November 21, 2010

Spaghetti Squash, Chestnuts, and Sausage

This meal was like a big plate of autumn. Which is good, because until it all came together, I was worried it might be a big plate of fail. Sometimes my culinary instincts aren't right on point, and I ignore the cautionary voice in my head and power through anyway.  (This mostly affects my baking, resulting in lumpy icing and dry bread, which I never know how to rescue.)

It all started after I had purchased a spaghetti squash and could not decide how to serve it.  I love my mom's method (curry powder and peas), but that's the only way I've ever made it myself and I wanted to branch out.  I didn't want to do spaghetti sauce, because that just seemed too... obvious.  While I was at the store, I saw chestnuts, and thought they might go well with the squash.  On another trip, I grabbed some sausage with good, visible fennel seeds, because fennel-y sausage screams fall to me, and with the chestnuts and spaghetti squash it was sort of becoming the theme.  To round it all out, I used up the last of our pumpkin seeds from the freezer for a pesto to tie it all together. It was an absolutely divine meal.  It looked and tasted like a crisp and dusky fall evening.  Or like the most delicious new way to eat spaghetti squash.  

Spaghetti squash, chesnuts, and sausage
1 small spaghetti squash
1/2 red onion
1 package peeled and cooked chestnuts (or you can cook your own, but then this meal won't be ready in an hour)
2 Italian sausages (or any variety you like)
Pepita pesto (see below)

Heat oven to 350F.  Cut the squash in half (trying not to cut yourself), and place rind-side-up on a greased baking sheet (or use parchment).  Place in oven, set timer for 30 minutes.  When it's done, you'll easily be able to pull the strands out with a fork.

Slice the onion into half half-moons, and slice any large chestnuts into bite-size pieces (most of mine were small), and set aside.  Slice the sausage into medallions, brown over med-high heat on each side, and transfer to a baking sheet.  They'll need about 10-15 minutes to finish cooking.  With the sausage grease still in the pan, heat to medium and add the onions.  Once they've started to brown, add the chestnuts and let them sear.   Cook for about 7 minutes, then pull off the heat.    

Put a nice pile of squash on each place, top it with a few spoonfuls of pesto.  Add a few sausage medallions and some of the chestnut/onion mixture, and dig in!

parmigiano reggiano
lemon juice
olive oil
salt and pepper

I have no idea how much of everything I used- when I make pesto, I tend to eye-measure for the first mix, then adjust based on taste.  For example, I put what was probably about 1 cup pepitas, 1 large clove garlic, 1/4 cup parm. (most of which was the rind), one of those plastic "boxes" of parsley (~1/2 cup?), one sage leaf, juice of half a lemon, and a generous drizzle of olive oil, plus a good pinch of salt.  I ground it all together, tasted, and it was like I had just made salt pesto. So I threw in the breadcrumbs left over from the turnip dinner (breadcrumbs + pecans), some more lemon juice, another handful of nuts, and pulsed again.  Now it was too thick.  So I added a tad more lemon juice and another generous drizzle of oil.  Then it was perfect.  I'm sure there are recipes out there for pepita pesto, but why not make it up as you go?  It'll be more suiting to your taste, and you won't have to mess with any measuring tools.  

Ideas:  This pesto would be great in a classic pasta dish (add roasted butternut squash, tomatoes, or spinach), and is delicious smeared on oatmeal sandwich bread with homemade mozzarella (which you now make weekly because you had no idea how it easy it is, right?  Just wait, I'll get to that post soon.)

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