Spaghetti Squash with Sage and Truffle Oil

The spaghetti squash and I have just made a pact.  It will never again pretend to be actual spaghetti lurking beneath my marinara sauce; and I will happily eat it up with tasty partners such as sesame oil, ginger and garlic – or my new favorite: butter, sage and truffle.  Though mom & I agree now that squash is a sneaky agent to make many dishes more healthy & delicious for the squash sensitive, as a child I saw right through the marinara disguise.  Spaghetti squash is not sneaky. There is no getting around the texture, much different than regular squash that, well, “squashes” up nicely with a fork once cooked.  After cooking a spaghetti squash its texture is like strands of al dente pasta, still a bit crunchy and perfect for stir frying with just a few flavors to showcase its uniqueness.

And nutritionally speaking, the spaghetti squash is your friend – Vitamin A, heart-healthy potassium and fiber, and very few calories per serving (21 calories per 1/2 Cup).  Look for it at farmers markets or your local cooperative grocery store (PCC).  It will be the big, oblong, bright yellow one in the squash bin.  It should have fairly smooth & shiny skin, and be heavy for its size.

Somehow all the foods that haunted my plate as a child have been reincarnated as delicious treats!  Thanks mom!  I can only hope that someday I too will frighten my own young children with squash, tomatoes and tofu.

Spaghetti Squash with Sage and Truffle Oil – Serves 4-6

*Ingredients that are grown or produced locally

*1 medium – large Spaghetti Squash

2 tablespoons Butter

*1/2 teaspoon Dried Sage

1/4 teaspoon Sea Salt

*1/2 – 1 teaspoon Truffle Oil (Fungus Among Us)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Wash the Spaghetti squash and poke about 10 holes all over the skin.  Place in a large baking dish and bake for 30 minutes, turn it over, and cook for another 30 minutes.  Check the squash for doneness by piercing with a fork.  The outer skin will be like a hard shell by now, but once you get the fork through that, it should pierce the flesh easily.  If the inside is still hard, bake for another 15 minutes & check again.

Now pour yourself a glass of wine and relax while you let the squash cool until you can handle it.  When cool, cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds and gooey strings in the center.  Now get a fork & use it like a small rake to pull out all the spaghetti-like ribbons of squash and place these in a bowl.  Compost the squash skins and seeds.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat, then add the butter and melt.  Add 4 Cups of the spaghetti squash (you may have more than this from a large squash – save it for later or double the recipe!), 1/2 tsp sage and 1/4 tsp sea salt.  Cook this, stirring occassionally for about 5 minutes to warm it through and absorb the butter.  Take it off the heat & stir in the truffle oil.  This is strong stuff, so start with 1/2 tsp and taste to see if you want more.  Enjoy!

Flourless Chocolate Brownie Cookies

My latest executive decision: Dark chocolate is the ingredient of the month.  Mighty powerful brainstorm you may be saying to yourself – who doesn’t like chocolate?  Well, actually, ahem – Me.  It’s not that I am a chocolate hater, I just don’t loooove chocolate the way other people do.  Celebrations are always all about chocolate cake, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate bars, etc.  On my 12th birthday, I actually asked for pecan pie.  Seriously deranged you say?  Perhaps just a little nutty, I say.

The facutly at the esteemed institution where I obtained my training in nutrition used to joke that a penchant for chocolate was a requirement for admission.  And its no wonder with all the great health benefits coming to light about dark chocolate.  It contains plant compounds called flavanols that help prevent fatty buildup in our arteries, and can even  lower blood pressure.  This little truth-teller had to work very hard to keep her dirty secret under wraps.

The catch is, it has to be dark chocolate.  Hershey kisses, snickers & mr. goodbar do not fall into this category.  Dark chocolate contains at least 60% cacao, or cocoa solids.  If you can get 70% or more, even better!  The more cacao, the less sweet the chocolate, because there is less room for added sugars, and added fats for that matter.

And, I am happy to report, I have finally found my chocolate weakness.  There is a wonderful local chocolate maker in the Fremont neighborhood, Theo Chocolates.  They buy Cacao directly from farms in places like Guatemala and Ecuador, everything is fair trade, and they make the chocolate themselves in their magical chocolate factory.  If you go on a tour of the factory they give you lots of samples.  Yum.  I like to use their dark chocolate bars in this flourless chocolate brownie cookie recipe.  Slightly crispy on the outside, gooey and rich on the inside. Yum yum yum.  This recipe is adapted from my favorite dessert cookbook: The Last Course by Claudia Flemming, to make it wheat and gluten free.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Flourless Chocolate Brownie Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen cookies, *Indicates ingredients grown or produced locally

*2 Large eggs

2/3 Cup Sugar

1 tsp Vanilla extract

1/4 tsp Almond extract

2 Tb Butter

*7 oz Dark/Bittersweet Chocolate (60-80% cacao), chopped

*1/4 Cup Cocoa powder

1/4 tsp Baking Powder

1/8 tsp salt (Sea salt or Kosher) – use the salt only if you are using unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Get out a large baking sheet and line it with parchment paper or a silpat.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, use whisk attachment to beat eggs, sugar, vanilla and almond extracts on high speed for 15 minutes.  This is key to getting the fluffy texture right.

While the eggs are whipping, heat the butter and chocolate in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally with a rubber spatula until melted and smooth, then remove from the heat.

While the chocolate is melting, mix together the cocoa powder, baking powder and salt in a small bowl with a fork.

Gently fold the melted chocolate into the egg mixture with the rubber spatula until mostly combined but with some streaks still visible.  Add the cocoa powder mixture and fold it in completely.  Drop the batter by heaping teaspoonfuls onto the baking sheet, about 1 inch apart.  Bake about 9 minutes, until the cookies have cracked puffy tops.  Lift the parchment with cookies onto a wire rack to cool.

*Options: You can also add 1/2 Cup chopped toasted nuts or dried fruit, folding in after the cocoa powder is added to the batter.  Baked cookies can be frozen for up to 1 month.