Monday, September 28, 2009

Squashy success

My first attempt at cooking spaghetti squash can now be classified a success! It wasn't write-home-to-Mom amazing, but it was pleasant and surprised both me and The H. I love that it was a bit "al dente" and not a mushy, pasty mass like most autumn squashes I've had in the past. Its color was a rich golden that reminded me of a hay bale. There was no need to slather this squash with butter and brown sugar and slam it down before it got cold, as I did so often during my childhood. I did, however, use those very seasonings (well, SmartBalance "butter"), just less of them. The H even took more than one serving, which I have not seen him do with any cooked vegetable other than green beans.

The rest of dinner was a delicious accompaniment; I laid balsamic-marinated chicken breasts on top of the squash and served a completely from-scratch (as in, not even a recipe) spinach-barley risotto that I am most proud of. That is the recipe I'm going to share, since it's my very own and I am so pleased with how it turned out. Measurements are approximate, as that is how I cook, so adjust to your own tastes.

Spinach Barley Risotto - serves 4 - approx. 45min cooking time

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup quick-cooking barley
4 cups broth or stock (I might use some wine next time)
4 cups fresh spinach, chopped
1 large chard leaf, chopped
Lemon zest
Lemon juice, optional
Salt and pepper to taste

Add 1-2 Tbsp oil to a deep pot (I used my pressure cooker without the lid) and saute the garlic until fragrant. Add the barley and toast, stirring often, until slightly brown. Add a bit more oil if the barley starts sticking to the bottom of the pan. Slowly add about 1 cup of the broth and stir; season with salt and pepper. Stir almost continuously. Let the mixture bubble over med-high heat until most of the broth is absorbed. Add another cup of broth and repeat. Don't forget to keep stirring! Repeat until all broth is used, adding the chopped greens with the last addition of broth. Add zest and/or juice and more salt and pepper just before serving.

This came out creamy and flavorful; I could not have done better if I'd had a family recipe staring me in the face. The addition of the chard was a last-minute inspiration when I was in the fridge for the lemon; we are going out of town again soon and I want to use as much of our fresh produce as possible before then. The chard was so buttery when we had it with eggs last week, I thought it might contribute to the creaminess of this dish. I was not disappointed! This risotto was the only portion of our fantastic fall dinner that the baby would even consider swallowing. He was eating it by the fistful. I'd consider that a good review, wouldn't you?


  1. I LOVE spaghetti squash! I found a recipe I made a couple of weeks ago. It called for baking the squash for 45 min and then saute' in EVOO, basil, salt and pepper to taste. It was WONDERFUL!

  2. I can try that, thanks for the idea!