One of the thing I love to do is talk to people about food and cooking. One of the most common questions this time a year is about spaghetti squash. This beautiful winter vegetable is known for is replaceability for pasta, but the question is often asked, “What exactly do I do with it?”. I’ve put together several ideas so that you can fully enjoy the versatility of this wonderful squash.
What is Spaghetti Squash?
This winter squash has a smooth often yellow or pale golden skin, shaped like a long orb. Like most squash, it is very dense and heavy for it’s size. Spaghetti Squash is a great vitamin source, including Beta Carotene, Vitamin A and Calcium. The flesh consists of tightly packed rows of stranded flesh which is hard to tell until after it is cooked. Then, with a fork, the strands magically are scraped out and resemble pasta. I’ve seen squashes in several sizes, from football sized to half of that. The size does not affect the taste and, like most winter squashes, they can be stored for a week or two. A medium sized squash can easily contain 4 generous servings.
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When you have a house full of guests for the holidays, a batch of healthy and delicious baked oatmeal will get everyone going with little effort on your part.
I’ve hosted countless holiday meals at my house, Thanksgiving being one of my favorites. I wake up early and head into the kitchen and open the groaning stocked fridge to begin preparing for the days big meal. Then one by one sleepy heads would wander up to the counter looking for the start to their day. Oh right. What to make for breakfast?
Without a doubt no one would starve that day, but it always seemed wrong to me that with so much wonderful food around I would subject my morning lovelies to cold cereal. Then again- who had the time, or counter space for making a full on breakfast?
I love baked oatmeal. You may prepare it the evening before and then pop the whole thing into the oven when you rise. In 30-40 minutes you have a warm breakfast that fills the house with good smells right from the get go. The dish is loaded with fiber, protein and is not overly sweet. This low glycemic meal will fuel everyone beautifully for the day ahead, while leaving room for the indulgences later on.
It is wise for a cook to have a few tricks up their sleeve. You know the type- it’s the “oh goodness, what do I do with these beautiful vegetables??” Now that it’s getting cold out turning on the oven is far more appealing. The best part of that is when your vegetable bin has a few bits and pieces lying in it, roasting is your best friend. A simple rough chop, a toss with a tablespoon of neutral oil, then spread onto a sheet pan and toss into the oven. Do them for dinner, and save the remains to brighten up your lunch plate.
Once you’ve got a nice pile of caramelized lovely bits, blend together this gorgeous sauce and douse the whole lot. This dressing is a riff on Caesar that you will simply adore. It’s the umami, salty addition of anchovy paste that brings out the best in everything. No worries- not a fishy smell or taste to turn your nose, just a rich flavor that broadens the taste of everything it touches.
Cream Peas are a variety of field peas. Of course you have heard of black eye peas, which, as a born New Yorker, was all that I knew of “peas”. But now that I live in the South, there are all sorts of peas to choose from. Crowder, Purple Hull, Speckled Butter Beans, Pink Eyed Peas are just some of them. When the farmers market is in swing you can purchase bushels of peas and hull them yourself. A job that makes for some good porch sittin’. Personally I purchase my peas already out of the shell. They are not cheap, but certainly worth my money versus the amount of time it would take to work through that pile of long slender pods.
There are many traditional recipes for field peas. Hoppin’ John and Succotash are the most common, but when I asked around at the market, the most advised method was to cook up some bacon and fry up the boiled peas in the grease with some garlic and onion. There is nothing wrong with that- but somehow I felt these delicate Cream Peas were just to subtle and lovely to take on that heaviness. Cream peas have a tender mush to them, and a mild flavor that I felt didn’t need clobbering with a heavy hand.
On another day I would have added some rice along with the peas to round out the salad, but after I made the batch they were just too good on their own. This bowl of peas lasted a few days in our fridge. Most landed by the scoopful over greens at dinner, or with rice and egg for breakfast. They have enough texture not to fall apart, but are still wonderfully creamy to eat.
Peas are loaded with fiber- 4g in this serving alone. They are also a good source of protein, vitamin C and Iron, and have a low glycemic load.
You may not find fresh Cream Peas out of the South, but you most certainly can try this recipe with Black-Eyed Peas or any other variety you may find. The best are fresh/frozen, but canned will do in a pinch. You can order dried Lady Cream Peas . They will work equally well. Just give yourself time to soak them. You can read more on cooking with dried peas/beans HERE.
- 1 lb Cream peas (also known as lady cream peas)
- 1 small yellow onion
- 2 sprigs lemon thyme
- 2 cloves garlic, divided
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons grainy dijon mustard
- salt and pepper
- In a medium/large pot, place fresh or frozen peas and cover with 2" of water. Add a quartered onion (no need to peel), 1 clove or smashed garlic, the lemon thyme and a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook until the peas are tender, about 40 minutes.
- Drain the peas, remove the onion, thyme and garlic and set aside to cool slightly.
- In a large bowl combine the second clove of garlic, finely minced, rosemary, olive oil, vinegar and mustard. Whisk thoroughly and add salt and pepper to taste.
- While the peas are still warm, toss with the dressing.
- Serve right away as a side dish, or keep in the fridge for up to 4 days.
- Fresh or frozen peas are best. Canned work well too, please rinse well before using. You may also use dried peas.