Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai

I have not cooked nearly enough squash this winter, and I love squash. Squash can be used to create some very interesting combinations. Dishes made with squash can be lower-calorie without feeling like spa food. You see, I have returned to the lighter side, once again.

Spaghetti squash is particularly unique. Whoever opened a spaghetti squash up for the first time and cooked it must have been quite surprised by the noodle-like texture.

I’m sure you all are familiar with spaghetti squash. It does share similarities with noodles (thin rice noodles or vermicelli maybe), but no one is going to get the two confused. The texture is much wetter, even with straining, but the flavor is pretty mild so that it can take on whatever you use for a sauce. I liked the idea of using squash as the noodle for a pad thai preparation. For the record, I looked it up and calling it Pad Thai is not a misnomer–according to Merriam Webster online the literal translation is “Thai stir-fried mixture.” It doesn’t have to have rice noodles to be called pad thai.

In fact, pad thai can incorporate a variety of vegetables. You may see in the original recipe that it called for a red pepper, which I didn’t have, so I left that out. I think the key ingredients here are the bean sprouts, green onion, cilantro, lime, and egg. I love peanuts and enjoy them in pad thai, but I’m not sure they are even required. What do you think “makes” pad thai?

Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai
From A Couple Cooks
Make 4 generous servings

1 large spaghetti squash
1 bunch green onions
½ Cup fresh cilantro
, chopped
3-4 small carrots, fewer if they are large
4 cloves garlic
2 whole eggs
1.5 Cups bean sprouts, divided
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
, preferably peanut
3 Tablespoons sweet chili sauce
3 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 lime
Sriracha to taste
(I don’t suggest leaving it out!)
½ Cup roasted salted peanuts, chopped

Preheat to 400°F. Cut the spaghetti squash in half carefully–you’ll need a large, sharp knife. Scrape out the seeds and guts. Drizzle olive oil over cut sides and season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place the squash cut side down on a baking sheet and cook until tender and easily pierced with a knife, about 45 minutes.
DSC_6635
When the squash is done, scrape out the flesh of each half. Place the “noodles” in a colander to drain out some of the liquid for at least 10 minutes or as long as you are finishing other prep.
DSC_6640
Meanwhile, get lots of prep bowls ready to facilitate mise en place.
Peel and shred carrots. Mince garlic. Thinly slice green onions and add to bowl with garlic, reserving about 1 green onion’s worth in a different bowl. Chop the cilantro and set aside in its own bowl, or combine with reserved green onions.
DSC_6644
In a small bowl, beat together two eggs.

In another small bowl, mix together the sauce: 3 tablespoons sweet chili sauce, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, juice of ½ lime, a few squirts of sriracha.

So many bowls.

So many bowls.


Next, heat 2 Tablespoons oil over medium high heat in a large skillet. Add the garlic and green onions and cook about 45 seconds, until fragrant. Pour in the eggs and scramble until almost cooked.
DSC_6650
Add the crunchy vegetables (carrots and 1 Cup of the bean sprouts in this case) and squash noodles. Add 3 pinches kosher salt and toss together. Add the sauce and stir to combine.
DSC_6652
Cook until the vegetables are heated through, about 5 minutes.

Garnish with plenty of crushed peanuts, fresh bean sprouts, and chopped cilantro and green onion.
DSC_6653

It struck me as ironic that the week after a “Bacon Optional” post, I cooked something vegetarian and almost vegan, minus the eggs. I swear it wasn’t intentional!

Also, I was very surprised to find my husband was interested in eating this. Have I not yet divulged his history of reluctance toward fruits and vegetables? Well, when I told him I was planning to make this vegetable-heavy dish for dinner later that night, I totally assumed he would opt to eat something else, but instead he said “I’ll eat that.”

“Even the bean sprouts,” I asked? Yes, even the bean sprouts. But don’t ask him to eat an orange. Ugh.

Small vegetable victories!

Small vegetable victories!

Bacon Optional

I’ve been doing OK lately at cooking and documenting healthy recipes. It’s true, two of my featured recipes in January came from Cooking Light. Then we hit Super Bowl weekend.

Along with Super Bowl weekend came the inspiration for a party menu theme: “wrapped or stuffed.” “Wrapped or stuffed” certainly leaves open the opportunity to use fruits and vegetables and grains, but one is much more likely to please certain crowds by using cheese and bread and…bacon. One of the dishes I served was cream cheese stuffed jalapenos with bacon topping (optional).
IMG_0220
These jalapenos were spicy, and a bit of work to clean out, so I ended up having a handful of extra ingredients this week. Somehow I came across a recipe for jalapeno corn fritters (yes, more fritters!) that could be made entirely with ingredients I had on hand. I don’t even remember what search terms I was using, or whether this was Pinterest, but I’d say I struck gold.

