I love Autumn. There’s not much Fall to be had in Austin, but each and every year I try to will this season to occur. The leaves don’t chain color, unless you count the grass dying, the weather barely cools, but I still make my house smell like synthetic pumpkin, I wear layers in earth tones, and I make squash. Lots and lots of squash.
In an attempt to make squash more than a side dish, I decided to make a Spaghetti Squash Alfredo. Creamy without being heavy, filling without being packed with carbs. To lighten the sauce, I skipped the usual heavy cream, cut back on the butter, and made a roux instead.
Spaghetti Squash Alfredo
1 Spaghetti Squash
3 TBSP butter
4 TBSP all purpose flour
1/4 cup chicken stock (or dry white wine)
1/2 cup milk (I used 1%, but any will do)
2 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
Juice of 1 half lemon
1/2 TBSP dried parsley flakes or 1 TBSP freshly chopped parsley
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise, and scrape out the seeds. In a 4 sided cookie pan or large pyrex fill with enough water to fill about 1/4-1/2 inch up the sides. Place the squash (which at this point will look nothing like spaghetti) face down into the water. Roast the spaghetti squash for 35-45 minutes or until tender. I like my pasta al dente, so I took the squash out at 35 minutes.
The sauce comes together quickly, so make this no more than 10 minutes before the squash needs to come out. Melt the butter in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in the flour until you make a paste of even consistency. Add the milk and chicken stock or wine, whisking to incorporate. Add the garlic and let simmer for about 3 minutes, whisking periodically. Sprinkle in the parm and the garlic powder, whisking to combine. If the alfredo sauce seems to thick, add chicken stock or white wine a TBSP at a time. As it sits and simmers it will thicken, so be sure to whisk periodically. It is best, however, to make the sauce a little thick because the squash does contain a lot of liquid naturally and that will moisten the sauce once tossed together. Just before serving, whisk in the lemon juice for brightness. You can also sprinkle the lemon juice directly over the squash prior to topping with sauce if preferred.
Getting back to the squash, once done roasting, remove from cookie sheet or pyrex and let cool about 5 minutes. Wrapping the back of the squash in a tea towel (the side with the skin on it) lightly separate the innards of the squash with a fork. I stuck the tines of the fork into the squash meat and gentle twisted, revealing the meat to be spaghetti-like.
Once the squash meat is cleaned out of the skin, place your “spaghetti” into a paper towel lined colander in the sink. The one draw back to this dish is that the squash contains a lot of moisture and you want to try to remove some of that prior to serving, just so the meal doesn’t get watery. Once the sauce is done or the squash has drained a bit in the colander for 5 or so minutes, which ever comes first, place the spaghetti squash into a large bowl and toss with the sauce, reserving about 1/4 of alfredo for topping if desired. Plate topping each serving with a little extra sauce and a small sprinkling of parsley. I also topped mine with a shredded slice of prosciutto, but sautéed chicken or shrimp would also be perfect as well to add a healthy and light punch of protein. I really couldn’t detect much of a difference in flavor between the squash and regular spaghetti at all. It was a wonderfully flavorful Autumn dinner, without weighing us down, whether or not Fall was actually happening outside.
I’m hosting a few friends for dinner to watch the Oscars this year. While I except the award show to be filled with mediocrity, my dinner will not. I wanted something bright, filling, delicious, and cheap. Feeding a lot of people adds up fast, so I like to keep costs down where possible.
Normally, I would not choose Pasta Primavera as an exciting meal, per se. More of a pathetic meal would sound more apt to its usual description. America’s Test Kitchen, however, inspired me, as the always do, to look at the usual in a different light. Cook the pasta like risotto and -BAM – awesomeness in every bite. Use the pasta’s own starch as a thickening agent – BOOM – creaminess without the heaviness.
It’s like Alfredo and Primavera had a baby. A delicious, delicious baby.
Now, most of this is directly from America’s Test Kitchen, so I don’t really deserve any credit. I made tweaks here and there to make it even more delicious, but I couldn’t have done it without ATK. I love this recipe because you can really plan ahead and do many of the steps far in advance to make serving a group of people even easier.
1 bunch Asparagus
1 cup frozen peas
4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed in a garlic press
1/2 TBSP red pepper flakes
1 TBSP ginger
4 cups vegetable stock
1 1/2 cup water
1 TBSP mint
2 TBSP chives
1/2 TBSP rosemary
zest of 1 lemon
5 TBSP olive oil
1 box pasta, penne, cavatelli, or campanelle recommended. This won’t really work with spaghetti or a strand style pasta.
1 cup white wine. I used a pinot grigio and it was fantastic.
Juice of 1 lemon
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
3 TBSP heavy cream (optional)
Salt & pepper to taste
Leeks! Leeks are the sandiest thing ever next to a beach. Chop off the top two inches of outer leek area and cut off the bottom inch. Then roughly chop the top half, the darkest green area, and rinse 3 cups of it in a bowl and set aside. Then cut the remaining light green parts into 1/2 inch pieces, throw in a separate bowl, and rinse. So much easier to rinse once the leeks are in chunks.
Saute the light colored leeks over medium heat in 2 TBSP of oil for about five minutes or until the leeks brown a little, stirring periodically.
While the leeks are sauteing, snap off the ends of the asparagus. Take a stalk of asparagus and start bending from the end; it will snap naturally at the freshest point. You want to eat from the natural break to the tip. Chop the ends that you would normally discard into 1/2 inch pieces and dump into the bowl of darker leek slices. Cut the edible pieces of asparagus into 1 inch bites.
