Market Watch: Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti squash at the Jean-Talon market in Montreal.

A complete delight and mystery, spaghetti squash was my favorite vegetable growing up.  Though not terribly popular or widely available in the late 70s, somehow my grandmother was able to procure one at least once a fall.  Into the oven as a hard, nubby, squash, then magically out of the oven and onto my plate, transformed into golden pasta-like strands that surprised me each time.

Becoming much more common and available now, spaghetti squash are all over the markets (and my garden), and will be for months.  It is technically a winter squash--ripening at this point in the season, and able to be kept in cold storage long into the cold weather--but with its golden color and light, buttery texture, is much more reminiscent of summer squash.  A welcome bit of variety in a long season of dense, orange-fleshed cousins.

Generally the rule of thumb is that spaghetti squash will keep for up to a month in a cool, dry area.  Though the past couple of years, we have successfully kept ours that we grew for 3-5 months on a well aerated shelf in our basement, keeping an eye out for any that might be getting soft or imploding.  Rubbing the outside surface with a thin coating of vegetable oil is said to keep fungus and mold spores from being able to take root on the surface of the squash, cutting down on deterioration, and extending their shelf life considerably.

To cook

Wash and dry the squash well, and cut in half lengthwise.  This will be the hardest step.  Make sure it is well dried, so your knife doesn't slip, and if helpful, cut off a small portion of either end to give yourself a more steady anchor.  Scoop out the seeds and stringy flesh surrounding the seeds.  Rub the inside of each half with olive oil and place, cut side down, on a baking sheet.  Roast in the oven at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes, until the skin just starts to give when pressed with your finger.  Don't over cook, or allow to sit cut side down on the baking dish for long after removed from the oven, or it will become mushy and the strands will not be as nicely defined.

When cool enough to handle, gentle pull the strands of the squash away from the sides with a fork, scraping right down to the skin.

Very neutral in flavor, with a great, mildly crunchy texture, the spaghetti-like strands of the squash are a terrific blank canvas for a limitless variety of toppings.   Pesto, garlic and olive oil, tomato sauce, puttanesca, meatballs, bolognese, or just butter with freshly grated parmesan cheese are all perfect pairings.  I am also a huge fan of the spaghetti squash casserole recipe from the Moosewood Cookbook.

With just forty-two calories and ten grams of carbohydrates per cup of cooked squash, this is a great side dish alternative to explore.  Grab one at the farmers' markets this weekend.



Market Watch: Sorrel
Sorrel (and its many varieties and names: garden sorrel, english sorrel, common sorrel, french sorrel) is showing up now in abundance at farmers markets and in gardens.  It is a perennial (it comes back each year) herb, with super tender leaves that pack a ton of vitamins C and A.

It is incredibly easy to grow yourself, in a spot with full sun.  We planted a small plant last year, basically ignored it, and this season it has not only returned, but is already 2+ feet tall.

The long, oval, slightly pointed, arrow-like leaves are thin, soft and delicate, like a baby lettuce leaf.  What is most remarkable about this herb is its decidedly sour flavor.  The name Sorrel is derived from the word sour, and is also, with a deliberate nod, the name of the sour-lipped daughter in Noel Coward's Hay Fever.  A role I've played and adored.

Bright and tart, it is not unlike adding lemon zest to a recipe.  The flavor mellows out a good amount when cooked, and is less pronounced in younger leaves.  But to get it's full get its full zing, it can definitely be used raw.

Sorrel is wonderful added to salads, or pureed raw and frozen to brighten up winter dishes.  It is a natural with eggs, potatoes, fish, or pureed in a cream sauce, and can be sauteed like spinach.  My first experience cooking with sorrel, and still my favorite, is a Chard and Sorrel Soup found in Deborah Madison's vegetable-bible cookbook Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

Keep an eye out for this leafy green treasure at markets now and throughout the summer.  Buy more than you need, and freeze some for when your heavy root vegetable winter month meals need some summery assistance.


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Catie Baumer Schwalb is a chef, food writer and photographer, who splits her life between the city and the country. Not too long ago Catie was a New York City based actress and playwright for more than a decade. She has her Master of Fine Arts from the National Theater Conservatory, and her Grand Diplôme in classic culinary arts from the French Culinary Institute in New York City. ... Read More

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