Kathy Maister's Start Cooking

Spaghetti Squash

print recipe card posted in Soups, Salads, Sides and Sauces by Kathy Maister
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There are many varieties of squash available at the grocery store and farm stands. Spaghetti squash, also know as calabash squash or vegetable spaghetti, is really quite unique because when cooked looks like thin translucent strands of thin spaghetti. It has a mild, delicate flavor somewhat like that of yellow summer squash and watery texture.

Spaghetti squash has a rounded shape and can vary in weight and size. The ones I bought weighed almost four pounds and were about 9 inches long.

When you buy spaghetti squash, it should have a nice lemon yellow color. If it is green it means that it is under ripe.

Washing and Cleaning Spaghetti Squash

Begin by washing the squash with a vegetable brush under running water.

Dry it well so that it does not slip when you are cutting into the squash.

To cut spaghetti squash you need a big, heavy kitchen knife. Cut the squash in half, lengthwise.

Cutting the squash is the most difficult part of preparing the squash! It is like making that first cut into a melon, which can be tricky if you are not using a knife that can handle the task.

Once open, you can see there are seeds and stringy bits that need to get removed. (Just like with butternut squash or pumpkins.)

Using a spoon, scrape away the seeds and stringy bits….

…until the inside is clean.

Cooking Spaghetti Squash

I’m going to show you how to roast spaghetti squash in the oven and also how to cook it in the microwave. Normally these two cooking methods provide very different results. Roasting vegetables often makes them crispy and brings out their natural sweetness. Surprisingly enough, there is virtually no difference in the taste or texture when spaghetti squash is cooked in the oven vs. the microwave!

Oven Method:

Preheat the oven to 400º F ( = 200º C = gas mark 6-moderately hot.)

Drizzle a small amount of olive oil on cut side of the squash and rub it around with your fingers.

Sprinkle on some salt and pepper.

Place the squash, cut side down in an oven-proof dish.

Depending on the size of your squash, it will take approximately 35-45 minutes to get tender.

Microwave Method:

Place the squash in a microwave-safe dish…

…cut side down.

Cover the dish with plastic wrap…

…being sure to leave a steam vent.

Cook the squash on high for approximately 7-10 minutes – depending on the size of your squash and how powerful your microwave is. If you do not have an automatic turntable in your microwave, give the dish a turn every 3 minutes to ensure even cooking.

Remove the plastic wrap with a pair of tongs and be very careful of the built up steam.

Note: I do not recommend cooking the squash WHOLE in the microwave. Some recipes have you pierce the whole squash about 20 or 30 times with a knife (so the squash does not explode in the microwave). Then stick it in the microwave whole. It is very difficult to cut and remove the seeds and stringy bits from a steaming hot squash.

How to Make the Squash Look Like Spaghetti

Once you have removed the squash from the oven or microwave, check to see if it is cooked by sticking a knife into it. The knife should slide in easily.

If you have over cooked the squash it will taste fine but the texture will be creamy and you will not be able to make the spaghetti like strands.

Flip the squash over with a spatula so that the cut side is facing up. (Be careful as it will be very hot!)

The above photo is of the oven roasted squash

Using a dinner fork, scrape the flesh of the squash….

…moving gently around the shell….

…fluffing up the strands of squash.

Turning the squash into spaghetti strands takes about 10 seconds!

You can then serve the squash as is or remove it to a serving plate. It will be very hot so hold the squash in a dish cloth so you don’t burn your hand.

The above photo is of the microwave cooked squash

Decision time! What do I now do with this squash?

You can eat it as is or dress it up with your favorite spaghetti sauce.

I like to add some freshly grated Parmesan cheese, a drizzle of basil infused olive oil, and some salt and pepper!

Enjoy!

P.S. Just for the heck of it, I tried freezing the leftover spaghetti squash. WRONG! It turned into spaghetti squash mush. It tasted fine but the spaghetti texture did not hold up at all!

