Fall Spaghetti Squash Casserole

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Spaghetti squash! The versatile, previously under-utilized squash that makes a huge difference in my meals as soon as it becomes seasonal. It is a great way to add content and nutrition to a dish without overpowering it. The spaghetti squash has very little flavor on it’s own, so it will work with almost any flavor profile. Earlier this year, I shared my recipe for a spaghetti squash marinara dish that was extremely popular, and very easy to make. You can also learn more about spaghetti squash in general by checking out that post.

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Two aspects of this dish are important – one is the kale. Tuscan kale, also referred to as “Dinosaur kale,” has an extremely different flavor profile and texture than the wider-known, more typical curly kale. It is darker, the leaves are straighter, and it has a more delicate, sweet taste than typical kale, making it more usable in everyday dishes, and preferable to those who claim they don’t like kale. Tuscan kale is common in Italian cuisine, most popularly used in soups and pastas. Cooking the kale before adding it to a casserole allows the tough stems to break down a bit, making it easier to eat and more flavorful.

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The other important aspect of this dish are the leeks. I LOVE LEEKS. When leek season begins, I usually buy a whole bunch of them, cut them into medallions, and stash them in the freezer. The flavor is so unique among the other common onion varietals- its like a mixture between an onion and some kind of green (spinach, kale, etc.) They are easy to throw into any dish and they always add so much depth of flavor. The important thing to remember is that they typically grow deep in the ground, and the white parts (the more commonly used parts of the leek) need to be properly washed before use. There is generally a lot of sand and dirt particles hidden in the layers. Once you’ve washed your leeks, go for it!

I don’t generally share recipes containing any ingredients that one cannot find at the market. I made an exception this time because I really wanted to show the versatility of the spaghetti squash. In order to do that, I had to add some flavors that aren’t found at any market vendor’s booths. I decided to go in a semi-Mexican direction, so I added salsa verde and black beans. This creates a great Mexican flavor profile without being overwhelming. The eggs in the dish hold the casserole together. I actually enjoyed this dish as a breakfast item – I even put a fried egg on top!

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The one thing that I really want to stress in this post is that spaghetti squash is very versatile. I encourage you to grab one or two at the market, try this recipe (or one of your choosing), and open up to the thought that this is a great veggie-based substitute for so many dishes. It really does astound me what creative recipes some chefs have been able to create with such a simple vegetable!

Fall Spaghetti Squash Casserole

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INGREDIENTS

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350. Cut the spaghetti squash in half length-wise and remove the seeds. Rub olive oil, salt, and pepper over the exposed sides of the squash. Place on a baking sheet, exposed-side down, and cook in the oven for 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut the leek into ¼-inch sized medallions, using only the white and light green parts. Wash the kale and cut it into ½-inch sized ribbons. Add 2 Tbsp. olive oil to a large pan. When the oil is hot, add the leeks. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the leeks start to become translucent. Add the kale to the pan and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and add to a large bowl. Keep the oven on.

As soon as the squash is cool enough to touch, remove the spaghetti “strands” using a fork. Place the strands into a colander and push down, removing as much moisture as possible. You may need to do this several times to get all of the liquid out.

In the large bowl with the leeks and kale, add the spaghetti squash strands, the black beans (drained), and the salsa verde. Beat the eggs and add to the bowl. Pour the ingredients into an oven safe 9×13 dish.

Cut the mozzarella into discs thin enough to cover the entire top layer of the casserole.

Place the casserole in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, until nothing moves when you wiggle the dish. Let sit at least 20 minutes before serving.

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Cauliflower Fried Rice

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I adore cauliflower. I’ve been waiting all year for it to be in season and the time has finally arrived. Westmoreland Produce has a beautiful bounty of this cruciferous veggie and I plan on taking as much advantage as possible while I can. Bending Bridge Farm also has Romanesco Cauliflower – definitely a fun veggie!

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Cauliflower wasn’t my favorite growing up. Like many vegetables, I felt like it was always overcooked, which left very little taste and no desire for me to enjoy it. Since veggies have become trendier in the last few years, cauliflower has been given a well-deserved makeover and is now one of the most popular vegetables – and for good reasons, too. For one thing, it’s extremely nutritious. Many people don’t realize this – they think that the lack of green in the veggie equals a lack of nutrients. It’s true, the lack of chlorophyll in cauliflower does mean that it doesn’t have the same nutritional value as it’s close relatives, such as broccoli and cabbage. However, cauliflower makes up for this by containing a whole lot of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. It is also low in fat and carbohydrates, which makes it an excellent addition to healthy meals and a great substitute for many things.

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Many interesting dishes have come from a “cauliflower substitution” trend. I’ve seen dishes where cauliflower is used in place of potatoes to make a “mashed potato” dish. Another very cool way to use cauliflower is to process it and use it as “flour” in a pizza crust. One of my personal favorites is the use of cauliflower as I did in the dish I’m featuring this week – Cauliflower Fried Rice. This is a dish commonly found in the Paleo Diet trend, and it is a fabulous way to get a ton of veggies into one meal. By processing the cauliflower into tiny little crumbles, it resembles rice and can then be used in its place in many dishes. This one works so well because the fried aspect of the dish allows the cauliflower to maintain a crunchier texture, thus resembling rice.

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One great thing about this dish is that the vegetables are interchangeable. I chose to go with some of my personal favorites, but I encourage you to mix and match to your heart’s content. Speaking of personal favorites, I’m very pleased to announce that another favorite of mine has recently been spotted at the market – Kaleidoscope Greens. They are a mix between two amazingly delicious veggies – Brussels sprouts and kale – and the season has just begun. You can learn more about this versatile treat from one of my blog posts last year which can be found on our website or blog page. Please stop by Twin Springs Fruit Farm at any of the markets and try it out for yourself. You’ll be happy that you did.

Without further ado, here is the recipe:

Cauliflower Fried Rice

Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 Head of Cauliflower (Westmoreland Produce)
  • 2 Ears Corn (Twin Springs Fruit Farm)
  • 1 Shallot (Twin Springs Fruit Farm)
  • 4 Medium Carrots (Bending Bridge Farm)
  • 2 Large Handfuls Kaleidoscope Greens – about 10-12 florets (Twin Springs Fruit Farm)
  • 2 Cloves Garlic (Two Acre Farm)
  • 3 Eggs (Liberty Delight Farms)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Soy Sauce to taste (optional)

DIRECTIONS

Cut the florets off of the cauliflower and remove as much stem as possible. Working in batches, process the cauliflower florets in a food processor until it resembles little crumbs (or rice). Set aside.

Small dice the carrot, cut the corn off the cob, and chop the kaleidoscope greens. Chop the shallot almost to the point of mincing, depending on whether or not you like chunks of it (I do). Mince the garlic.

In a large pan, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and shallots and cook until the shallots become translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add the carrots, corn, and kaleidoscope greens and cook 5-6 minutes. Depending on how big you cut the carrots, they may not cook as fast. If they are still not starting to get tender, add a few tablespoons of water to the pan, cover it, and remove it from the stove to let them steam for 3-4 minutes. That should do it.

Put the pan back on the heat and add the cauliflower. Mix thoroughly. After 3-4 more minutes, crack the eggs into the pan and coat the veggies. This is where you would add the soy sauce, if you chose to use it. When the eggs are cooked, add salt and pepper to taste, and enjoy!

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