Jalapeno Popper Corn Fritters
From Closet Cooking

1.5-2 Cups corn kernels, frozen is fine
1/2 Cup flour
1 egg
scant 1/2 Cup cheddar cheese
, grated
1/4 Cup cream cheese, room temperature
2 jalapeno peppers (to taste, and depending on size), diced
2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (optional)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon coriander seed
, toasted and ground
2 green onions, sliced
1 handful cilantro, chopped
zest and juice of 1 lime
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil, as needed

DSC_6625
Begin by toasting coriander seeds and then grinding in a spice grinder, clean coffee grinder, or with mortar and pestle.
DSC_6627
DSC_6628
Prepare vegetables.

Yes, those are gloves! I recommend them for using with hot peppers.

Yes, those are gloves! I recommend avoiding direct skin contact with hot peppers.


Mix all of the ingredients (corn, flour, egg, cheddar cheese, cream cheese, jalapenos, bacon-if using, paprika, coriander, green onion, cilantro and lime juice) in a bowl.
DSC_6631
Heat a little oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat. Form mixture into patties, about 1/4 Cup each. Cook until golden brown on both sides, about 2-4 minutes per side.
DSC_6632
You could serve these with a creamy, buttermilk-based dressing, or consume them as is, like me. The recipe author even used a jalapeno popper flavored dressing.
These didn't even make it to the table before being consumed by my husband and me!

These didn’t even make it to the table before being consumed by my husband and me!

To add to the gorging, I also had some free bags of regular potato chips lying around and was thus inspired to make a potato chip cookie recipe I found on Smitten Kitchen. It may be the copious amount of butter, but they were extremely delicious. Now that the week is over, I’ll be cutting back on the cheese, butter, and bacon…I swear.
photo
photo_2

Appetizing Appetizers

You know how it is when you go out to a restaurant, you read over the menu, and you wish you could order a dinner made up of entirely of appetizers? Appetizers can be the most interesting and appealing options. It happens to be the same case sometimes with the food I cook at home! That is my excuse for providing two disparate appetizer recipes in this week’s blog entry.

The truth is, I did a good job cooking last week, including main dishes, but I did a poor job managing my time overall. After spending the days in front of a computer at work, I avoided the computer at home, even when there were important things to do there, including this blog! And I still managed to get an insufficient amount of sleep.

Anyway…I was excited to get eggplant in the farm share, because I had this article filed away for reference. I selected the below recipe, and used up the rest of my homemade garam masala!

A continuation on my garam masala notes: some grocery stores, like my beloved Wegman’s, have a bulk spice section, where you have total control over how much you commit to getting at once. I found great spices at a natural food store, also in Ithaca, called Greenstar. I’m not sure if Whole Foods has this option–it may depend on your area. You can also buy a small portion online through Penzeys (they give recipe suggestions too) or Amazon.com (woo hoo “Add-On Item”) or even eBay.

Baingan Bharta
Adapted from Mark Bittman’s New York Times recipe

1 pound eggplant
1 tablespoon lime juice
1+ tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 medium onion
, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 small fresh chile like a jalapeño, or more to taste, seeds removed as desired and thinly sliced
1/2 pound fresh tomatoes, plum, grape or whatever type you have, chopped
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
or to taste
2-4 tablespoons cup chopped cilantro, including stems, or to taste
1 teaspoon garam masala

I like this method of cooking the eggplant, which I never have tried before. In fact, after reading this article, I realized that, as far as I can remember, I may have only cooked eggplant in the form of “parmesan,” or something closely related. I certainly enjoy it other ways, including the eggplant fries at Ithaca Ale House and baba ghanoush. It was good to branch out at home. And it certainly wasn’t hard!

As you can see, I was really stretching it with the last of some cilantro which had been wilting in my fridge.

As you can see, I was really stretching it with the last of some cilantro which had been wilting in my fridge.


Prick the eggplant with a thin knife or grill skewer.

Broil or roast on a heated cast-iron pan in the hottest possible oven, checking every few minutes to turn as necessary so that the skin turns black and the eggplant collapses. Don’t forget (if you’re me) that every time you open the oven you are in danger of setting off the smoke detector. It should be done in about 20 minutes. You can also do this over a grill set to high heat.
DSC_5165
When the eggplant is cool enough to handle, it is extremely easy to peel! Cut away the hard stem.
DSC_5168
Chop or mash in a bowl, with lime juice.

I put another kitchen tool to use! This actually probably mashed the eggplant more than I would have wanted.

I put another kitchen tool to use! This actually probably mashed the eggplant more than I would have wanted.

