Everyone these days wants easy, quick meals that taste great and require little prep or clean-up! WOW, that is a tall order!! All of these attributes — easy, quick, tasty, easy prep, little clean-up — are not that cut and dry.
Most people use the number of ingredients or overall length of a recipe as an indicator of a “good” recipe. Or they worry about the number of dishes and the clean-up involved before they even start. This focus on the front-end or back-end with no regard to the middle or actual cooking leads many to avoid or disregard recipes that are healthy, delicious, and satisfying. The truth is most of the “indicators” we use are highly subjective and are not an accurate representation of reality.
Easy and quick are not intrinsic qualities. They are a result of repetition and practice. The first time you do anything it will be harder and take longer than you think.
Tasty or delicious are very subjective terms as we each have our own likes and dislikes. However, creating a delicious dish is hugely dependent on the quality of ingredients used and your knowledge of flavor building and balancing, a skill that comes with practice and experience. In fact, when using a small number of ingredients the QUALITY of those ingredients is crucial, and cutting corners is the fastest way to failure.
I also see so many people avoid recipes because they involve a prep method or technique that is unfamiliar to them. Since they have never done it, it must be difficult or time-consuming. In most cases, it is just a matter of learning the skill or practicing the technique. This is especially true of anything related to knife skills. We purchase gadgets that chop, dice, and slice or pay premium prices for pre-cut produce that not only cost more but lack nutritional value and flavor.
Do you want to eat and cook healthier? Do yourself a favor and FIRST focus on technique and skill rather than recipe collecting. Once you feel comfortable in the kitchen and have mastered a few simple dishes, you will have a whole new approach when “recipe shopping”.
This recipe for Sheet Pan Spaghetti Squash is a favorite of mine and is a good place to start focusing on technique and flavor building. It fits most common criteria — simple, quick, little prep, and fast clean-up! Although steaming or even microwaving a squash whole might seems easier (and a way to avoid having to cut the squash), by roasting you bring out more layers of flavor. With its limited ingredient list, be sure you use the highest quality you can find. The olives and capers are intricate to the dish, so if you “really” don’t like them, this probably isn’t your dish. The pine nuts add a welcome creamy crunch, but sunflower seeds make a good substitute and help boost the nutritional levels. If cutting the squash is intimidating, I’ve included a video showing you how!
Until next time, Happy Cooking!!
Sheet Pan Spaghetti Squash Puttanesca
- 1 large Spaghetti Squash
- Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil or other oil of choice
- 1 Tablespoon Garlic minced
- 1 Pint Grape or cherry tomatoes
- 1/2 Cup Kalamata olives pitted and halved
- 2 Tablespoons Capers drained and rinsed
- 1/2 Teaspoon Crushed Red pepper flakes optional (to taste)
- 1/4 Cup Toasted Pinenuts or sub toasted sunflower seeds
- 1/4 Cup Fresh basil cut in chiffonade
- 1/4 Cup Chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4 Cup Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese optional (omit for Vegan option)
Preheat oven to 400 degF.
Halve squash lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Brush cut side of squash with oil. Season inside of squash with salt andpepper. Cover baking sheet with parchment or foil and place squash halves cut side down on sheet and bake 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine garlic, tomatoes, olives, capers, red pepper flakes and about 2 tablespoons oil. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and transfer the tomato mixture to sheet alongside squash. Reserve mixing bowl. Return sheet pan to oven and cook until squash is tender and the tomatoes are soft and starting to blister, about 15 minutes more.
Remove sheet pan from oven. Scrape squash crosswise to pull strands from shells into reserved bowl; discard shells. Using the back of a fork or spoon, gently push down on tomatoes on sheet pan to break them up and release their juices. Scrape tomato mixture and any accumulated juices into bowl with squash. Add about 1 tablespoon oil, then toss with half of the basil, parsley and pine nuts. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Divide among plates and garnish with remaining basil, parsley, pine nuts and Parmesan, if desired.
Vegan option — omit Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle with Nutritional yeast, if desired.