Monday, December 12, 2011

Spaghetti Squash Gratin

Chilled to the bone. You midwesterners might call me sissy, but it's been c-c-c-cold down here. Which isn't a bad thing, because I love my warm clothes. And the only real cure for chilly weather and a downstairs without heating vents is something warm, soft and scoopable. Yep. Scoopable. The scooping is pivotal to the warming process.

Lately, I've come to adore spaghetti squash. I wrote a post long ago regarding my dismay at the hulabaloo around spaghetti squash, failing to find anything special about the stringy stuff. But for some reason, the fall of 2011 was the beginning of a magical season for me and the big yellow guy. An interest in getting away from too many grains and cooking with more of a variety of starches has been good for our relationship. We've grown. We're tight. With few calories and more nutrition, it's now my preference to actual spaghetti. I usually eat it al dente with all the same toppings you'd put on noodles.

That is, until I ordered a side of spaghetti squash at the local eatery across the street. While I typically like all veggies a little crisp (wth the exception of potatoes, duh), I realized how much I seriously undercook spaghetti squash. This lovely, soft, pillowy version of a squash I thought I had come to know gave me the ah-hah moment. This is why people love it so much. Buttery, smooth comfort. So with 1.25 spaghetti squash lying around, 1.5 cans of diced tomatoes, and about .25 bags of chickpea flour in the kitch, I curse the 56 degrees outside and set out to make myself a scoopalicious comfort good. Gratin.

I found one recipe that matched my mood for warm and scoopy with a nice tomato sauce, but of course it calls for a lot of cheese. Naturally my random mind came to a brilliant alternative - how about a socca on top? Since I'm so good at posting hyperlinks today, I also wrote a recipe for socca a while back. It's like a pancake made out of chickpeas. Yum. So instead of ricotta on top, I added a good amount of plant protein with a chickpea flour batter. It baked nicely in the oven and added an extra creaminess that made this perfect. Enjoy on a cold evening complete with red wine and more red wine.

Spaghetti Squash Gratin
Makes: 3-4 servings
Total cook time: 2 hours


1 medium spaghetti squash

2 tsp. olive or coconut oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 heaping tsp. basil
1 heaping tsp. oregano
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
2 14oz cans of diced tomatoes, in juice
Salt and pepper to taste

3/4 c. chickpea flour
3/4 c. almond milk
1 T. nutritional yeast
1 T. cornstarch
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of nutmeg and white pepper

3/4 c. shredded vegan cheese, such as Daiya or Kase (optional)


Preheat oven to 450*F. Fill a large roasting pan with 1/2" of water.

Cut squash in 2 or 4 pieces and scoop out the seeds. Place squash flesh side down in roasting pan and cover with aluminum foil. Roast in oven for 40 minutes or until very tender.

While the squash is cooking, prepare the tomato sauce. Heat oil over medium-low heat and cook garlic slowly until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes (being careful not to burn). Add herbs and crushed red pepper. Stir for another 30 seconds and add tomatoes, salt and pepper. Increase heat to medium high and bring sauce to a low boil. Reduce heat to medium and cover. Simmer sauce for 20 minutes or until the "canned-ness" is cooked out of the tomatoes (alternatively, you could make your own fresh tomato sauce instead of being a bum like me).

While the sauce simmers, prepare the socca batter. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside to rest. At this point you should be able to return to the baking squash. Remove from the oven when tender and reduce temperature to 375*F.

Using a spoon, lift the squash flesh away from the skin (sounds gross like a freshman year biology class). Season with salt and pepper to taste and tranfer to a casserole dish. Layer the bottom completely with squash and cover with tomato sauce. Sprinkle half of the cheese over the sauce (if using) and cover evenly with batter. Sprinkel remaining cheese on top and bake for 45-55 minutes, or until socca has set and browned on top.

Let cool 10 minutes before serving (we both burned our tongues getting a little antsy).

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