Q: Chef, I love pasta, but don’t cook it any more at home because my husband is allergic to gluten. What suggestions do you have so I can get my pasta fix and still cook for my husband?
A: You can always choose to purchase gluten-free pasta. But with fall here and winter squash in such abundance, I like to use them as a great substitute for pasta. These hard squashes can be cut into long julienne strips--wide like fettuccini or thin like spaghetti. If your knife skills are not that good, try using a mandolin. Just be careful and use the safety attachments as required.
Here is an easy recipe that only takes about 30 minutes to make. Spaghetti squash--when cooked for 25 minutes and scooped out correctly--will look like long strands of yellow spaghetti. You will love the flavor. I do recommend trying some of the other squashes: butternut squash, cut long and thin like linguini with clams and marinara; or acorn squash, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces to look like penne and served with basil chicken and pine nuts. Play with the different squashes and sub them for you favorite pastas in any dish. You can even use squash as a replacement for lasagna noodles.
1 spaghetti squash
4 T butter
1 medium tomato, seeded and diced (reserve seeds)
1/2 cup pumpkin, diced small
1/2 medium jalapeño, minced
3 T onion, finely diced
2 T cilantro, chopped
juice of 2 limes
4 large shrimp
Cajun seasoning to taste
salt/pepper to taste
1 T vegetable oil
1 kale leaf
First, wash and cut squash in half across the middle (not from stem to end). Remove the seeds and rub 1 tablespoon butter on the inside. Place on cooking sheet and roast in 350-degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes until tender.
While squash is cooking, make your pico de gallo (salsa). Place diced pumpkin in hot sauté pan, add juice from one lime and sauté until tender. Mix together the diced vegetables in a bowl. Place the seeds and center of the tomato into a cheesecloth and squeeze the juice into the bowl. Add juice of ½ lime and season with salt and pepper. Reserve salsa.
When squash is ready, remove from oven and let rest for a moment. Using a fork, scrape around the inside of the squash in a circular motion. This will create the long spaghetti you are looking for. Place the squash into a bowl and set aside.
Season shrimp with Cajun spice and pan-sear with vegetable oil. Remove shrimp and add the spaghetti squash and 2 tablespoons of butter. Toss until butter is incorporated; then add a couple of tablespoons of the pico de gallo. Place on plate with shrimp. Add a little more pico, if you wish. I suggest topping with some fried kale.
For a great snack: Squash seeds are great toasted and tossed with butter, brown sugar and Cajun spice, then cooled.