Kathy Maister's Start Cooking

Spaghetti Squash

print recipe card posted in Soups, Salads, Sides and Sauces by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

There are many varieties of squash available at the grocery store and farm stands. Spaghetti squash, also know as calabash squash or vegetable spaghetti, is really quite unique because when cooked looks like thin translucent strands of thin spaghetti. It has a mild, delicate flavor somewhat like that of yellow summer squash and watery texture.

Spaghetti squash has a rounded shape and can vary in weight and size. The ones I bought weighed almost four pounds and were about 9 inches long.

When you buy spaghetti squash, it should have a nice lemon yellow color. If it is green it means that it is under ripe.

Washing and Cleaning Spaghetti Squash

Begin by washing the squash with a vegetable brush under running water.

Dry it well so that it does not slip when you are cutting into the squash.

To cut spaghetti squash you need a big, heavy kitchen knife. Cut the squash in half, lengthwise.

Cutting the squash is the most difficult part of preparing the squash! It is like making that first cut into a melon, which can be tricky if you are not using a knife that can handle the task.

Once open, you can see there are seeds and stringy bits that need to get removed. (Just like with butternut squash or pumpkins.)

Using a spoon, scrape away the seeds and stringy bits….

…until the inside is clean.

Cooking Spaghetti Squash

I’m going to show you how to roast spaghetti squash in the oven and also how to cook it in the microwave. Normally these two cooking methods provide very different results. Roasting vegetables often makes them crispy and brings out their natural sweetness. Surprisingly enough, there is virtually no difference in the taste or texture when spaghetti squash is cooked in the oven vs. the microwave!

Oven Method:

Preheat the oven to 400º F ( = 200º C = gas mark 6-moderately hot.)

Drizzle a small amount of olive oil on cut side of the squash and rub it around with your fingers.

Sprinkle on some salt and pepper.

Place the squash, cut side down in an oven-proof dish.

Depending on the size of your squash, it will take approximately 35-45 minutes to get tender.

Microwave Method:

Place the squash in a microwave-safe dish…

…cut side down.

Cover the dish with plastic wrap…

…being sure to leave a steam vent.

Cook the squash on high for approximately 7-10 minutes – depending on the size of your squash and how powerful your microwave is. If you do not have an automatic turntable in your microwave, give the dish a turn every 3 minutes to ensure even cooking.

Remove the plastic wrap with a pair of tongs and be very careful of the built up steam.

Note: I do not recommend cooking the squash WHOLE in the microwave. Some recipes have you pierce the whole squash about 20 or 30 times with a knife (so the squash does not explode in the microwave). Then stick it in the microwave whole. It is very difficult to cut and remove the seeds and stringy bits from a steaming hot squash.

How to Make the Squash Look Like Spaghetti

Once you have removed the squash from the oven or microwave, check to see if it is cooked by sticking a knife into it. The knife should slide in easily.

If you have over cooked the squash it will taste fine but the texture will be creamy and you will not be able to make the spaghetti like strands.

Flip the squash over with a spatula so that the cut side is facing up. (Be careful as it will be very hot!)

The above photo is of the oven roasted squash

Using a dinner fork, scrape the flesh of the squash….

…moving gently around the shell….

…fluffing up the strands of squash.

Turning the squash into spaghetti strands takes about 10 seconds!

You can then serve the squash as is or remove it to a serving plate. It will be very hot so hold the squash in a dish cloth so you don’t burn your hand.

The above photo is of the microwave cooked squash

Decision time! What do I now do with this squash?

You can eat it as is or dress it up with your favorite spaghetti sauce.

I like to add some freshly grated Parmesan cheese, a drizzle of basil infused olive oil, and some salt and pepper!

Enjoy!

P.S. Just for the heck of it, I tried freezing the leftover spaghetti squash. WRONG! It turned into spaghetti squash mush. It tasted fine but the spaghetti texture did not hold up at all!

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Taco Salad

print recipe card posted in Soups, Salads, Sides and Sauces by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

A Taco salad is a hearty meal. It’s filling, satisfying and a great way to get non-salad eaters to eat salad.

To make four servings you will need salad fixings (video) – I’m using:

  • 4 cups of shredded lettuce
  • 1 cup of tomatoes – diced
  • 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 small purple onion – thinly sliced

For the Taco part of the salad you will need:

  • 1 pound of ground beef
  • 1 eight-ounce bottle of Catalina salad dressing
  • 1 packet of Taco seasoning mix

Catalina salad dressing is a sweet, tomato based dressing that has a beautiful bright red color.

Start by browning the beef in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. (Check out my video on Browning Ground Beef!)

Then drain off and discard the excess fat.

Return the beef to the pan and sprinkle on the Taco Seasoning mix.

Add the dressing

Fill the empty dressing bottle half full with water, and then add that to the pan as well. Mix everything together.

Bring everything to a boil, and then reduce the heat to simmer.

Simmer for 20-25 minutes.

After 20 minutes it will look like this:

While the beef is simmering, prepare the salad fixings (video):

You can prepare the green salad with whatever salad fixings you like. I like green-leaf lettuce. It’s a beautiful bright green color and does not have a really strong flavor. Click here if you are unsure how to wash lettuce. Once washed, chop the lettuce into bite sized pieces.

You can chop up one large tomato or slice in half some grape or cherry tomatoes.

Pile the salad onto individual serving plates. (Do not add extra dressing to the salad. You won’t need it once the beef and cheese are added!) The warm beef slightly wilts the salad and the cheese gets slightly melted from the warm taco mixture as well. (I added crunchy cucumbers and some sliced purple onion as well!)

Enjoy!

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V-Slicer or Mandolin

posted in Knives by Kathy Maister

I love my V-Slicer! It cost $29. and was one of my best kitchen investments. This hand operated cutter is also known as a mandolin. I’m not usually a big fan of buying gadgets. There are many useless gadgets on the market that take up precious storage space and never get used. However, this one actually gets used – a lot!

V-slicers are used to cut firm fruits and vegetables. The shape of the cut depends on the blade used. You can mince, chop, slice and julienne, which means to cut into strips.

My V-slicer is made of heavy duty plastic. You can buy the stainless steel version for about $150. The more expensive models come with more cutting blades and have legs to stand on. Unless you do a TON of cutting or are a professional chef, my advice is to go with the less expensive version.

The blades are REALLY sharp. Always use the holder when cutting. The holder has spikes on it that hold the fruit or vegetable while cutting.

Jam the fruit or vegetable you are using onto the spike. (I’m using an onion.)

The arrows on the holder indicate which direction you should be slicing. Press down firmly and start slicing.

Here I have made incredibly thin slices of onion.

By adjusting the plate under the blade I can make thicker slices.

My V-slicer came with three blades.

If I wanted to make French fries I would use the center blade shown above.

Chopping or slicing, particularly onions literally takes only seconds with a V-slicer — see the picture below.

You can see a V-slicer “in action” on my French Onion Soup video.

Cheers!

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