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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Pizza: Vegan Style

After eating vegan pizza at Gratitude Cafe a few weeks ago, I finally found the secret to making vegan pizza: nutritional yeast. I think some people are hesitant to go vegan because they think they will have to give up their favorite dishes, but it seems as though there are substitutes for everything, and they are usually packed with nutrition. Don’t get me wrong – lately I have been really hankering for an egg salad sandwich. Being vegan is not easy, but it is good to know that one must not be deprived of something as delicious as pizza. 

Pizza is one of my specialties, and what I love about it is that you can throw pretty much anything on it, and as long as you remember to mix the dough a couple hours before dinner time, it is pretty simple. When I was a cheese-buying omnivore, the pizza I made used almost an entire brick of cheese, which can be expensive and quite fattening. This recipe uses entirely plant-based products, so it is high in vitamins, fiber, and protein (nutritional yeast is a complete protein). 

Ingredients for the Dough
1 tbsp dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
3 1/2 cups flour
1 tbsp olive oil
dash of salt

Ingredients for the Toppings
1 can tomato sauce
1 onion, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced
1 jalapeno pepper
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 spaghetti squash
1-2 carrots shredded
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 tbsp basil, fresh or dried
salt and pepper

I carefully stirred the yeast into the warm water and let it rest for ten minutes. In a large bowl  I combined the flour, salt, and oil. With a wooden spoon I combined the wet ingredients to the dry until combined, formed the dough into a ball, and placed it back in the bowl (slightly coating it in oil all around), covered with a tea towel. The dough must rise for at least an hour, but two hours is the most ideal. 

Once the dough rose, I kneaded the dough for about five minutes, then divided it in two and rolled out each piece into the shape of my pan. This time I used two different methods to bake the pizza: a pizza stone for one pizza (to be baked in the oven), and tinfoil for the other (to be baked on the BBQ). In the past I have just put the pizzas on a cookie sheet. No matter what, I always lightly oil and flour the baking surface to avoid sticking; however, treatment of the pizza stone is different. I allowed the stone to heat up with the oven, then lightly floured it when I was ready to assemble the pizza. 

To assemble the pizza, I first sauteed the onion, peppers, and garlic with a little bit of oil, then added the basil, salt, and pepper. Meanwhile, Tom BBQed the spaghetti squash in quarters until it was tender, and in a bowl I mixed the shredded carrot, spaghetti squash and nutritional yeast (this is the cheese part!). I spread the tomato sauce onto each pizza, then layered the sauteed veggies, followed by the “cheese”. I also sprinkled some more nutritional yeast to top off the pizzas, and added arugula in the last minute of baking. 

Each pizza baked at 500 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes. It was amazing to me that each pizza tasted different because of the way they were baked. Next time I will use the pizza stone on the BBQ now that I know how well the BBQ method works. 

This recipe is DELICIOUS. No more will I buy fake-tasting vegan cheese now that I have discovered nutritional yeast! 

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