Saturday, November 19, 2011

Mediterranean Spaghetti Squash with Crispy Shallots

Last night I went to dinner and a play with my mom and my grandmother.  Let's talk about this food for a sec, k?  I'll confess, I've been thinking about the dish I ordered for a while.  A fried polenta cake topped with shrimp and lobster in a cream sauce.  It was everything I ever wanted.  Georgetown proper has a couple of nicer restaurants, and Portofino's is sort of the local casual upscale Italian joint.  Casual upscale?  What planet am I on?  Whatevs, you can dress up or dress down.  I mean, it's Georgetown.  Let's not get pretentious.  At any rate, I genuinely enjoy their food.  I'd heard about this fried polenta and lobster dish a few months ago but hadn't had occasion to go there.  Of course, I forgot my phone, so I couldn't take a picture.  Bad, foodblogger, bad!  Ugh, enough self-flagellating.  The polenta was crispy and the lobster just plain made me happy.   And well, you don't really have to twist my arm to get me to eat shrimp or cream sauce.

Let me tell you about a dish I do have pictures of.  Do you like spaghetti squash?  Well you should.  It does a darn good job of being better-for-you noodles and soaking up awesome flavors.

Admittedly, this is not the prettiest looking dish I've photographed.  Forgive me.  But let me tell you what else this has goin' on.  Kalamata olives, roasted tomatoes, feta cheese, garlic, peppadews, and crispy shallots right on top give it a Mediterranean feel.
Look at that sucker!  It's hard to cut through when it's uncooked, so just put it in a baking dish whole and fill the dish halfway with water.  In a 350º oven for about an hour and you get...
A super-soft squash that's like cutting butter with a hot knife.  Scrape out the seeds and take a fork to the flesh.
Just scrape the squash with a fork and you get these awesome noodle-like strands of squash.  Set them aside.
Ideally you'll cook the tomatoes the same time as the squash.  Rub some tomatoes with olive oil and let them roast in the oven for about an hour.  I think these are campari but don't quote me on that.  Roasting is a great way to bring out flavor in a less-than-perfect tomato.
They'll look like this after about an hour.  Set them aside to let them cool a bit.  No sense in burning your hand just to chop tomatoes that we're going to warm again anyway.
Slice two large shallots.  We're going to make sort of like shallot rings.  No need to chop, just a thin slice will do.
Mince three cloves of garlic.
We've got a handful of olives and five peppadews.  I really like what the peppadew brought to the table. It's slightly sweet with a subtle heat.  Give them a rough chop.  Ideally you'll prep the shallots, garlic, olives, and peppadews while the squash and tomatoes are in the sauna.
You'll need about 1/2" of olive oil in a large pan to fry to shallots.  This was probably about 1/4 cup of olive oil here on medium-high heat.  Let the shallots get brown and crispy, then remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon.  Drain on a paper towel.  Turn the heat down to medium.
Add the garlic and cook it about a minute.  Bring the olives and peppadews to the party.  We're just kind of warming everything through now.
The tomatoes should be cool enough to give a rough chop.
Add the tomatoes to the pan and let them warm up for a couple of minutes.
Add yo squash fool!  Toss it around with the other ingredientses.
Once all the goodness in the pan is warm, transfer it to your serving bowl.  Olive oil and all.  Add about 1/3 cup of feta and toss it around.  Shoot, add as much as you like.  I'm guesstimating how much I put in, but it was probably closer to 1/2 cup because I l-o-v-e feta.  You can adjust any seasonings here you like.  I didn't need any extra salt because it got plenty from the feta and the olives.
Give yourself a nice hearty helping and top with those lovely crispy shallots you've been sneaking while the rest of it cooks.  Oh, you didn't do that?  Well you should.  It'll make me feel better.  This reheats well for leftovers and tastes great because the flavors have a little more time to meld together.  This only uses about half of the squash, but I'll show you another recipe to use the rest of it.  Or you could just double the recipe.  Either way, this is yummy and definitely better for you than using regular pasta.

Mediterranean Spaghetti Squash with Crispy Shallots (serves 4)

1/2 spaghetti squash
4 campari tomatoes or tomatoes on the vine
Olive oil, about 1/2" worth for pan plus more for tomatoes
2 shallots, sliced thinly into rings
1/4 c Kalamata olives, chopped
5 peppadews, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
Up to 1/2 c feta

  • Preheat oven to 350º.  Place whole squash in a baking dish and fill dish halfway with water.  Rub tomatoes with olive oil and place in a small baking dish.  Roast tomatoes and squash about an hour or until squash is tender.  
  • Cut squash in half and remove seeds.  Scrape flesh with a fork to create "noodles" and set aside in a medium bowl.  Reserve other half of squash for another recipe.  Chop tomatoes when cool enough to handle.
  • Heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add shallots and fry until brown and crispy.  Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.  Reduce heat to medium
  • Add garlic and cook about 1 minute, until fragrant.  Add olives, peppadews, and chopped tomatoes.  Let those warm through and add squash.  Toss to coat and combine and transfer to serving dish.  Add feta and toss to combine.  Serve warm and top with crispy shallots.

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