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Rice Salad-Curried with Fruit

print recipe card posted in Soups, Salads, Sides and Sauces, Vegetarian by Kathy Maister
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This cold curried- rice salad is great to serve year-round as a side dish. It’s perfect to serve with Chicken Cutlets (video), or quiche (video), and asparagus for brunch, lunch or dinner. And it’s great on a buffet table!

Start by cooking the rice (video) according to the directions on the box of rice.

It is important that the rice be cold when you mix everything together otherwise the rice will clump together. If you spread the cooked rice out on a plate it will cool down faster.

Next make the dressing by combining:

  • 1/3 cup of vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup of white vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon of sugar
  • 2 Teaspoons of curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon of black pepper

I have used the same measuring cup for the oil and vinegar and I am going to mix the dressing ingredients together in my measuring cup.

It will look like this (below) when it is all blended together.

Set the dressing aside while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

You will need:

Shred the cheese and the carrot.

Dice a red (or green) pepper by first removing the core and seeds. (There is a wonderful illustration of this in my Vegetable and Dip video). Then cut the pepper into strips and start dicing.

For the apple, remove the core (video) and dice that as well.

Remove the stems from the parsley and chop it up.

Now all the ingredients have been prepared.

Put everything in a large bowl and…

… mix everything together.

Be sure to refrigerate this rice salad until you are ready to eat it. Enjoy!

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Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

print recipe card posted in Soups, Salads, Sides and Sauces, Vegetarian by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

Bottled vinaigrette salad dressing is great to have on hand to add to a vegetable salad, pasta salad or even for marinating chicken. But knowing how to make your own vinaigrette is a lot less complicated than you would think.

At its most basic level, vinaigrette is just a combination of oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Adding mustard is the secret ingredient that will help bind (emulsify) everything together.

To make a basic vinaigrette you need to combine:

  • 1 Tablespoon of Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup of vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon of salt
  • A few grinds of fresh pepper

Mix these four ingredients together and then slowly add:

  • ¾ cup of olive oil

This will make enough for about 6 servings of salad dressing. As long as you haven’t added any fresh herbs, it should keep for about 3 weeks, stored in a jar in the refrigerator. (You will need to give it a good shake before you use it!)

The Equipment

As a first step, you have to decide how you want to go about blending these ingredients together. You could use a bowl and a whisk, a jar, or a blender.

The (clean!) jar method is probably the simplest. Put the mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper in a jar and just shake it up. Add the oil in 3 stages and shake it well after each addition. This will help it stay blended together.

The blender method is basically the same. Put the mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper in the blender and mix it up really well. Then drizzle in the oil in a slow steady stream. You can remove the inner plug on the blender cover to drizzle in the oil. Some blenders will “spit” back at you when you remove the inner plug. You may have to hold your other hand over the hole leaving just a tiny space open to drizzle in the oil.

If you are making vinaigrette in a bowl with a whisk, you need to make sure the bowl doesn’t slide all over the counter top while you are slowly adding the oil. Unless you have three hands, the solution is to make a collar for the bowl out of a dish towel. Fold a damp dish towel into a log and then into a circle. Sit the bowl on the top of the circle to hold it steady.

Now one hand can hold the whisk while the other hand drizzles in the oil!

The Ingredients

The Mustard: use a nice – preferably French – mustard. A grainy mustard would work just fine as well. (Bright yellow mustard, which is great on Hot Dogs, would work but not taste as good as a French mustard.)

The Vinegar: Red wine vinegar would be the classic choice. You could also try fruit vinegars or herb-infused vinegar. White vinegar would give your vinaigrette too harsh of a flavor. Malt vinegar is never used for a vinaigrette. You can substitute lemon, lime or orange juice for the vinegar.

The Oil: Olive oil would be the preferred choice.

Many people add shallots, dried or fresh herbs, and even poppy seeds to their vinaigrette. Just remember that if you have added shallots or fresh herbs your vinaigrette should be used with in a few days of making it. Cheers!

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