Spaghetti Squash Puttanesca

What is Puttanesca, you might ask? I found myself wondering the same thing when I was flipping through “The Everyday Squash Cook” by Rob Firing, Ivy Knight, and Kerry Knight. This Canadian cookbook covers many uses for squash and includes vegetarian, vegan, and omnivorous dishes. It wasn’t until I had made the recipe that I discovered that puttanesca apparently means whore, so this dish translates to Spagetti Squash made by a whore…. I don’t find that very flattering, but the dish is great. Spaghetti Puttanesca is traditionally tangy, made with olives and capers.

The exciting part about this cookbook is learning tips for cutting squash. I had a bad experience while I was at Cordon Bleu, when I was doing my 4 hours of “sous-chef-ing” for their signatures restaurant. I was involved in the prep, and was told to cut 3-4 GIANT squashes in pieces (the squashes were at least a foot long each ). I had such a hard time getting the knife to pierce into the squash, let alone get it to move. Long story short, another chef eventually helped me, but I really could have used the tips from this cookbook back then.

Here is the recipe – keeping in mind that I report on my blog what I did, so the recipe is often at least a bit different than the original recipe. I like to do things like double garlic and herbs/spices.

Serves: 3

Ingredients
olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (28oz) tomato sauce
1/4 heaping cup chopped and pitted mixed olives (black and green)
2 tbsp capers, drained and chopped
2 tbsp chopped basil (I used the entirety of a store-bought package)
1 tsp hot pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
1 roasted spaghetti squash, forked into noodles (I used two small squashes)

First I cooked the squash. I preheated the oven to 400*F. I cut a small piece off of one face of the squash so that I could place the squash on it’s back and not have it roll. Next, I cut the squash in half length-wise by piercing the squash, then hammering the knife with a meat tenderizer (aha! one of these does come in handy in vegan cooking!), which let the blade cut while I hammered. I made sure to hammer the flat part of the blade, rather than a handle. If it wasn’t obvious, a big knife is necessary here.

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Next, I scooped out the guts with a spoon. I lightly oiled the exposed flesh and placed each half face-down onto a cookie sheet. The squash was baked for 20 minutes, until a fork inserted easily. Depending on the size, the squash may need about 5-8 extra minutes. The squash cooled for about 10-15 minutes, and I pulled out all the flesh with a fork, dragging it long-wise down the squash, and letting the noodles fall into a large bowl. I set the squash aside.

In a medium sauce-pan, I heated some olive oil and sauteed the onion until soft, then added the garlic for one minute. I added the tomato sauce, olives, capers, basil, hot pepper flakes, and salt and pepper, and let the sauce simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

I re-heated the noodles in a non-stick frying pan, and served the tomato sauce on top of the noodles. I served this dish with a spinach salad and a baguette.

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Pumpkin Bisque and Mac n’ cheese

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and so has my cutie pie. He’s off to Kentucky for two months while I finish a 40 page paper and the rest of a busy semester. While he was here we made a vegan feast for my mom, stepdad, and stepbrother: all omnivores. The menu was as follows: pumpkin bisque, followed by festive vegan tart, mushroom gravy, cranberry sauce, roasted potatoes, roasted brussel sprouts, sourdough stuffing, and scalloped corn, followed by cranberry apple crisp for dessert. It was a success, I think.

Turns out that bisque means twice cooked. Who knew? The pumpkin bisque requires roasting the pumpkin, followed by melanging it in a soup. I think I managed to make a trisque (haha) because later in the week I used the soup to make pumpkin macaroni and cheese. It was so good.

The recipe for the bisque comes from my favourite plant-powered cookbook, Crazy Sexy Kitchen. I am slowly cooking my way through it. By the way, great gift for any foodie, unless they really hate veganism or healthy food. Also, keep in mind that when I post recipes from cookbooks, I often use slightly different ingredients, so you should still check out the original if you are interested.

I doubled this recipe, which was totally worth it, and fed 5 on thanksgiving, 5 lunches, and still had enough for mac n’ cheese.

