I have to confess, I was looking at the images for this post and marveling at how austere they are, how quietly determined, and they perhaps give the impression that during the preparation of this meal, I was drinking a glass of Chardonnay (my wine of choice, and most often what I drink at home if we haven’t bought whiskey), Ella was crooning on the record player, and I had not a care in the world. However, my life isn’t quite that relaxing, not even close. Within all of the rushing, the hopping up and down from a kitchen chair, the slate balancing precariously across the sink (the light is best there), I had a sweet old cat with a ripped ear and broken teeth, a droopy-eyed lab, and a rambunctious almost-five-year-old at my heels. More than once I yelped or barked out orders, stepped on the cat’s tail, burned my finger, and nearly yanked my entire camera setup to the floor.
However, when the squash was finished and refrigerated to wait until dinnertime (since I’m cooking at two-thirty on the days I’m shooting recipes, as night falls so confusingly early), all was calm in the kitchen as I swept garlic peels and crumbs into a bowl. The camera was safely squared away on my desk, our daughter had retreated to be warmed by the fire, and since the hope for scraps had dissipated, our crazy animals wanted nothing to do with me.
Strangely enough, I was going to write on the ease of this dish. I suppose I still can, as normally I’m cooking when Ellen arrives home, and she can corral the menagerie while I do sip wine and Ella or Rosemary croons. So here it is, this dish. One of the simplest I make, yet full of rich flavor, and so incredibly versatile and customizable. I’d invite you to get creative with it, although standing alone, it holds up. Even pairing it, I keep other bites low-key, tonight I massaged some kale and tossed it with a homemade maple vinaigrette. Serve it with an oaked, buttery Chardonnay, maybe a loaf of crusty bread, and you’ve got a dinner for a relaxed gathering with friends or your folks.
It does take a bit of time, even if the prep work is rather easy and straightforward. The garlic and the squash roast at different temperatures, so prepare to step out of the kitchen while they each have their own time in the oven. Today, I pulled on my heavy boots and lambswool coat and braved the icy, snowy day to gather wood for the hearth basket and wrapped up some images for a client and sent them out. I like the slow preparation of this particular dish (unless I’m shooting each step, in which it becomes total chaos). I can ensure you that the rustic, nutty flavor will not be lost on you and would encourage you to give it a go. Especially on a chilly, unexpectedly wintry, snowy November day, as this one is.
Roasted Garlic and Spaghetti Squash
Two bulbs organic garlic (we have garlic from a friend’s garden…incredible)
Half stick unsalted butter
One good-sized spaghetti squash, halved and seeds scooped out
Freshly ground black pepper
Dried red pepper flakes (to taste)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Slice off tops of garlic bulbs, and peel excess skin. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with a three-finger pinch of salt and pepper, and slide into the oven. Let roast for 40 minutes. Meanwhile, halve the spaghetti squash and scoop out seeds and the darker flesh in the middle. Melt half the stick of butter and divide evenly, cleanly pouring into the hollowed bowls of the squash. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper.
Once the garlic is finished, lower the oven to 350. Roast the squash for 15-20 minutes facing up, melted butter pooling inside the scooped squash. After 15 minutes, remove squash and pour butter into a cast-iron skillet. Flip squash upside down and return to the oven for another 10 minutes. If the squash needs a bit of water or broth, add a bit to the bottom of the pan at this stage to keep the squash from drying out.
Mash garlic with the back of a wooden spoon and add to the skillet, along with the remaining butter, red pepper flakes, another pinch of salt and black pepper. Cook on low heat until bubbling. Remove from heat.
Remove the cooked spaghetti squash from the oven and use a fork to shred the flesh of the squash. Add shredded squash to the skillet and toss to combine. Top with Parmesan and/or Asiago cheese and serve.