Happy Thanksgiving from Spain. I’ll sieze any excuse for a feast! Though I live in Spain, where Thanksgiving Thursday is not a holiday, I enjoy having friends and family over for a special dinner. For me, Thanksgiving is a harvest celebration, so I usually incorporate foods from my garden. I like the traditional menu—turkey (must be special-ordered from the butcher at this time of year), stuffing, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie—but often give it a twist, such as a Spanish-inflected stuffing with chorizo.
Last year, the pumpkin pie came up for redefinition. I had a bumper crop of spagetti squash in my garden and scrambled to find some new ways to cook them. Spaghetti squash (which my Spanish gardener had never seen before) has an identity problem. Vegetable or noodle? The flesh cooks up into skinny strands, or “spaghetti”. Thus, its identity problem. And, also its versatility. I decided it could go either way.
I took my spaghetti squash around the globe. Starting in Spain, I used it in one of my favorite vegetable preparations. I prepared a quick “dressing” of slivered garlic, flecks of chile and serrano ham sautéed in olive oil with the addition of smoked Spanish paprika and tossed it with the cooked strands of spaghetti squash. It made a great vegetable side with roast turkey, pork chop or grilled salmon.
Looking to Italy, I tossed the cooked squash with a garlicky pesto sauce and lots of grated cheese. Texturally speaking, lightly cooked spaghetti squash easily subs for shredded cabbage in slaw. With a hint of ginger, the slaw pairs with simple grilled chicken breast or goes nicely alongside a juicy burger on a bun.
A squash is a squash is a pumpkin. Using that logic, I decided to substitute spaghetti squash for smooth pumpkin puree in a pie. The result is a pie with traditional flavor plus lots of texture. “Very unusual,” said one guest. “I love it!,” said another. “Better than yucky pumpkin,” said one of the kids.
How to prepare spaghetti squash
Use a sharp knife to cut the squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and discard them. Place one half, cut side down, in a microwave-safe container with 1/4 cup water. Microwave on high (full power) for 5 minutes. Turn the squash cut side up. Microwave on high for 5 minutes. Allow the squash to stand 5 minutes. (For a crunchier texture, microwave 4 minutes on each side.)
Repeat the procedure with the remaining half. Use a fork to scoop out the strands of squash. Squash may also be steamed until tender.
A squash weighing 1 3/4 pounds yields about 2 cups cooked and shredded flesh, serving 4 as a side dish.
Spaghetti Squash Pie
Honey replaces sugar and yogurt stands in for evaporated milk in this pie. The yogurt is drained to thicken it. Non-fat yogurt will work in this recipe. To pour honey easily, lightly oil the measuring cup.
For the crust
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
Combine the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor. Add the butter and pulse until mixture is crumbly. Add the egg and process just until mixture forms a soft dough.
Using floured fingers, press the dough onto the bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie pan. Chill the dough 30 to 60 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350º. Line the crust with foil and fill with pie weights. Bake 20 minutes. Remove foil and weights and allow the crust to cool.
For the filling
1 cup plain, unsweetened yogurt
2 cups cooked and shredded spaghetti squash
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
3 large eggs
1/2 cup honey
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
Place the yogurt in a fine sieve and allow to drain for 30 to 60 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400º.
Place the squash in a mixing bowl. Add the ginger and orange zest and toss. Combine drained yogurt, eggs, honey, flour, cinnamon, cloves and salt in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour the mixture into the squash and combine well. Fold in the walnuts.
Ladle the squash mixture into the partially-baked pie crust. Bake 20 minutes. Lower oven heat to 350º. Bake until a skewer comes out clean, about 30 minutes longer.
Cool the pie on a rack. Serves 8.