Once the leeks have cooked a bit, let go of some of their moisture, and browned a little, add the i inch asparagus pieces and crushed garlic, and stir. Continue to cook until asparagus is just tender, 2-3 minutes. Add the frozen peas and saute for an additional minute until the peas are just warmed, 1-2 minutes. Turn off heat and set the cooked veggies aside.
In a deep stock pot or sauce pan, heat up the veggie stock, water, dark leeks, asparagus, red pepper, and ginger. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes.
While you’re doctoring the stock, chop up the chives, mint, and rosemary, and combine with the zest of a lemon in a bowl. Set aside. Once the stock has simmered for 10 minutes, strain into a bowl. Discard the strained vegetable remnants. This step and the vegetable cooking step can be completed a couple of hours in advance if necessary. You want there to be 5 cups of rich, doctored and strained stock left. If you’re going to immediately cook the pasta, place the strained stock back into the saucepan and set over medium heat. Keep the stock warm, as it will be added to the pasta in a few minutes.
Once you’re ready to cook the pasta, heat 2 TBSP oil in a pasta pot over medium heat. Toss in your pasta of choice and brown a bit. This is similar to cooking a risotto, which gives each bite tons of flavor. This only takes about 5 minutes, but you want to stir the pasta regularly to get each piece to brown a little. once the pasta is showing signs of golden deliciousness, add the cup of white wine to the pot and stir until the pasta has completely absorbed it, about 1-2 minutes. At this point the pasta is still raw, but tastes like magic, richly buttered bread. It’s amazing.
When the wine has been absorbed, add the stock and turn the heat up to medium-high. Cook for an additional 8- 10 minutes or until the pasta is done stirring every . I used Simply Smart pasta, which takes closer to 12 minutes to reach the correct texture.
At that point, turn off the heat and add the juice of one lemon. Stir. Add the 3 TBSP of heavy cream, 1/2 of the herb mixture, and grated parm, and stir well. Once the sauce has reached your desire consistency, dump in the cooked veggie mixture. I like my sauce a little thicker so I put the pot back over heat to stir for an additional 4 minutes, just until it was rich and creamy. Add the cherry tomatoes and – you guessed it – stir. You want the heat of the sauce & pasta to just warm and wilt the tomatoes. Plate each serving and sprinkle on a little of the remaining herb mixture. It’s a beautiful thing.
I topped mine with shaved parm and had a side of steamed broccolini with lemon juice as a side, because one can never have enough veggies. It. Was. INCREDIBLE. It can serve 6 reasonable people or 4 hungry ones.
I made shrimp scampi last weekend and it was A. May. Zing. This is not that recipe, but I will add that soon.
Since the shrimp, however, I’ve been craving scampi again, but my boyfriend isn’t much of a seafood guy. So, I relent: I get to make scampi and he gets to eat it with chicken.
The thing about Shrimp scampi is that it’s lighter to accentuate the natural flavor of the shell fish. Chicken is versatile because it’s natural flavor is next to nil. The simplicity of the basic shrimp scampi sauce is too delicate and and dry for chicken, so I decided to make a bit of a creamy base and a dash of red pepper to give the chicken a bit of an oomph.
My first pet peeve of standard chicken scampi: ghostly chicken. I like my chicken browned. On top of being more visually appetizing, browning the chicken will leave delicious brown bits in the pan that I can add to flavor sauce. This doesn’t cook the chicken through!I I’m just browning it. As I’ve mentioned in other recipes, I also don’t like when things are needlessly oily or fatty. Yes, butter is totally marvelous, but that doesn’t mean we have to drown in it. I’m not even referring to this in a healthy way; too much is just not appetizing. With this recipe I reduced the oil and butter significantly: Your average scampi calls for 2 cups of butter or 1 cup butter with a 1/4 olive oil. This recipe uses a mere 4 TBSPs of butter and 1 TBSP of olive oil. And it was freakin’ awesome.
8oz chicken tenderloins, rinsed and dried
2/3 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 TBSP olive oil
I mixed together the salt, pepper, and flour, and dredged the chicken tenders in it, shaking off an excess. I then browned the chicken over medium high heat in oil, about 2 minutes per side.
After my chicken was golden and piled high, it was time to start on the sauce!
1/3 cups milk
4 TBSP butter, tossing two TBSPs in the left over flour dredge
3 cloves crushed garlic
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp parsley
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
I Then deglazed the pan in a way I’ve never done before: Turning off the heat I poured 1/3 milk into the pan, whisking constantly – I wanted to deglaze, not cook my milk. Once the bubbling subsided, about 30 seconds, I whisked in the butter coated in flour. This was the start of my sauce. Turning the heat back on to medium I added the rest of the butter. Immediately followed the wine, stock, garlic, red pepper, and parsley. Then I reincorporated the chicken to continue cooking through while in the the tweaked scampi.
After 7 minutes, I removed the chicken, now cooked through, and reduced the sauce. I whisked in the Parmesan cheese, squeezed in the juice of 1/2 lemon, and added salt and pepper to taste. Served with 8oz pasta, garlic bread, and steamed asparagus, this was an exciting, flavorful, and filling twist on basic scampi. It was so delicious, I’m not sure I’ll have scampi with with shrimp again.
*Side note: Seriously, this was fantastic. It came out so good that even 24 hours later I can’t stop thinking about it.
*T-Rex also enjoyed the scampi