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.
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.
I’m hastily posting this recipe per the request of a close, known-just-about-all-my-life girlfriend. Her name is Jodie, (note -ie NOT -y!), and we first met in kindergarten, Happyland, 55 years ago. Man. That’s pretty scary. She lived one island way, down the street from my friend Andrea and one further island away lived our other best friend, Dana. Jodie and I became close in high school…I believe a freshman year science class sealed the friendship. We started to really hang out and party together. And though all our parents were strict disciplinarians, we may have been the slightest bit wild. Proper etiquette and good form were exacted, demanded of us. Not just proper manners or perfect posture but dignity and self-respect; not behaving “ladylike” but BEING a “lady”. Jodie, unknowingly, taught me that lesson during one of our escapades gone wrong. We all went to the same high school, Lauderdale High, which was one of the best public high school for miles both academically and athletically. It was the week before Thanksgiving, our homecoming weekend, when the football game of the year was to be played with our arch rival, Stranahan. We must have been sophomores because by then we were driving. We had 5 minutes between bells to change classes and, for some forgotten reason or maybe even happenstance, I found myself and four girls in the bathroom freshening our makeup, catching up on gossip or just goofing around. Three of the girls had gone to Happyland with me: Jodie, Jody and Susie.
The fourth, Andrea, went to Miss Johnson’s for kindergarten but we all lived so close and our parents all knew each other that we don’t remember a time not knowing each other. Anyway, we must have been chatting about homecoming because, on a spur of the moment lark, and without thinking, we had all tucked fat, black, permanent markers into our purses, thrown the top down on my Spider and were careening down the road headed towards Stranahan, home of our enemy, to teach them a lesson they would NEVER forget. I was driving, Andrea had called shotgun, and the other three girls were sitting on top of the back of the car, feet on the seat. Jeez. THAT’S an accident waiting to happen. And did we get pulled over, with all our hootin’ and hollerin’? No. No, we did not. We pulled into Stranahan, parked and made our way in, trying to blend with all the students. We headed towards the closest ladies room and waited for it to be vacated to begin our act of defiance. Out came the Sharpie; quickly and quietly we began our task. We covered the putty-colored metal doors of the stalls with enormous outlines of our school logo, a “Flying L”.
We wrote slogans all over; on the walls and paper towel dispensers, leaving no doubt as to who was going to be the victor come Thanksgiving weekend. In every spot we wrote “Flying L’s rule!” and “thrash Stranahan!” and “drown the dragons!”. In no place, thank our most merciful Lord, did we use any bad language or curse words. We hadn’t talked about what we were going to write; it just played out that way. At breakneck speed we finished, dropped the markers back into our purses and made our way out of the school cool as cucumbers and back to my car. Without warning, swiftly and out of nowhere we were surrounded by teachers and the police officers who were on school duty that day. Oh God. Where did they come from? And how did they know? They herded us through throngs of rubbernecking, nameless students to the principal’s office all the while our hearts were beating like rabbits on crack , our eyes huge with panic, darting back and forth to each other as if to telepathically say, “Oh my gosh! What’ll we do? Oh my gosh! We’re dead!! Dead!!”. It was at that moment I noticed Jodie walking close to me, tall and straight. Ramrod straight. Positively regal. At her side was a chunky woman with short, blonde, frizzy hair (a real no-no), who reached out and roughly jerked Jodie by the arm, at the elbow, as if to keep her from running away, the imprint of her fingers leaving deep, red welts. She turned to the teacher and without raising her voice she said coldly, “Get your hand off of me. Don’t you dare touch me.” I don’t think anyone heard except the rough and tumble teacher and me. Jodie spoke those exact words with such gravity and formality as if she was a 70-year-old woman addressing an inferior upstart . She wasn’t try to get away; we were all in trouble and we knew it. We knew what we had done. But touch me? I don’t think so. My friend never lost her cool, she never yelled or made a scene. That teacher’s hand flew off of Jodie’s arm as though her arm was a screaming hot coal. I was so impressed. My friend showed such poise and reserve yet still managed to get her point across. There was no need to get physical. We were marched straight into the principal’s office where his secretary took down all of our names. I looked over and saw that Susie was all hunched over crying and sniffling. I looked at Andrea and we rolled our eyes at each other. The principal lectured us…matter of fact he put the fear of God in us. “If any of you girls step out of line, EVER, while in high school your parents will be notified, (Just kill us all right now, please. None of our parents put up with this kind of nonsense.), your principal will be notified and you will be suspended!” And that was that. He let us go. NO ONE had been called or notified. He let us go. And we had used permanent marker! Turns out that because not one dirty word or curse word was used he figured out that we were good girls that just weren’t thinking; we hadn’t thought about any repercussions never mind property damage. We had done something foolish and stupid. He ended his tongue-lashing with “Now I hope you girls have learned your lesson. I don’t EVER want to see any of you around here. Do I make myself clear?” With a resounding “Yes, sir! Thank you, sir! I’m so sorry, sir!” we shuffled out of his office, heads hung low, our bodies limp with relief. And, true to his word, our parents were never told. Our principal never called any of us into his office or mentioned anything about that day. Did we ever step out of line again? Not in school. Oh, hell no! We had been reformed. And that weekend we won our homecoming game. Cleanly, exhibiting honest athletic prowess, good sportsmanship and respectfulness. Bup, this recipe is for you because you asked for it. I will always appreciate the incredible example you unknowingly set when we were so young. You were a lady then and a lady now. You make me proud!
Spicy Vegetable Spaghetti Sauce
Be fore-advised this is a low and slow cooking sauce. 4-6 hours will give you a thick, rich sauce.
yield: 2 1/2 quarts, depending on the size of tomatoes and length of cooking time
5 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 head of garlic, peeled and chopped
6-7 medium sized organic carrots, sliced into rounds 1/4″ thick
12 medium to large, very ripe tomatoes
2 large zucchini, grated using the large holes of a box grater
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
red pepper flakes to taste, I use about 1 tablespoon
3/4 of a 6-ounce can tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste
grated parmesan cheese, optional
Perfect for those nights when you treat your family to a pasta dinner!
Heat olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot and add onions, stirring and cooking until clear.
Add garlic and carrots stirring well to coat with the olive oil. If needed, drop the heat down to avoid scorching.
Cut the cleaned tomatoes into eighth, cut off and discard stem pieces and add tomatoes to pot, again, stirring well. The pot should be bubbling gently, uncovered.
Place the grated zucchini on a clean, cotton dish towel, gather up the corners and, over the sink, twist the ball of zucchini to drain off as much water as you can. There’s a ton of water in that zucchini and you want to get out as much as you can or you’ll have a watery sauce.
Add oregano and basil and red pepper flakes if using, stir well and simmer on medium-low, partially covered for 4-6 hours or whatever time allows.
With an immersion blender or conventional blender puree fully cooked sauce to desired texture taking care not to burn yourself. If using a conventional blender return sauce to pot.
Add tomato paste and stir until completely incorporated.
Taste for seasonings and add salt and pepper as needed.
Serve over al dente spaghetti and top with freshly grated parmesan cheese if desired.