Thursday, September 22, 2011

Vegetable Garden

Though he'll be the first to proudly proclaim his New Yorker status to anyone who so much as mentions the East coast, for as long as I can remember my father has had a rural vegetable garden in our back yard. Once in a while I'll break out my status as a native New Yorker as well, but in actuality, as much as my parents don't want to admit it, I'm more used to Midwestern soil, as my parents had to relocate our small family to Ohio when I was just a baby. If I recall the story correctly, however, my father has always had a green thumb. His first attempt was an avocado plant started from a simple avocado pit in a glass of water, held up by toothpicks. This plant relocated with our family, not just from New York when I was a baby, but to Indiana when we had to move again when I was thirteen.

Every summer I see the garden go from a small patch of fenced-in dirt to a thriving jungle of home grown goodies, overflowing with endless tomatoes, green peppers, banana peppers, scallions and zucchini the size of baseball bats. Though I really can't stand raw tomatoes, I would still help dad pick the reddest ones, willingly getting my fingers dirty, yet dodging any visible earthworms.

Late August and September rolls around and the summer comes to a close. Now is the time to harvest the hidden gems of the garden: the potatoes. Buried underground beneath their green leafy plants, Dad anxiously digs up the earth to see if the potato crop is "good" this year. (This year, not so "good"... about 30 pounds as opposed to the usual 70+.)

One more crop thrives this time of year, bright yellow spaghetti squash. The vines of this plant are out of control, vibrantly growing well beyond the garden's fence, nearly into the neighbor's yard. This hefty squash isn't exactly a power house of nutrients, rather a quiet amount of Vitamins A and C and folic acid. Anyway, it's just plain fun to prepare. And so I'm brought to the original reason for my posting: to share my recent spaghetti squash recipe with my father who asked me for it on Facebook 15 minutes ago.

I regret not taking more pictures while cooking this bold yellow squash. But it's so easy, you won't even need pictures for guidance.

-Preheat your oven to 350
-Cut the squash in half, length-wise
-Place the squash, cut side down, in a baking dish.
-Fill the baking dish with about a half inch of water.
-Bake the squash for about 40 minutes, or until tender when poked with a fork

Now is the fun part. If you have kids, they should really love this. Let it cool a bit, and use oven mits or tongs. Take the squash out of the baking dish or flip it over. Now just simply take a fork and scrape all the insides out. It should easily come out in strings that resemble angel hair pasta.

Now what? The squash has a mild flavor, so you can get inventive here. Spaghetti squash, like most winter squashes, can go either savory or sweet. So for the last four or so days, I've been eating this stuff for breakfast. (Also, the seeds roast up quite nicely!)

If you're tired of oatmeal, replace your oatmeal with spaghetti squash! Here's how to dress it up:

Add a bit of butter or margarine, a dash of brown sugar and a pinch of cinnamon. Throw in some raisins and chopped apples. Now just microwave it for about a minute, then stir it all up.

You can also use spaghetti squash as a substitute for... you guessed it, spaghetti! Try adding some marinara and basil and garlic for an interesting twist on a classic dish.

If you're not feeling so inventive, this squash works well as a side dish, simply with a little butter and salt.

Though my potted plants and roof top basil can't compare to the lush garden my father grows every year, it still comforts me to have a little bit of home here in the city. If you have any recipes for spaghetti squash, share them with me! If they're on a blog I can link to them for you. Just leave a comment with all the info.