Listen now to the story of spaghetti squash.
In the early 20th century, the brilliantly yellow, oblong vegetable we now know as spaghetti squash (or vegetable spaghetti, noodle squash or squaghetti, if you’re into portmanteaus) made its timid debut on the American produce scene. As is often the case with prodigies, the spaghetti squash was not immediately understood nor accepted by society, and for many years the vegetable was relegated to a smattering of rural family gardens, unknown to and unwelcome in urban produce aisles. If certain historical events had not transpired, the spaghetti squash may have remained on the margins of the vegetable world, never dreaming of making it to, say, a farmer’s market stand in Brooklyn on a sunny Saturday in September 2014. Thankfully, a different fate awaited the spaghetti squash.
In 1939, the world was rocked by the advent of World War II, and spaghetti squash was set on a course toward fame and glory. When the U.S. entered the fray in 1941, many popular household staples, such as spaghetti noodles, fell into short supply. Patriotic Americans were urged to grow their own “victory gardens” to keep their families fed despite the quickly diminishing grocery store shelves. Touted by the Burpee Seed Company as an easily-grown substitute for pasta dishes, the spaghetti squash soon began cropping up all over urban America. If you’ve ever seen a pile of spaghetti squash lathered in marinara sauce, you know how closely it resembles the carb-loaded favorite. Four years later, the good guys declared victory over the Axis powers. Grocery store shelves were restocked in abundance, victory gardens were replanted with annuals, and the spaghetti squash once again faded into obscurity.
Our story does not end here, of course. In the 1960s, members of the hippie counterculture resurrected the lowly vegetable and brought it back to the table. As hippies everywhere embraced the squash as a healthy, natural alternative to “processed” foods, the trend soon caught on among mainstream eaters; by the 1980s, the spaghetti squash had become a familiar sight in American produce aisles. The squash is particularly popular with individuals looking to shed some inches from their waistline, thanks to its stellar nutritional makeup. One cup of the stuff weighs in at just 42 calories, 10 grams of carbohydrates, and zero grams fat and cholesterol. Plus its filling and delicious, so what’s not to love?
The rise and fall and rise again of the spaghetti squash is not unlike my own blogging journey. After an unintentional summer hiatus from the Sprout Diaries, I hereby recommit myself to these hallowed pages. Consider this, then, my comeback post, and the stalwart spaghetti squash my comeback mascot. To celebrate, let’s roast up some gourds, mix it with sauteed onions and garlicky kale, sprinkle it with creamy tangy feta and dig in. Here’s how we do it.
roasted spaghetti squash with kale
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks
1 spaghetti squash
a few tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
4 packed cups of shredded kale (about 2 bunches, stalked removed)
1 14 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
salt & pepper
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Preheat oven to 350 F.
With an extremely sharp knife and a lot of caution, slice the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds and stringy gunk with a spoon and discard. Place both halves of the squash cut-side up on a baking sheet.
Drizzle the squash with a little oil olive and rub the oil all over the cut surface. Place in oven for one hour, or until a fork is easily inserted into the squash. You may need to keep it in about 10 minutes longer, depending on your oven (I did).
Meanwhile, prepare the kale. Heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a large skillet and add onion. Cook five minutes on medium heat then add garlic; cook two minutes more. Toss in kale and chickpeas, and season with salt and pepper. Cook about five minutes or until kale is partially cooked. Set aside.
When the squash is ready, use a fork to scrape the strings out of the shell and into a large mixing bowl. (This part is so much fun, I promise you.)
In a small dish, whisk together one tablespoon of olive oil, the balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and chili powder. Add to squash and toss gently to combine.
Toss in the kale and chickpea mixture.
When you’re ready to eat, dish up the squash and top each serving with a sprinkling of crumbled feta.
As always, feel free to make this recipe your own. Perhaps some generous shakes of paprika sound good to you? Or some chopped almonds? Parmesan instead of feta, anyone? However you prepare it, this dish is creamy and crunchy, comforting and surprising. It fills you up without weighing you down. It says, “Welcome back, fall. Let’s have our best season yet.”