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There’s a Spanish proverb that I love. It goes “A man too busy to take care of his health is like a mechanic too busy to take care of his tools.” I think it is so incredibly true, and it’s the type of philosophy that led me to attend CrossFit at least two or three times a week even while student teaching this past semester. Yes, it was sometimes hard to motivate myself to go straight from school to the gym when I really wanted to sleep for 12 hours straight, but it was worth it. Even though most new teachers get sick within a few weeks, I managed to avoid all the random coughs and sniffles that captured several of the people I worked with! I’m convinced that another big part of my staying healthy is that I try to eat nutritious food. I’m not saying I always succeed, but I try, and I enjoy trying to remake ‘classics’ to turn them into something a little better. That desire lead me to create this recipe.
Okay, okay – there’s lots of cheese all over the photo and “Paleo” is included in the title. Before anyone gets upset, I realize a lot of people don’t recognize cheese as Paleo. Other Paelo people do eat some cheese, though, and I have the good fortune of not really being Paleo and enjoying cheese whenever I think it would make a great addition to a meal. You can obviously leave the cheese off, if you’d like, but I think the feta really adds to the flavor of this Greek-inspired dish. After much deliberation, I decided to mentally name it “Greek salad spaghetti squash” because it is basically a greek salad served warm with squash instead of lettuce. Oh, and minus lots of dressing. Whether your Paelo, vegetarian, or just looking for a tasty alternative to your regular pasta dish, this spaghetti squash recipe can cook up an entree for two or a side for four.
Of course, before you can make a spaghetti squash dish, you have to roast a spaghetti squash! This isn’t difficult, but it does take a little bit of time – up to an hour, in fact. The good news is you can place cooked spaghetti squash in a ziplock bag or other airtight container and freeze it for a month or two and then thaw it when you’re ready to cook! I think it’s most delicious when it’s just out of the oven, but it freezes fairly well. Warm and freshly cooked, spaghetti squash has a delicious, nutty aroma and flavor that is entirely unique, in spite of the vegetable’s final resemblance to spaghetti noodles. The picture below shows the roasted squash before creating the ‘spaghetti.’ Unlike other, thick-skinned winter squash, spaghetti squash hulls don’t make particularly good serving dishes, but you’re always welcome to try!
If you bought a spaghetti squash the other week and haven’t gotten around to cooking it, it’s probably still good. They tend to last a month or two at room temperature, so as long as it doesn’t smell funny or feel squishy, you’re probably in the clear.
I know parsley is delicious and full of vitamin C, but try to avoid the temptation to add too much or else it will dominate the dish’s delicate flavors. You won’t taste nutty spaghetti squash, just parsley!
I highly recommend blanching the tomatoes to remove the skin before chopping them. If you don’t know how, it’s super easy and I have instructions for blanching tomatoes.
You can, of course, add in even more veggies! Zucchini works well in this, as does a bit of bell pepper. I used a yellow sweet onion, but red onion offers a pretty contrast and a nice flavor, too. This dish works well as a vegetarian entree, or it can be transformed into a side that goes delightfully well with chicken. It’s pretty versatile, really!
- 1 spaghetti squash
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil, divided
- 1-2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
- 1/2 a teaspoon sugar
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced (or more, to taste)
- 1 tablespoon of fresh basil, chopped, or 1/2 a tablespoon of dried basil
- 1/2 tablespoon of oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 1/2 pounds of tomatoes, or to taste (about three medium tomatoes), chopped
- 1/2 an onion, chopped
- 1/2 a cup of Kalamatta olives, pitted, or to taste
- 2 tablespoons of fresh parsley, roughly chopped
- Feta cheese, to top
For the spaghetti squash
- Place an oven rack in the middle position and preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Cut the squash in half lengthwise, from pole to pole. This is probably the trickiest part about cooking spaghetti squash! Then remove all the seeds and stringy bits, just like cleaning out a pumpkin to create a jack-o-lantern.
- Place your two squash halves cut side up in a rimmed baking tray and add about a cup of water.
- Place the squash in the oven and roast until a fork can be inserted easily into the squash's flesh but it is not mushy. This usually takes 45-60 minutes, but can take more or less, depending on your oven and the size of your squash. I'd start checking on it after about 30 minutes if you have a small squash.
- Carefully remove the roasted squash from the oven and allow it to cool for 5-10 minutes, or until it's just cool enough to handle.
- Use a fork to scrape out the squash's flesh and marvel and how it turns into stringy 'spaghetti!'
Combining the vegetables
- While the squash is roasting, combine 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the red wine vinegar, sugar, 1 clove of minced garlic, and salt in a bowl and then add the chopped tomatoes. Stir to coat as thoroughly as possible and allow the mixture to sit for at least 20 minutes.
- After you're done preparing the spaghetti squash, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. When the oil's hot, add the onion and sauté, stirring frequently, until the onions begin to turn translucent. Make sure the onions do not brown and turn down the heat if they begin to brown.
- Add the remaining garlic and cook for about 30 additional seconds.
- Drain the tomato mixture in a colander and then add it to the skillet. Add the oregano, basil, and pepper, and then allow it to cook for 2-3 minutes. (If you don't drain it, the dish can easily become far too watery!)
- Toss in the spaghetti squash. You may turn up the heat to brown it slightly, if you'd like, or just reheat it. If it's been frozen, cook it for a few minutes to steam off excess moisture.
- When you're satisfied with the spaghetti squash, remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the olives and parsley and then top with feta.
- Serve and enjoy!
When I was a kid and a teen, Greek salad was one of my favorite suppers and I ordered it every single time we visited a particular local restaurant. I think of this dish as sort of a grown-up Greek salad. Do you have any childhood favorites you’ve transformed over the years and held on to?