Ingredients for the bisque
1 tbsp oil
2 cups fresh pumpkin, or half a medium cooking pumpkin (will explain)
1 medium white onion, diced
3 or 4 shallots, diced
5 cloves of garlic, oven roasted (will explain)
3 cups veggie stock
1 1/2 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 cup sherry wine
1/2 tsp salt
Pepper to taste

To roast the pumpkin I cut it in half and took out the guts. The seeds were reserved for toasting later. I greased a cookie sheet and placed the pumpkin face down on it, then roasted it at 400*F for about 45 minutes to an hour. By inserting a fork it’s easy to tell when to take it out – if the fork goes in easily, it’s done.

Once the pumpkin was cooled, I cut it into smaller slices and used a fish de=boning knife to scrape the skin away from the pumpkin meat.

Another crucial step is to roast the garlic. At 400*F I placed five cloves of garlic in a tinfoil wrapped ball, having drizzled a bit of olive oil inside. I roasted the garlic for about 20 minutes. When it was done, it looked slightly brown when I opened up the foil.

Now the soup begins. I cooked the onion and shallots in oil until translucent, then added the rest of the ingredients. Using a hand blender, I pureed the soup until it was smooth. A blender would also do; a Vitamix would be superb. All that was left was to heat up the soup and serve with pumpkin seeds on top. Note that I did not used the pumpkin seeds that I roasted from the pumpkin, but rather used a different brand of store-bought pumpkin seeds. I found that the ones I made got too chewy in the soup (taste test!).

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Now for the mac n’ cheese….

Ingredients for pumpkin macaroni and cheese
2 cups pumpkin bisque
3 cups dry macaroni noodles
1 tbsp vegan margarine
1 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1 tbsp vegan margerine
1/2 cup breadcrumbs

I cooked the pasta until al dente and drained it, letting cool water pass over it to stop the cooking. In a sauce pan I melted 1 tbsp vegan margerine and made a roux with the flour (this involved whisking the flour with the butter and cooking it slightly, until a thick paste forms and bubbles). I added the pumpkin bisque and the rest of the ingredients, and whisked it until it came to a boil, letting it boil for a few minutes. The soup thickened up.

I put the cooked macaroni noodles into the sauce pan and mixed it until all the noodles were covered. I then transferred the noodles into a greased casserole dish.

In a small bowl I melted the other tablespoon of vegan margarine and then mixed in the breadcrumbs. I topped the casserole dish with the breadcrumb mixture, evenly spreading it over the macaroni. I baked the casserole for 20 minutes at 350*F with the lid on for most of it, but took the lid off and broiled it for a few minutes at the end.

I love pumpkin so much , so these dishes were a treat.

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Vegan Cauliflower Creamy Pasta

Creamy pasta is one of my favourite comfort foods, and I was pleasantly surprised by this recipe that I found on ohsheglows.com. This is a website I use very frequently to find new interesting vegan recipes, especially when I am not sure what I want to make for dinner.

Let’s face it – typical alfredo sauce has nothing particularly healthy in it. This recipe takes vitamin-rich cauliflower and turns it into a delightful pasta companion, without using butter, parmesan, or cream. I love using vegetables creatively, especially to create comfort food; for example, I used spaghetti squash as cheese on vegan pizza.

Ingredients for the sauce
1 medium head of cauliflower, cut into pieces
1/2 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup non-dairy milk (I used soy milk)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
Juice from 1/2 small lemon
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
salt and pepper to taste

Other ingredients
Box of pasta, cooked
Optional: broccoli, cut into small pieces

I began by steaming the cauliflower until I could easily insert a fork into the florets. In a small pan I heated the oil and lightly sauteed the garlic. I put all the sauce ingredients in a food processor and pureed it until smooth. I steamed the broccoli separately, then added the sauce and broccoli to the cooked pasta, and heated the dish until hot. This is a simple, delicious, and nutritious meal. Comfort food with a healthy twist.

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