It’s bright yellow, oblong, with a shell that’s unyielding to the touch. When knocked upon with knuckles, it sounds somewhat hollow. By its appearance alone, the spaghetti squash (or vegetable spaghetti, noodle squash, vegetable marrow, squaghetti, mandarin squash, depending upon where one lives) seems much like any other type of squash.Even when it’s cut open, it’s interior seems similar to that of a butternut squash or pumpkin: a stringy center with seeds, surrounded by thick, hard flesh.Yet when this squash is roasted or cooked, the interior becomes tender, with flesh that forms into pasta-like strings when coaxed apart with a fork.
I often wonder about the history of certain foods, such as squash, that don’t seem obviously edible. Who is the first person that took the risk and ate it? Did that first person try it raw, then discard it thinking it inedible? If so, did a later person come along and figure out that when cooked the squash, or at least part of it, becomes edible? The history of our use of foods, to the extent that we can know it, is always so interesting. Spaghetti squash, for example, actually has its origin in China in the 19th century (although no one seems to know how it came to grow in China).
Interestingly, spaghetti squash rose in popularity in the United States during WWII, when common household staples were difficult to find. The squash could be grown inexpensively in one’s garden and substituted for pasta (as an aside, MFK Fisher’s war-time cookbook How To Cook A Wolf provides interesting insight into the culinary improvisations cooks had to develop to work around the food shortages and rations). After WWII ended, the squash fell out of favor until the 60s when the amazing Freida Caplan popularized it in her LA specialty produce market. Then the squash became known as a “hippie” food, but as low carb diets and natural, unprocessed foods became more popular in the 80s, the spaghetti squash became entrenched in mainstream diets (we’re all hippies, now!).
Even though I often cater to my sweet-tooth, I do pay attention to the healthier side of things. Including spaghetti squash in a meal now and then is part of my healthier side of things. This squash is a perfect, nutritious, naturally gluten-free, versatile food that can be used many ways, in many types of dishes . One of my favorite ways to use spaghetti squash is as a replacement for greens in salads. I tend to eat a lot of salad; salads are quick to prepare, naturally gluten-free, and versatile. Depending upon what one has in her fridge on any given day, she can make a different salad every day! Using spaghetti squash instead of greens adds to the variety to a diet heavy in salads. It’s like pasta salad without the pasta. Spaghetti squash, with its mild yet slightly sweet flavor, is a perfect complement for the medley of salty, spicy, tangy flavors from the kalamata olives, peppers, and vinaigrette dressing in the classic Greek salad. It’s a perfect light, but filling, meal for after a run or a workout.
- 1 medium spaghetti squash
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 red bell pepper
- ½ cup sliced banana pepper rings (I use peppers from a jar)
- ½ red onion
- ½ cucumber
- ½ cup pitted, sliced kalamata olives (I use pre-pitted, sliced kalamata olives from a jar)
- 1 cup feta cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
- 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon coconut nectar
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil a baking pan. Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Scoop and discard the seeds and strings from the cavity of each squash half. Rub 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the surface and in the cavity of each squash half. Salt and pepper each half to taste. Place the squash halves, cut side down, on the baking sheet. Bake in a 400 degree over for about 40-45 minutes, until the shell and the flesh are tender. Remove from the oven and set aside for about an hour to cool.
- While the squash is cooling, thinly slice the bell pepper half, onion, and cucumber. When the squash is cool, use a fork to gently shred the flesh of each squash half into spaghetti strands. Divide the strands between two bowls. Layer half the bell pepper, banana pepper, onion, and cucumber slices over the top of the squash strands in each bowl. Sprinkle half the pitted, sliced kalamata olives over the cucumber slices in each bowl, then sprinkle half the feta cheese over the top of each salad. Sprinkle each salad with salt and pepper to taste.
- Blend together the extra virgin olive oil, white wine vinegar, and coconut nectar. Sprinkle half the vinaigrette over each salad. Enjoy!