and season with salt, pepper and crushed red pepper.
Add the spaghetti squash to the pan. Drain the cranberries and add them as well. Increase heat to medium-high and cook stirring, for about three more minutes, until everything is heated through and well combined.
Divide among serving dishes and top with the toasted pecans and crumbled feta. Serve hot.
*To roast spaghetti squash: Cut squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Place both halves cut side-up in a baking dish with about an inch of water. Spray the squash with olive oil cooking spray. Roast at 375ºF for about one hour, or until squash is tender. Cool slightly, then use two forks to remove the stringy flesh. Scoop into a bowl. Cooked squash may be stored in the refrigerator for several days.
Servings Per Recipe: 4
Amount Per Serving
Total Fat: 17.3 g
Cholesterol: 12.6 mg
Sodium: 788.7 mg
Total Carbs: 57.5 g
Dietary Fiber: 14.5 g
Protein: 13.3 g
This recipe is being submitted to Creative Concoctions, a round-up of original recipes hosted by Kopiaste..To Greek Hospitality.