Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Caramelized Red Onions, Goat Cheese, and Toasted Walnuts

There are a few questions I don’t like being asked. “What size jeans are you?” “Did you want that with whipped cream?” “Can you give me the answer to this math problem?” Those are merely a sampling. They make me feel uncomfortable and unnecessarily stressed. I’ve carefully honed my behavior to avoid these kinds of questions (meaning I wear sweats, order Americanos, and refuse to take a math class until it is absolutely needed).

But lately, a question I can’t seem to escape is whether or not I am a vegetarian.

Growing up in Wisconsin, I didn’t encounter a whole lot of herbivores (I actually only knew one vegetarian before coming to college). Many times our family meals consisted of meat, potatoes, and more meat. Maybe some tasty biscuits from a can if we were feeling fancy.

Despite this meal plan, I managed to cultivate a strong taste for vegetables, particularly since coming to college. Raw, steamed, roasted, any way I can have them I will happily fill my plate. I include them in nearly every meal and feel very thrown off my axis if I don’t have any vegetables at all in a day. All very strange, I know.

Not all of my friends here share my outlook on, or love for, vegetables. I’ll talk about a dinner I made or order a meatless entree at a restaurant and be bombarded with a chorus of “Are you a vegetarian?”

I just stare at them for a few seconds before I answer that no, no I am not. "But then how do I eat so many vegetables?" "Why am I eating a salad?" "Do I actually LIKE rabbit food?" On and on the questions go and I begin to get overwhelmed, despite my baggy sweatpants.

Although commendable, vegetarianism just isn't for me. There’s no way I could give up a nice medium-rare steak or a juicy burger or roasted chicken. Or the pulled pork I made last night and ate with my hands standing over the roasting pan (+1 for living alone). I could never dream of leaving all of that behind. But this Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Caramelized Red Onions, Goat Cheese, and Toasted Walnuts certainly made me consider becoming vegetarian. Even if only for one meal.

Warm spaghetti squash combined with creamy goat cheese, rich caramelized onions, and crunchy walnuts is the perfect side dish for fall. Or, eat the entire batch solo as a light, yet filling, vegetarian dinner.

Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Caramelized Red Onions, Goat Cheese, and Toasted Walnuts

1 medium spaghetti squash (1.5 – 2 pounds)

2 TBSP olive oil

1 TBSP salted butter

½ medium red onion, sliced

¼ cup walnut pieces

2 – 4 TBSP goat cheese, crumbled

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Using a serrated knife, cut the stem off the squash. Stand squash up on flat, cut end and cut in half, lengthwise. Lay pieces cut side down on prepared baking sheet and poke a few holes in the skin with a fork.

Place squash in preheated oven for 35 – 45 minutes or until edges are slightly golden and squash is tender. Remove and allow to cool until warm to the touch.

While the squash cooks, preheat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and butter and heat until butter has melted. Add in the onion and stir to coat. Sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt. Let cook, stirring occasionally, until onions have browned and caramelized. Remove pan from heat.

While the onions caramelize, toast the walnuts. Place nuts in a dry, non-stick skillet over medium heat and warm until the nuts begin to release their oils and become fragrant. This should take about five minutes, but keep a close eye on them, nuts can burn quickly! Set aside for later.

Once the squash has cooled enough to be handled, scoop out and discard the seeds using a large spoon (if the squash is cooked enough the seeds should come out with little to no hassle, if they’re sticking to the meat of the squash, pop it back into the oven for a few minutes to continue cooking). Use a fork to scrape along the inside of the squash and get all of the “noodle” goodness out.

Add the cooked squash and toasted nuts to the pan of onions and stir to combine everything. If the dish feels too cool, place the pan over low heat while stirring to warm the dish through. Top with crumbled goat cheese and serve immediately.

I wonder how this would taste with pulled pork on top… 

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