Add oil to a skillet set to medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until it is golden brown, 5-10 minutes depending on your temperature control.
DSC_5173
Add the garlic and chiles and cook for another minute.
Add the tomato, turmeric and salt. Cook until the tomato is soft, 5 minutes or so.
DSC_5174
Stir in the eggplant purée and cook, stirring, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the cilantro and garam masala and turn off the heat.
DSC_5177
Serve hot with warmed pita bread, naan or another type of Indian flatbread.
DSC_5178

Next up: I followed another blogger’s recreation of one of the many tempting recipes from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook: Scallion Biscuits with Whipped Goat cheese and Tomato Salad. I’ll let you read it here because she already includes helpful substitution suggestions (like for me, I used variations of milk and half and half in place of the whole milk and whipped cream in parts of the recipe). Also, because I have decided I mostly hate the process of working with cold butter to make pastry, I employed the cheating method: cutting the butter up into small pieces, putting them in the freezer to get super cold, and using a food processor to combine the butter and flour and then make the dough.

I served this as a first course for guests on Friday. And then I had leftovers for lunch on Saturday!
DSC_5186

Note that both of these recipes used tomatoes…from my garden…more on that soon!

Here I am with the entrée I served.
DSC_5183
DSC_5184

Chicken Tikka

Still facing a mountain of leftover rice, I decided it was time to throw something saucy over it.

I sometimes shy away from Indian food because the overly spicy-hot dishes scare my digestive system. But my husband loves it, and we both really enjoyed a chicken tikka pizza I made about a month ago, from Cooking Light. I was struck by how this recipe gives just the right amount of heat so it is pleasant and neither bland nor sweat-producing. Here’s a look at how it turned out.
DSC_4526

This time, I easily made it workable for an entrée over rice. For a side, I made another fairly universally liked Indian recipe, cucumber raita. It just happened to work out that the cucumber crop is one of the few that is currently thriving at my CSA farm!

Chicken Tikka
adapted from Cooking Light

12 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 cup plain greek or regular low-fat yogurt
2 teaspoons garam masala*
, divided
Cooking spray
5/8 teaspoon kosher salt
, divided
1 (14.5-ounce) can unsalted diced tomatoes, drained
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh ginger
, peeled and grated, which is easily done with a piece kept in the freezer
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
3 garlic cloves
, minced
1/2 Cup red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons half and half, cream, or milk — whatever you have should be OK

*Although I have a fairly broad span of spices in my pantry, garam masala is not one of them. Instead, I have many of the ingredient spices that go into a freshly ground garam masala. One of the reasons I have some of these whole spices is that last Christmas/Hanukkah I decided to make homemade mulling spice bags as gifts to some of my family. Here’s the recipe I followed for garam masala, with some substitutions — I didn’t have whole coriander seeds, just ground, and no black cumin seeds, so I just increased the regular cumin seeds. My cardamom was also green, not black. The fact that is still turned out well leads me to believe that you could also fudge this a little bit and still make it tasty! You could also just buy the garam masala, I suppose–preferably from a place where they sell it in bulk by the ounce.

Preheat broiler to high. Cut chicken in half horizontally. Combine chicken, yogurt, and 1/2 teaspoon garam masala. I let mine sit in the mixture for about 15 minutes while I prepared some of the other ingredients, and raita, so it would marinate a little bit.
DSC_5027
Place on a foil-lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon salt.
DSC_5032
Broil 5 minutes on each side.

Add diced tomatoes to a food processor, blender, or mini chopper and pulse until almost smooth.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala, ginger, red pepper, garlic, and red onion. Cook 1 minute.
DSC_5036Stir in tomatoes; simmer 4 minutes. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt and cream. Cook on low for 1 minute.

Cut chicken into pieces. Add chicken to pan and mix.

Cucumber and Yogurt Salad
Adapted from Food Network

1 1/4 Cups 2% Greek yogurt, or regular plain yogurt strained a bit
1 Cup cucumber, a combination of chopped and coarsely shredded
1/4 Cup carrots, shredded
1/2 large clove garlic, finely minced, about 1 Tablespoon
a few springs of fresh cilantro, finely minced to make about 1/4 Cup
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoons raisins
Freshly ground black pepper

I followed the original recipe for this recipe pretty much exactly one time before, and it was a hit. This time I modified it a bit because I had some carrots that were starting to languish, and some reviewers said that you can use any vegetables. Also, cilantro and mint are apparently interchangeable for this. Lastly, I ran out of golden raisins, but I remember that the burst of sweetness they provided was especially tasty, so I had to try it with regular raisins.

DSC_5029
DSC_5031

Careful not to add TOO much garlic to this recipe, as it can really "bloom" as it sits.

Careful not to add TOO much garlic to this recipe, as it can really “bloom” as it sits.

Whisk the yogurt until smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients, grinding a little black pepper in to taste.
DSC_5033
Stir, chill, and serve.

I found a great list of variations on raita from The New York Times online. Some of them seem so crazy to me I may have to try them someday!

Serve chicken tikka mixture over basmati rice with cooling yogurt salad on the side. Top with a few fresh cilantro leaves.
DSC_5040