Dang, it’s been a while since I posted. After finishing grad school, I assumed that my life would fall into a blissful ease full of boozy brunches and Lifetime movie marathons. I figured that I would have an excessive amount of time. That’s what’s funny about life though—how much you have squeezed beneath the surface that’s waiting for a brief crack in your schedule. Busyness isn’t always bad though. I finished seeing all 50 states before my 30th birthday (which was, by the way, the beer-fueled 90’s dance club party of my dreams) and took a spontaneous trip to Manchester, England for just 4 days. I’m finally cooking again (in a slow, methodical fashion instead of a manic sprint). The recipe I’m sharing here represents my first ever attempt at spaghetti squash, that tantalizing vegetable that transforms from a 5lb orange rock into stringy, sweet “pasta-ishness”.
I’m a few days late on posting the details of this meal, and unfortunately, I’m writing this following a jarring terrorist attack in Manhattan. My mind is a little foggy and I’m struggling to stay focused on the content of this post. But I chose to post regardless, and to be as honest as possible while remaining hopeful for you all (whoever you are). It’s difficult to balance your brain between mourning lives that are stolen from the world with not allowing hateful people to steal your light. It’s hard to feel that you are both honoring the tragedy and fighting for your right to be free, joyful, and alive (since that seems to be the target these days). I don’t want to be stone cold, conditioned to brush off what has become “normal”. And I don’t want to be consumed by grief and anger that eats into the pit of my soul. So I mourn every loss, and none at all, all at the same time. I cry and laugh in the same breath. I fight and scream for change and go home to cook dinner.
Spaghetti Squash w/Lamb Meatballs and Lemon Parsley Cream
Serves 2 (or two dinners and one small lunch for work)
1 Medium Spaghetti Squash
Salt for cooking
Black lava salt for finishing (if you have it!)
¾ lb. Ground lamb
3 Cloves minced garlic
½ Cup finely chopped Vidalia sweet onion
Zest of 1 ripe lemon, plus a squeeze of juice
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1/8 Tsp. cumin
1/8 Tsp. cinnamon
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp. whole wheat bread crumbs
1 Tbsp. raw honey
Salt/Lemon sea salt (if you have it!)
6 oz. Whole milk Greek yogurt, plain
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
½ Tbsp. fresh butter
Juice of 1 ripe lemon
Salt/Lemon sea salt (if you have it!)
How to slice the squash is at the center of a heated (but ultimately futile) food world debate. Most folks slice it lengthwise, producing two long pieces. I chose to slice it through the middle, which made it much easier to pierce (you still need a large, sharp knife) and supposedly results in longer strings of “spaghetti”. I’m sure that either method works.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and coat a baking sheet with a little olive oil. Once you’ve sliced your squash, scoop out all the seeds and stringy bits (save the seeds to roast if you want). Cover the squash inside and out with a coat of olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and garlic powder.
Place the squash cut-size down onto the baking sheet and bake for 45 min to 1 hour, depending on the size of the squash. It’s cooked when the flesh is super fork tender.
When the squash is about 15 minutes away from being finished, prepare the meatballs. In a large mixing bowl, combine lamb, garlic, onion, egg, zest/squeeze of lemon, apple cider vinegar, cumin, cinnamon, parsley, breadcrumbs, honey and salt/lemon salt and mix well. In a large frying pan, add a little olive oil and set to medium heat. Cook the meatballs roughly 5 minutes, turning them when they are lightly browned.
Prepare the cream in a small saucepan. Heat the lemon juice over low heat until it is reduced by half. Add the butter and swirl for a few seconds before adding the yogurt and salt/lemon salt. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes. Add the chopped parsley and cook for another 30 seconds. Remove from the heat.
When you pull the squash from the oven and flip over the pieces, you should see a flood of steam and the edges should be lightly caramelized. If your squash is taking too long to cook, you can add a dash of water to the bottom of the pan and pop it back in the oven. This enhances the steam, but can lighten the flavor which makes it less than ideal. Once you can pierce the flesh on the cut-side of the squash easily and all the way to the skin, it is ready.
Now it becomes spaghetti. Use a fork to gently pull the fibers from the squash by working your way from the sides to the middle. Scoop them onto two plates, and keep scooping until you reach flesh that is no longer soft. Sprinkle with black lava salt if you have it! I got some for Christmas last year—it’s a combination of activated charcoal and sea salt, and supposedly has some funky healing properties. It’s tasty as a finishing salt.
Scoop a few meatballs on top of the squash and top with the lemon cream. Sprinkle everything with a little more parsley. Squash will never replace real pasta for me (I LOVE PASTA) but its fresh, savory and light which makes it a great base for heartier meats like lamb. The cream can serve as a meatball topping or be mixed into the squash to thicken it. Together, the flavors pop and make you autumn-happy.
Breathe in…breathe out…and appreciate the sweetness and sanctity of that breath.