Maybe it’s the election, or the Royal Wedding, or finally rejoicing the end of winter (!), but I’m starting to feel a little like myself again. I have a series of self-improvement projects on the go and I have plans. Plans, people. And yes, these plans include more than just sampling every bottle of wine currently carried at my local LCBO. Speaking of wine, I currently have a glass of Chianti in hand, and it is mighty fine indeed.
I'm collecting new hopes, dear readers; I'm list-making and wishing and wanting. I'm listening to Ingrid Michaelson and printing photographs and feeling inspired. Maybe there's something to this April showers business after all.
Speaking of spring -- we're over the cabbage/root vegetable hump that swallowed me up throughout the last couple of months. I'm ready for this next season. I wonder what spring will hold this time. I spent last year -- my first spring out of school -- traveling and seeing friends I'd missed and hadn't seen in far too long, and generally panicking as much as I could and growing as neurotic as I am capable, and I'm anxious to see a different spring: one equally filled with good people and all-encompassing laughter, but with fewer anxieties and a greater degree of self-acceptance. Life-acceptance. More breathing.
I often hear of “these people” who grow summer squash, or even winter squash, and end up with massive piles of them during peak season. Apparently soups are made and salads are eaten; zucchini is stuffed and roasted, or tossed into pasta, or pickled. “These people” give some away to their neighbours, who are initially grateful but later run for their lives when they see “these people” coming in fear of ending up recipients of unwanted and unneeded squash. It’s uttered like a bad word, whispered under someone’s breath: SQUASH.
Let me tell you, I don’t know who “these people” are, but they can make an appearance in my kitchen – nay, my life – at any time. I welcome squash gifts the way most women welcome free fragrance samples at The Bay, and trust me when I say I will flock to you like the good ol’ moth to the flame if you were to come three feet near me with a bundle of fresh farm squash. If the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, apparently mine is by way of surprise produce, preferably organic and homegrown.
It wasn’t always this way. I can’t say I always appreciated the beauty that is smooth skin and seeds rendered delicious upon roasting. The relationship was slow to start, I’ll admit, but soon, like any good addict, I fell hard. Butternut squash, cubed and roasted with maple syrup. A risotto with puréed squash and Creole-spiced shrimp. A squash torte (!) or zucchini filled with Italian sausage or crookneck sautéed with fresh dill and olive oil or sliced thinly and tossed with feta cheese. I could go on, but I’ll spare you the details of my torrid love affairs and head straight to the heart of the matter.
I’m being courted by Sir Spaghetti Squash and am not put off in the least by his name. He is dashing and daring and looks so good in the little glass bowl that sits out on my island. Tonight, plagued by the disease known as Recipe Rut (FYI: unrelated to squash), I came home after a long day and a couple of hours of putzying around Yorkville and posed myself that age old question: What’s for dinner? I think sometimes I even ask myself this question aloud, hoping to find a genie hidden in the cupboard. So I stood there, drinking a glass of something that begins with the letter “w” (hint: not water) and eating carrots (err, baked tortilla chips and mashed avocado with lime) and glanced down at my petite yellow darling.
If you are one of “these people”, we need to talk. A friend with too much squash is a friend indeed.
Spaghetti Squash with Roasted Red Peppers, Olives and Kale
Serves one very hungry girl or two as a side dish
½ small Spaghetti squash (yields about 2-2.5 cups cooked squash)
3 tbsp grated Grana Padano, or to taste (or another hard, salty cheese such as Parmigiano-Reggiano or Asiago)
4-6 kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, smashed and minced
1 generous handful of frozen or leftover kale
2 roasted red pepper sections, about ½ a pepper, roughly chopped (or roast and use your own)
¼ tsp ground smoked paprika
A pinch of red chili flakes
Sea salt, to taste
Add spaghetti squash half to a big pot of salted water and bring to a boil. Cook for twenty minutes or until the squash becomes fork-tender. Remove from the water and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, defrost or re-heat your kale. Feel free to substitute a different green such as spinach if that is what you have on hand.
Return to your squash. With a fork, shred the squash – it will come apart in the form of “noodles”. You may wish to let this stand for a bit over a colander to remove some of the water. I was impatient and skipped this step, but I’d recommend doing it for the best result.
Toss spaghetti squash with heated kale, fresh garlic, olives, chili flakes, salt, cheese and smoked paprika. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Toss to coat and combine. Serve immediately.
This might also be nice with a bit of pesto or shredded basil, or topped with an egg, feta cheese, shrimp, chicken, or pine nuts.