Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Spaghetti Squash Primavera

Last night I wanted Pho-No-Mo.  It was the first time in over a month that I didn't want Pho.  I wanted to make something I desperately love since I had the whole evening to myself with the boys.  I wanted to spend a little extra time on the preparation and just get inspired again to make something other than soup with as many veggies crammed in it or a salad with as many vegetables piled high on it.

I thought about it for a bit and one of the dishes that I cooked at Culpeper High School in my Home Economics Class was Pasta Primavera.  I made it in class but I probably didn't even try a fork full because it was not vegan and I don't like white flour pasta, unless it is fresh, and I mean Mama Lane just cranked it through her pasta machine fresh. That and I had a teensy-weensy bit of a healthfood obsession and a teensy-weensy bit of an exercise obsession. Okay, who am I kidding, I lost 1/3 of my body weight my senior year in high school.  138 lbs to 84 lbs wasn't pretty. I wasn't eating anything with white flour or whipping cream in it and I was hitting the gym after class to do chest and back that day, but I did enjoy cooking it. Also, I didn't have to worry about eating it because my cooking partner had her own food issues and so she ate all of it.  We were quite a pair.

I love Home Ec teachers.  Mine were all as stuffy as Martha Stewart, just deadpan voices (which is my favorite way to tell a joke; you have to listen to the words to get it and it can be completely lost on people), and everything is so critical in a recipe or crafting.  I laugh at the way they taught me how to measure flour.  Takes so flipping long with the handled spoon, the measuring cup, the perfect flat knife or spatula.   I just eyeball the stuff and dump it unceremoniously into the bread machine and voila, Walla, I've got the most beautiful dough to make my herbed out foccacia, or pretzels, or slider buns.

 I even remember being lectured on how to clean a sink properly and how to pick up broken glass from the floor.  It was a twelve step process.  Kinda silly stuff, but I loved it, and I was good at it. Just follow the recipe. Follow the instructions. Then, add your own flair and the Bettys would swoon over it.

Home Economics has always been a favorite subject for me, that and English Composition, or whatever they are calling it these days, where they assign books for you to read and review.

You mean I get to read a book for a grade? Done.  But, I promise you, you won't like my report.

I've read too many books to think that the Catcher in the Rye was J.D. Salinger's best book. Next time, Teach, give me a book I can sink my mental teeth in, not another coming of age book.

You will not believe it, I certainly didn't think it was possible, that I love Andre Agassi's autobiography Open.  My sister's fiance let me borrow it on Saturday night.

He said it was the best book.  He has a passion for tennis and grew up watching Agassi work (because it sure wasn't play for him) or throw the bird at someone.  Me, I haven't played tennis since I was a kid swinging around a racquet at the Country Club for grins. I just love passionate people who achieve greatness through hard work, breaking through the barriers of the fear that was holding them back, and truly finding a bit of peace in all of the suffering for the sake of success (every time I read the word "sake", I confuse it for the Japanese rice wine sake; did you do it too? or is just me that sees food and drink in everything).  I just can't put the book down.  It is making me feel so inspired to keep the dream going. Peel back a few layers of the perfectionist and know that there is no perfect, just let it flow. Don't work so hard against yourself. Thy will be done.

The most surprising thing was my comparison of his work on the court and my work in the kitchen which are so similar in nature.  We both describe them as the loneliest jobs in the world.  Think about it.  Tennis, you train by yourself for decades against a ball thrower, you are in the tournament (you and you alone, there is not team), and you can't talk to your coach or touch the other opponent, heck you can't even smell your opponent across the net.  You are just taking a beating or giving a proper one.  You have no feed back and win or lose, you suffer alone.  Well, I can sympathize with that.

I live in the middle of nowhere, on a farm, where I have never spoken to one of my neighbors (I know, for shame, Jennifer, I'm trying to get out of my comfort zone but they are strangers to me). I cook, package, and deliver to the receiving department at the back of the building of some wonderful food hub, then I turn around and leave.  The only exchange that took place was an email for the order, delivery to receiving, and a signature on my invoice.  You don't meet one person that says thank you, I love this stuff.  You don't get a hug that says nice to see you friend.  You get a bit of small talk about the weather if you are lucky, then it is off to the kitchen to cook up another batch of awesome loneliness. By myself. Alone.

Am I dramatic or what?  But some days it just seems to feel a bit like you are a kid spending the night at your Grandma's creaky house and she's piled three quilts on top of you as she tucks you in a bed that is too big for you. You're going to be all alone with 15 lbs.of blankets on your little bird chest as you listen to the constant flow of cars passing by on the highway outside the window all night.

Le sigh.

But, thankfully, when I read about another prodigy, who suffers from the same lonely heart, I feel fabulous! Like, oh good.  I'm not alone.  I AM NOT ALONE in these feelings.  Hee. Hee.  I always say "oh no, I'm feeling feelings," and it just makes me laugh and laugh.  Just like when my big brother used to say, "I like the water when it's wet." Stuff like that just cracks me up.

So, on my road to food enlightenment and peace, I'm slowing down and going back to the beginning. Don't you always go back to the beginning?  I wanted to savor the flavor of a pasta primavera, the way that I want it to be done.  The way I prefer to eat, loads of fabulous veggies, roasted spaghetti squash instead of the lifeless box of reconstituted pasta, fresh torn basil, Bangarang!, pinch of nutmeg, the pop of fresh peas between your teeth and tongue, the meatiness of a mushroom, just delicious, and all flowing together to make a gorgeous dish that is as much a feast for the eyes in all its resplendent glory, and intoxicating aromatics,with  a luscious cream, and the bountiful benefits of taking all of these veggies into your body, nourishing you, becoming part of you.  Oh, it is wondrous to behold.

And here it is for you and you and you and you-a. ;)  Someone was talking about the Sound of Music to me the other day and said it was as epic as Les Mis?  Hmmm, I don't know.  Do you think so too?

Spaghetti Squash Primavera
1 big spaghetti squash, (cut in half, remove seeds, bake at 350 degrees in a big dish, cut side up for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes before scooping out the spaghetti ropes, dig your spoon on the edge of where the skin meets the flesh and pull up.  Separate the ropes with your fingers so it looks like spaghetti instead of mush)
1-2 Tbsp. EVOO
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, halved, peeled and sliced thin
1 red pepper, sliced
1 orange pepper, sliced
2 carrots, peeled and small diced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced (I used a shiitake and crimini blend)
1/2 cup frozen peas (set in water for a few minutes to thaw)
1/4 to 1/2 cup vegenaise (Follow Your Heart brand is my fave)
1 tsp. Bangarang! signature seasoning
Pinch of nutmeg
1/4 cup fresh basil, torn

Bake the spaghetti squash, remove from oven and let cool a bit.  Scoop out the spaghetti ropes, carefully, and reserve for the grand finale.  In a big skillet, warm your olive oil over medium heat and toss in the garlic, onion. peppers.  Saute it all up for a bit and toss in the carrots and mushrooms, cook until the mushrooms are softened to your liking.  Toss in the peas and mix it all up.  Turn the heat down on the skillet and to in your spaghetti squash noodles.  Add the vegenaise, spices and nutmeg.  Give it a good toss making sure everything gets coated.

Get out your plates and use your tongs or noodle serving spoon to place a nice portion on each plate.  Top with some Bangarang! and fresh basil leaves.  Serve hot.

And, oh my goodness, it is like a warm, noodlelee salad with a creamy dressing, and just all kinds of fabulous.

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