Saturday, November 7, 2009

Spaghetti Squash Marinara



Before I even begin writing about this meal, I have to apologize for the hideous quality of this picture. Spaghetti squash is tricky to photograph on even the most patient of days, which Wednesday night was certainly not. We spent hours wandering around town in search of a new artificial xmas tree for this year and didn't get home until fairly late (oh, how I wish we could be environmentally friendly and get a real one, but alas, Paul is deathly allergic).

When we finally got home I decided to roast what turned out to be THE most stubborn and thick-skinned spaghetti squash I have ever come across in my life - the sucker took nearly an hour and a half to be done. By that point I was hungry and cranky and was not in the mood for fiddling with my camera. I took this one truly horrible photo and sat down to eat.

The funny thing is that I thought this meal was the most efficient selection for such a busy evening because I had a fridge full of leftover marinara from the polenta lasagna I made earlier in the week. It was really only a matter of roasting the squash and chopping/steaming some fresh vegetables.

Don't let the glorious unattractiveness of this photo deter you from thinking this a delicious idea, and a more nutrient-rich alternative to wheat-spaghetti marinara. It's really very simple to put this together: 1 spaghetti squash, 3/4-1 cup of marinara (homemade for the win, but canned will work too) and some of your favourite vegetables and top it off with freshly cracked black pepper and a generous helping of dried chives. Broccoli of course made the cut, because it always makes the cut at our house, as did sunchokes.

These are sunchokes:



Alright, so they are somewhat freaky and root-ish looking. That was my initial thought when our dear produce vendor pointed me in their direction and suggested I try them.

We buy our produce every Friday morning from a local supplier, which is owned by a father and son team. These two men are the greatest. Everytime I walk in there he greets us with a friendly "oh, my vegans are here!". He always has the traditional go-to produce items, but depending on the time of year and what's kicking around he also has some quirky things now and again. In the name of being adventurous and spontaneous, we rarely turn down his suggestions.

Last Friday it was the sunchoke he was suggesting (also called a jerusalem artichoke, which is kind of a misnomer because it is really nothing like an artichoke at all). When I got home I did a little googling to see what these little guys were all about.

And what they are all about is tons of potassium (with fewer calories and a lower glycemic index rating than potatoes). They are also believed to have prebiotic qualities relating to high inulin levels (love your colon!!!) AND these high inulin levels aid ease the body's absorption of calcium. They are also an iron powerhouse, with half a cup equaling 14% of your daily iron intake (compared to the 3-5% found in potatoes). This site provides more detailed information on the power of the sunchoke, articulated in a far better way than my pathetic attempts at sounding like a nutritionist.

All the websites suggest subbing in sunchokes for potatoes, but I didn't get much of a potato feel from them. To me, they were more reminiscent of waterchestnuts and so I threw them in both singapore curry and sweet and sour veggies on rice over the past week (as well as this squash marinara). The web suggests steaming/stirfrying them for 10 minutes or so, but I prefer them crunchy (which is probably why I associate them with waterchestnuts) and so I took them out of the steamer after just a couple minutes.

One thing you don't want to do is peel them before cooking. I know, they kind of look creepy with their skins on, but almost all of the nutrients are located just beneath the skin and you risk losing them when you toss the skin. Just scrub them really, really well - you won't taste the skins at all.

And, because I really do feel bad about how bad that picture is, vegan dad is far more skilled than I am with the camera and sensitive objects like squash.

Oh, and before I go...one more reason to be open-minded about a vegan diet.

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