Thursday, March 17, 2011

Is There Life After Pasta?

In seeking to find myself in the world without grains and processed food I've made some new friends in fruit and nut salads, tofu, and combinations of other things that I've found can be transformed into some delightful and filling meals.  However, there are those old familiar dishes that one simply can't quite let go...those comforting pasta dishes; lasagna, spaghetti, Fettuccine and my spotlight meal for this evening....MAC AND CHEEEEESSSEEE!

Mac'n cheese was the first pasta dish I immediately began craving after giving up grains.  That thick cheesy goodness one believes can only be achieved with nice thick egg noodles.  Needless to say I was much grieved to have given up such a yummy dish and even made plans for a "cheating"day so I could indulge in that guilty pleasure known as pasta.  And then I met spaghetti squash....and my life was changed FOREVAH!....

....Well, not really change but drastically improved.  Now squash and I haven't always had the greatest relationship...I distinctly remember puking it up after being forced to eat it when I was four.  I didn't like eating it , it didn't like being can see the issue.  But it seems that not all squashes are created equal and perhaps I was just waiting for the right squash to come along.  (and the maturity to appreciate my veggies)

Squasherroni and CHEESE


1                    Spaghetti Squash
1/4 cup          Butter
1/3 cup          Garbanzo flour
LOTS           CHEESE
3/4 cup          Half and half or 2% Milk
1/2                 egg beaten
1/2 tbls                Mustard
                     Onion Powder

Making it all FOOD:

First we need to turn the squash into "squasherroni".  First preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  While that is happening grease a pan....doesn't matter what kind of pan, the squash is not going to care and neither should you.  Cut the squash in half length wise and remove the the guts...this is gross, but save them because we'll want them later.  Place the squash cut side down in the pan, slide it into the oven and set the timer for 30 minutes otherwise you might forget it's in there.  Now go kill some time for 15 or 20 minutes...

(18:34 minutes later....)

Ok, now your in the last stretch of the squash cooking.  At this point in time when you take it out and run a fork along the edge it should start shredding but still be firm.   CAUTION!!!  There will be LOTS of steam when opening the oven...don't burn your face off!

Start preparing the sauce:

  1. Place the butter in a small pan with the heat set to low.  You want the butter to melt but not bubble or evaporate.  Begin to SLOWLY add the Garbanzo Flour stirring constantly as you do.  Do this until all of the flower is will still seem runny.  Don't worry, it will thicken as you add the half and half.
  2. Begin adding the half and half slowly and stirring constantly.  Don't worry if it's a little lumpy or runny at first.  As it warms it will thicken and smooth out.
  3. Now start adding the CHEESE!  Any CHEESE!  As much CHEESE as you want!
  4. Now while it's still not too hot...add in the half egg...stir CONSTANTLY or you will have scrambled egg in your cheese sauce!
  5. Add Mustard.
  6. Add you're have to taste while you cook!
  7. Pull the squash out of the oven and let it cool for a minute.
  8. Begin running a fork through to loosen up the strands of squash and transfer them to a glass casserole or baking dish.
  9. Layer the sauce (and I usually grate more CHEESE)  Mix, top with a layer of cheese and put the whole kit'n kaboodle BACK into the oven at 375 Degrees
  10. Go kill some more time, but DON'T forget to check on it!
  11. It is done when that layer of cheese on top is melted, bubbly, and a little crispy about an inch or so in from the edge of the dish (very technical here...;)
  12. Pull it out and EAT IT!...well, not right's very hot.

Tricks and Tips

First of all, in the spaghetti squash world, bigger doesn't mean better.  What it means is riper which translates to a harder shell and if you can even hack your way into it's insides you will be disappointed because they will only come out mooshy when cooked and what's the point of can get any damn squash to do that.
Look for smaller squashes in a light yellow vs large and deep yellow.
The cheese is up to you and your flavors and tastes.  Personally, I have found that in making mac and cheese it is better to use stronger flavored cheeses as you can taste them better...remember, you are diluting the flavor of the cheese considerably with half n half, butter, flour, and the squash itself.  That being said; I prefer to combine a mild and extra sharp cheddar with a hint of a smoked cheese such as provolone, cheddar, or mozzarella.  I am careful to balance the amount of dry cheeses, like the extra sharp, with creamy cheeses like the provolone or perhaps a yummy Munster.  I am also careful not to eat all of the cheese before it makes it to the sauce.
The Egg
The egg is an additional sauce thickener.  I have found that more egg makes it a little bit like a pudding after cooking and less egg more creamy texture.

Spices are another personal choice.  I prefer to go light on the spices myself with just enough mustard to enhance the flavor, salt, LITTLE bit of pepper, paprika and a little onion powder.  However, some good additions would be fresh basil, garlic, cilantro, leeks (well cooked, VERY WELL COOKED) chives, chili pepper, and dill.



Wait..why you still here??? What's the matta with ya?  Go avay!......

......Ooooohhhhh......the seeds! Yes, the SEEDS!  Almost the BEST part of the whole squash.  And if you were worried about getting constipated with all that cheese, never fear with the seeds here! (ok, that was cheesy....((no pun intended))

Clean those puppies of squash gut slime.  Put them in a cup of water with salt and any other seasonings you might want and let them sit for awhile.  Then throw them in the oven at 350.  Keep a close eye on them, you may need to turn the oven off and just let them sit.  It usually takes about 10 minutes till they are nice and dry and crispy and ready to be your late night snack :)

Happy now?  I told you about the seeds.  Now go cook something.

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