Here we are in March…in like a lion, out like a lamb. In south Florida we are most definitely enjoying lamb-like weather. Jimmy and I are found in the courtyard often, reading and writing, the dog typically sprawled at our feet. Jimmy will spend his mornings outside working on his laptop, leisurely smoking his pipe which, by the way, smells positively heavenly. We read the New York Times in the morning and take pleasure in a simple happy hour or dinner in the evening. Clearly the mosquitos haven’t found our house yet…but they will. In the meantime, if it’s morning or evening, assume we’re puttering outside. This dish is a spring and summer joy. Simple and healthful, it may be served as a vegetable side dish or as an entree with a piece of grilled tuna or chicken atop. It’s lovely at a picnic or poolside as it travels extremely well. Spaghetti squash is much lighter than pasta and undeniably lower in calories. Those who are allergic to wheat will love this alternative. No more sneezing and itchy eye! Regardless of your reason to try this dish, I think you’ll truly enjoy it and so will your family.
Fresh Tomato and Pesto Spaghetti Squash
- 2 spaghetti squash, medium size
- 1 clove of garlic
- 2 pints grape tomatoes
- 1 1/2-2 cups fresh basil leaves plus a few sprigs for garnish
- 1 7-ounce container of store-bought pesto or approximately 1 cup of homemade, I use store-bought, reduced fat
- 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese. This is completely optional and may be left out for a dairy-free, vegan or paleo dish. It’s still absolutely delicious.
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- Pre-heat oven to 400°. Line a large baking sheet with tin foil and cover foil lightly with non-stick baking spray. Set aside.
- Cut both squashes in half lengthwise.
- Using a large, metal spoon, scoop out all the seeds from the squashes. Discard the seeds.
- Place the squashes cut side down on the baking sheet and bake for 45-60 minutes or until the flesh is fork tender. I check them at 45 minutes and return to the oven checking for doneness every 5 minutes or so.
- While the squashes are baking finely mince the garlic and place in a medium size, non-reactive bowl. I use glass.
- Cut the tomatoes in half and add them to the garlic.
- Using your hands, rip the fresh basil into small, bite size pieces and add them to the garlic-tomato mixture.
- Add the pesto and olive oil to the tomato mixture. If using parmesan cheese, add it as well. Mix thoroughly so all ingredients are well combined.
- Cover with plastic wrap and set aside until the squashes have baked.
- Remove the squashes from the oven and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes or until they’re easy to handle.
- With a small paring knife cut the flesh of the squashes lengthwise down to the shell being careful not to cut through to your hand, making 3 or 4 parallel cuts, each cut about 3/4″-1″ apart. This allows bite size pieces and makes it easier to assemble the dish.
- With a large, metal spoon scoop the flesh out of the squashes and place into a large bowl.
- Pour the tomato-pesto mixture over the squash and gently toss until all the squash is well coated.
- Transfer to a serving platter and garnish with any fresh basil leaves and serve.
- If serving within a few hours the bowl may be covered with plastic wrap and then transferred to the serving platter right before serving.
In our house during the winter months, Friday nights mean one thing. Homemade pizza for my family and lots of brown likker for me. My husband and son are Greek Orthodox and years ago requested that I not serve meat on Friday so they could take communion on Sunday. Okay. I can do that. To honor their request, I began making pizza every Friday night, salsa or classic rock blaring from the kitchen radio. I love the Allman Brothers. The kitchen door’s always open since you have to jack your oven up to at least 450° and it gets some kind of hot down here in South Florida. And on the counter, on a pretty little napkin, will be a faceted, crystal DOF with 6 or 7 ice cubes cracking and popping around two fingers of brown. My, how I love that stuff. Anyway, it’s Friday, so before I begin pouring, and you know I will, let’s talk pie. Pizza dough is quite simple if you allow yourself enough time and space. The dough is versatile. I use several different types of flour from all-purpose to whole wheat to white whole wheat depending on my mood or what I have on hand. If you choose a heavier flour you need to make a few adjustments. First, I never use just whole wheat. The end result is heavier than a door stop. The ratio I use is equal parts, 1-1. The exception is white whole wheat. I’m using it tonight and I’ll use a full 3 cups. I think King Arthur makes an exceptional product and you can find it at all leading grocery stores. I make the dough first since it needs a good 1 1/2 hour rising time so while it’s rising in a warm corner, I can keep on working. I use one of two different kinds of sauce. My red sauce consists of tomato puree, salt and pepper. What I don’t use, I freeze. If I choose fresh tomatoes I add draining time. After they’ve been chopped finely, I drop them into a colander in the sink, sprinkle with just a little bit of salt and go on prepping my toppings. Tonight I’ve decided on chopped plum tomatoes with shredded fresh basil, grated mozzarella, slivered onion and turkey pepperoni. I know. That’s meat. But with the Greek festival coming up Jimmy doesn’t always make it to communion especially if he has a festival meeting on Sunday and he always does. And James is back at school in North Carolina. Go Heels. Back to toppings. I love chopped tomatoes, a sprinkle of fresh dill, crumbled feta, chopped Kalamata olives, a little scattered mozzarella, some cooked, drained spinach and a swath of good olive oil. Remember, cut all vegetables a uniform thickness and take comfort in knowing the combination of pizza toppings is infinite. P.S. Mint is outrageous with sautéed mushrooms, roasted garlic and grated fontina. I’m just sayin’.
Pre-heat oven 450°, 500° if it goes that high
- 2 cups tomato puree
- salt and pepper to taste or
- 8-10 ripe plum tomatoes
- 1 tablespoons olive oil
- fresh basil finely chopped, to taste
- salt and pepper
- 3 cups flour, your combination of all-purpose, whole wheat etc.
- 1 cup water at 115°
- 1 packet yeast or 2 1/4 tsp yeast
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
Toppings: any of the following
- fresh mozzarella
- crumbled feta
- grated fontina
- zucchini slices
- fresh tomato slices
- kalamata olives
- sautéed mushrooms
- feta cheese
- kefalotiri cheese
- mizithra cheese
- onion slivers, sautéed
- freshly basil, chopped
- fresh mint, chopped
- fresh dill, chopped
- fresh thyme leaves, chopped
- hot pepper flakes
- the ubiquitous bagged shredded mozzarella
- turkey pepperoni (fabulous. tastes exactly the same as conventional but not greasy)
- turkey sausage, cooked and crumbled
- Combine ingredients for tomato layer and set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine 1 cup flour with yeast and warmed water and mix well. Add olive oil, mix well and add rest of flour. After mixing in bowl until incorporated, turn on to counter and knead until silky and smooth…5-8 minutes. Coat with a little olive oil, return to bowl, cover and put in warm corner to rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
- While dough is rising, prepare sauce of choice and cut any vegetable or herbs for toppings.
- When dough has doubled, punch down (yeah. hit it.) and divide into two or more parts. Whatever strikes your fancy and let rest for another 15 minutes.
- Dust baking sheet or pizza paddle with cornmeal and shape the dough by flouring lightly and flattening the dough with your finger tips and the heels of your hands. Shape into disks, stretch and flatten to desired thickness. Don’t worry if the dough tears, just pinch back into shape and keep on going. Shake baking sheet occasionally to keep dough from sticking and add cornmeal as needed.
- Add sauce or tomatoes, toppings and slide into oven.
- Bake 10-15 minutes depending on toppings. Just look at it . You’ll know when it’s ready. Slice and enjoy!