We’ve reached that dreary part of the year that is my least favorite of all. All of the festive holiday decorations are put away, and mid-January is upon us. From about this point until the end of February the world seems to be in black and white. Nothing is colorful. It’s just a cold bluish existence. OK, I might be a little dramatic, but you get my point. There just doesn’t seem to be anything vibrant or alive right now. To make matters worse, the cold has hit the Northeast in a very big way. There is talk of a “Polar Vortex” and snow. Yahoo! (Spoken in drippy sarcasm.)
What we need is some color. There isn’t really much choice in seasonal ingredients right now. Our farms are in hibernation, save the hoop houses, and they are only growing leafy greens. So if kale and chard are to your liking, that’s just about the only fresh thing you will find at the winter markets. Take heart, we still have a lot of root vegetables and of course Winter squash. All of those were harvested in October and November, cured and placed in cool spaces. Perfect to get us through the dreary Winter.
On a recent walk through the Union Square Farmers Market I picked up a mini spaghetti squash at the Healthway Farms table. They have plenty of beautiful Winter squash and root vegetables, from Highland, NY. I specifically picked small spaghetti squash but you can easily translate this dish to a casserole size. Each of my spaghetti squashes weighed in at one pound each, so half was a perfect portion for one person. As with all Winter squash you want them to have a little heaviness and a smooth unbroken skin. The tomatillos I picked up at Whole Foods, but you can most likely find these in the super market. Click this link: read more about using and choosing tomatillos.
This recipe is an adaptation on something a friend sent me recently. If you Google spaghetti-squash-salsa-images you will come up with any number of options for topping your squash. Mainly using tomatoes, and even adding meat or sausage. I decided to use my own tomatillo salsa, and see how it worked.
Starting with my basic raw recipe, I cooked it to take a little of the edge off,
then placed it on top of the cooked squash and added Manchego cheese. From that point you can put it in the fridge or freezer. To serve just broil.
Depending on the size of your spaghetti squash baking will take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. These little guys cooked up relatively fast. Right before I put them in the oven I sprinkled with salt, pepper and chili powder. You could even use smoked paprika if you want.
Creativity is the name of the game in the Winter!
Spaghetti Squash with Tomatillo Salsa
Makes 4-6 servings
3 lb spaghetti squash, 3 small or 1 big
Extra virgin olive oil
Ground black pepper
1/2 – 3/4 cup white onion, 1 medium size, finely diced
1 small poblano, ribs and seeds removed, finely diced
1 small jalapeño, ribs and seeds removed, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound tomatillos, husked, rinsed well and cut in 1/4-inch dice
Zest and juice of 2 limes
6 oz. Manchego cheese
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
2. Rinse the spaghetti squash well to remove any lingering dirt. Cut in half and drizzle the cut side with olive oil and season with salt, pepper and chili powder. Place cut side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 15-30 minutes, depending on the size. After 10 minutes poke it with a small paring knife to check how it’s doing. Flip over and continue to bake until its nice and soft.
3. Over medium heat sauté the onions, poblano, jalapeño and garlic with a few tablespoons of olive oil and a good seasoning of salt and pepper, over medium heat. Once the onions take on a nice caramelized color add the tomatillos and soften them. Take care to not completely cook them all the way through. It’s nice to have a little texture in the salsa.
4. Turn off the heat and add the lemon zest and juice. Taste for seasoning and set aside.
5. Using a fork shred the spaghetti squash. If you are using small ones, keep them in their skins. If large scrape out into a casserole dish that was been sprayed with Pam. If using the smaller squashes use 1/4 to 1/3 cup of salsa on each and top with a few tablespoons of shredded Manchego. At this point you can refrigerate until ready to serve. Just bring back to room temperature and broil until the cheese is brown and bubbly.