Saturday, October 4, 2014

Sautéed Scallops with Spaghetti Squash

I would normally begin a post written in Fall about how there’s a nip in the air and that it feels so natural to be enjoying our autumnal favorites…root vegetables, hearty soups, piping hot oatmeal, deep-dish pies, and, one of my favorites, zucchini bread.  However, as I pen this post, it’s been quite summer-like but that did not stop us from devouring a squash dish that M prepared last Wednesday night. 
She made Sautéed Scallops over Spaghetti Squash, a recipe courtesy of Martha. Spaghetti squash is a low-carb, low-calorie alternative to pasta, and, like butternut squash, the hard skin makes it a bit difficult to cut.  I am interested in keeping all my digits so when I make my favorite Butternut Squash and Apple Soup, I tend to buy pre-cut butternut squash.  

Spaghetti squash does not come in pre-cut chunks, although I have seen them sold pre-cut length wise.  So, when cooking a spaghetti squash you need to toughen up, choose your best large (and sharp) knife, approach the gourd with conviction, grab it lengthwise and slice the vegetable right in half straight down the middle!  

I felt very Julia-Child-like writing that.

In my head, I can hear her saying that very that proper voice of hers!

Once sliced in half, remove the seeds and save them.  You can toast them up and eat them for a snack, much like pumpkin seeds.  To cook a spaghetti once it is cut, drizzle on some olive oil, salt and pepper, place it cut side down on a baking dish and bake it for 35 minutes minutes in a 400 degree oven.  When the meat is tender, remove it from the shell with a fork — this is where the magic happens — and it will naturally shred into yummy strings, like spaghetti!  

Unlike the flavorful and distinctive butternut squash, spaghetti squash is a bit bland but you can gussy it up with almost any sauce you would serve on regular spaghetti…tomato, pesto, coconut curry, or Alfredo. I have seen some recipes that direct the cook to put the spaghetti back in the squash shell to serve.  

Sautéed Scallops over Spaghetti Squash

Two 1-pound spaghetti squash, cut in half lengthwise and seeded
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for baking pan
4 leeks, white and light-green parts only, thinly sliced lengthwise
2 medium shallots, peeled and thinly sliced lengthwise
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
10 large sea scallops, muscles removed, sliced in half
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup dry white wine (optional)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1 bunch minced chives

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place squash, cut-sides down, on an oiled baking pan. Cook until easily pierced with a knife tip, about 45 minutes. Using a fork, separate the flesh into strands, and transfer to a bowl; cover.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Cook leeks and shallots, stirring, until crisp, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Place flour in a small bowl; dredge scallops. Return pan to heat; add remaining tablespoon oil. Cook half of scallops until golden, about 3 minutes per side. Season with salt and pepper. Cook remaining scallops.

Increase heat to medium high; add wine or 3/4 cup water. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up any brown bits on bottom of pan. Cook until liquid has reduced by half. Slowly whisk in the butter until sauce begins to thicken, about 2 minutes; season with salt and pepper.

Divide the squash and the leek mixture among four dinner plates; top with scallops. Drizzle with sauce, and garnish with chives. M served this dish with a sautéed chard salad.

This dish is tasty indeed.  Honestly, I had to remind myself that I was eating a healthy vegetable, not a carbohydrate and, as a bonus, no heavy feeling in my stomach afterwards.... so common after a delicious and satisfying dish of pasta! We also had a very special bottle of red wine (courtesy of Mr. C.) a delicious salad of greens, pears and walnuts and, for dessert, plum torte squares.

I don’t often talk about our personal adventures but I would like to comment that our little group is more than just weekly dinner companions.  We have grown into accidental siblings who comfort and lift each other when we are down, provide sage counsel when a problem seems insurmountable, celebrate our collective and individual joys and — this is important — redirect our focus when someone veers a bit off course.  I am privileged to have these special women in my life.

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