No one would guess that inside that oblong, pale-yellow spaghetti squash lies the makings for a succulent side dish, splendid salad or enticing entrée. The flesh is mild-flavored and slightly sweet which means it can cozy up to many seasonings. It's called "spaghetti squash" because the cooked flesh comes apart in spaghetti-like strands scraped with a fork or spoon.
Salt and pepper and a splash of olive oil or a pat of butter classically season spaghetti squash. This is the way to really get to know what the squash tastes like. First, rinse the squash off and cut it in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon and season the flesh of the squash. Bake in a 350-degree-Fahrenheit oven for 30 to 45 minutes until the flesh is soft. Hold the squash in a kitchen towel while it's still hot and scrape the flesh with a spoon or fork to form strands. Add salt, pepper, butter or olive oil to taste.
One fun way to serve the dish is to surprise family and friends by serving spaghetti squash as spaghetti. Sprinkle the halves with Italian seasonings such as basil, oregano, marjoram, minced garlic and fennel seeds. You can also use a commercially prepared Italian seasoning spice mix or splash bottled Italian salad dressing on the squash. After baking, toss the hot strands with spaghetti sauce. Another option is to drizzle the baked squash with olive oil and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. Use the cooked seasoned squash as a salad base when mixed with olives, shreds of salami, scallions, tomatoes and a dusting of Asiago cheese. Dress the salad with olive oil and lemon juice.
While spaghetti squash is not generally found in Asian dishes, that doesn't mean you can't use it for a new twist. Mix together your choice of soy sauce, minced ginger and garlic, sesame oil, lemon juice and rice wine vinegar. Brush the seasonings on the squash and bake. Scrape into strands and add to a vegetable stir-fry at the end of the cooking time -- as it doesn't stir-fry well. Another idea is to create a spicy broccoli and faux noodle dish. Reserve some of the seasoning mixture -- about one-half cup for 4 servings. Stir-fry the broccoli and add red pepper flakes at the end of the cooking. Toss the squash noodles in with the broccoli and add the reserved seasoning mixture.
If you've never tried Southwest-style spaghetti squash, you're missing out. Drizzle lime juice over the squash and then sprinkle on herbs and spices. Try cumin, crushed coriander seeds, achiote seeds, garlic and onion powder, red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper. Shred the baked seasoned squash and use as a filling for burritos, tacos and fajitas. Another alternative is to season the squash and then stuff it. Try a mixture of corn, beans, onions, cilantro, rice and tomatoes topped with cheese. Cooked ground beef or shredded cooked chicken mixed with salsa works as well.