Roasted Spaghetti Squash, Grape Tomatoes and Peaches with Feta and Fresh Basil

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of what I described as “nonsense” in one of my first posts, that being using the oven to prepare a meal when it’s ridiculously hot outside. It started with the roasted acorn squash soup I felt compelled to make a couple weeks ago (shedding a few pounds of water weight in the process), then the idea for the recipe in this post came along, and tonight I was back at it again, sparking up the ol’ pilot light (I’m now an expert at this) in the Gypsy Roller’s miniature oven in preparation for a dish that will appear in a future post. When we arrived in the Okanagan at the end of July I guess I was so stunned by the heat I figured I’d be subsisting solely on cucumber sandwiches, mint juleps and popsicles for the remainder of the summer; at that point acknowledging the existence of the oven, let alone turning it on, did strike me as completely nonsensical. Obviously I didn’t anticipate the awesome bounty that is the Lake Country Famers’ Market and the abundance of vegetables (and fruit) there that lend themselves nicely to a good roasting!

So I’m on an oven-roasting kick. I’m also on a squash kick. My acorn squash soup was a success and piqued my curiousity as to what else I could get up to with members of the Cucurbita (useless word of the day!) family. I kept coming across intriguing recipes on Pinterest (I should just come out and admit that I am obsessed with Pinterest. Over 5,000 pins and counting!) featuring spaghetti squash, so I thought I’d come up with my own treatment of this nifty noodle-y vegetable (ok, it’s technically a fruit, but you know what I mean). Initially I wanted to give it a bit of a Mediterranean spin, combining the spaghetti squash with nice oily ingredients like kalamata olives, artichoke hearts and sun dried tomatoes. But seeing as these ingredients are commonly available in jars year round, I decided to save this idea for Winter and instead take advantage of the local seasonal ingredients and whip up something a little more summery. Perhaps the peaches are an unusual addition to the dish, but I was interested in experimenting with them in a savoury recipe instead of the usual pie or cobbler. Plus they’ll be gone from the markets in a few weeks so I wanted to have a final go with them while I still had the opportunity! I think their texture and tangy sweetness ended up working really nicely with the other ingredients. That’s the nice thing about squash, its versatile enough that it can be combine with just about any flavour to create something tasty. I couldn’t help but use a bit of butter to saute the leeks, and I’m glad I did because it lends the recipe a subtle richness and emphasizes the pasta-like quality of the spaghetti squash. So good!

Recipe: Roasted Spaghetti Squash, Grape Tomatoes and Peaches with Feta and Fresh Basil

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 small leeks, diced (white and light green parts only)
  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 18-20 grape tomatoes
  • 3 ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and diced
  • 7 leaves of fresh basil, cut into ribbons
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

Roast spaghetti squash: Preheat oven to 400F. Cut spaghetti squash in half length wise and scoop out seeds. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over each squash half and season with salt and pepper. Place squash cut-side down on a baking sheet and cook for 40 minutes or until flesh is tender. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Roast tomatoes and peaches: Keeping oven heated to 400F, place tomatoes and peaches in an 8in x 8in casserole dish, toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast tomatoes and peaches for 30 minutes or until soft and juicy, stirring gently half way through. Remove from oven and set aside.

Prepare leeks: In a large skillet over medium heat, saute leeks in 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil, until soft. Using a slotted spoon, remove tomatoes and peaches from casserole dish (discard of the juices) and combine with leeks. Remove skillet from heat.

Once squash has cooled, scrape flesh from rind using a fork and add to skillet. Add crumbled feta and basil, and gently fold ingredients together until combined. Serve and eat!

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White Zinfandel Spritzer with Okanagan White Peaches

I’ll admit it: When it comes to desecrating a bottle of wine, I’ve got it in the bag. By ‘desecrating’ I’m talking about combining wine with another beverage, something which probably gives offence to sommeliers, but given the title of this post there likely aren’t too many of those around. What is it with so many wine drinkers and their unfun attitude toward their libation of choice, anyway? An anecdote: Once I announced, quite innocently, to a gaggle of self-styled wine experts that I prefer my Pinot Grigio straight from the box, in a pint glass, in response to which they glared at me – silent and aghast – as though a convicted kitten-torturer were in their midst. Whatever! The box is a more economical purchase compared to the bottle and keeps longer in the fridge, does it not? Shouldn’t I at least get credit for chilling my wine before drinking it? And who of my generation doesn’t have fond memories of their parents strangling the last droplets of Dry White from a crinkly foil sack for their pre-dinner drink? I can concede that the pint glass thing is hedging toward the socially unacceptable, but alas.

Anyway, back to the issue of desecration. The day after we arrived in the Okanagan my boyfriend thoughtfully presented me with a bottle of Pinot Noir from one of the local wineries (which shall remained unnamed lest a local vintner takes offense and declares fatwa). Checking to see that it was past noon (I’m a lady), I opened the bottle and poured a few ample glugs into my plastic tumbler. I even swirled it around a bit like I think you’re supposed to do, then took an eager sip. Well, blame my naïve palette – and I can see those wine experts or whoever they were casting looks of aspersion in my direction again – but the stuff tasted dangerously similar to red wine vinegar. The terms ‘acrid’ and ‘rat’s blood’ (as a now defunct Vancouver restaurant used to call their cheapo House Red) also came to mind. Not wanting to let the remainder of the bottle go unconsumed  – it’s a bit of a personal motto that at the end of the day all wine is good wine – and taking inspiration from a friend who recently told me he likes to augment his red wine with a splash or two of Coke, I opened the mini-fridge (everything in the RV is mini) to see which ingredients I could use to perform a little alchemy. Spotting a can of Orangina (a slightly less synthetic-tasting version of Orange Crush) sitting on the shelf, I grabbed it along with a handful of ice cubes and returned to my lowly tumbler. In went the ice, followed by a long, fizzy pour of Orangina. The results? Well, a marked improvement, that’s for sure. A poor man’s sangria? Maybe, but it went down much smoother than the Pinot Noir in its original state. It certainly wasn’t gourmet by any stretch, but think I was on to something.

The recipe below came about not from the need to mask the less palatable notes of a bottle of wine but rather a craving for an icy, effervescent happy hour cocktail on a very hot day – and as I talked about here, holy crap is the Okanagan hot right now. Indeed, the White Zinfandel I use for this recipe is both cheaper and more drinkable than the one involved in the experiment described above. Such is often the way with wine, at least in my (admittedly limited) experience straying from the bottom shelf at the liquor store. The kitschy pink hue of the White Zinfandel make me think to throw in a few juicy slices of Okanagan white peach – so ample here this time of year along with cherries, plums and nectarines – and the end result was so impressive to look at I almost (not quite) didn’t want to drink it. So I say the wine cult could do well to to follow in the footsteps of its beer-drinking better half – which seems more open to the concept of beer-centric cocktails and even desserts – and loosen up a little. Dionysus would have expected as much! And after all, it doesn’t have to be fancy to be good.

Recipe: White Zinfandel Spritzer with Okanagan White Peaches

Ingredients:

Directions:

In a tall tumbler, layer ice cubes and sliced white peaches, sliced side facing out. Fill tumbler half way with your carbonated beverage of choice. Fill tumbler the remainder of the way with your White Zinfandel of choice. Sit back and admire your creation, then drink! It’s happy hour at the trailer park…