Thursday, September 18, 2014

"Spaghetti" from The Paleo Approach Cookbook

I was so happy to meet Sarah Ballantyne, Ph.D., a.k.a, The Paleo Mom, at Paleo FX this year.  We had emailed a bit when I was putting my meal cheat sheets together that included her Paleo Chicken Pad Thai, but it's always nice to get out from behind the keyboard and screen.  I was even more happy when her new cookbook, The Paleo Approach Cookbook, arrived in my mailbox.  This cookbook is jam packed with information about adopting an autoimmune paleo protocol and recipes. I was excited to pick out some recipes to review.  

My first review is her "Spaghetti" recipe.  I gathered my ingredients and started by preparing the spaghetti squash to cook.  

Sarah cooks spaghetti squash a bit differently than I typically do.  I usually cut the squash in half first and then microwave steam it.  Sarah suggests poking holes in the whole squash and then cooking it either in the oven or the microwave.  I thought I took a picture or two of my squash puncturing, but alas I did not.  She suggests using a fork, but I found using a small paring knife easier.  Whatever you use, be careful not to sick your fingers/hand in the process.  I have 1200 watt microwave and I cooked my squash for 12 minutes.  While my squash was in the microwave, I prepared the fresh oregano and basil. 

I don't use fresh herbs as often as I should and the aroma of the oregano was absolutely heavenly.   

Next, I sliced the fresh garlic and chopped some onion.  The recipe doesn't say to chop the onion but I decided that was likely what was intended.  One reason I decided upon this recipe was that it called for quite a bit of fresh garlic.  

I then heated my 12.5 inch sauté pan (3.5 quarts) to begin browning the meat.  Make sure to use a pan at least this large if you are making the full recipe.  My pan was nearly full once I had all of the ingredients in there.  

While the meat was browning, the squash was ready.  I carefully used pot holders to take it out of the oven.  When I set it down, it was perfectly cooked and my knife sunk into it quite easily.  I'm used to struggling to cut the hard squash in half, so this was quite a different experience.  

Once cut in half, I let the squash cool while I worked on the main dish so I could handle it more safely.  

Really, after the meet has browned, its just a matter of adding the rest of the ingredients and letting them simmer a bit.  The major favor punches in the recipe are the fish sauce and wine/beef broth.  I didn't have any wine handy, but I did have homemade beef broth, so that's what I used.  

While the dish simmered, I used a fork to carefully pick out the seeds before pulling the squash "noodles" into a glass storage dish.  The squash was still quite hot so I held it with a pot holder.  Be careful not to burn yourself. 

The fresh herbs and olives are added towards the end along with an arrowroot slurry to thicken the liquid left in the pan.  

Here is my dinner plate.  

Accessibility & Cost of Ingredients:  You should be able to find everything you need for this recipe at your "big box" grocery store fairly inexpensively.  Whenever I'm at the store shopping for fresh herbs, I always tend to buy a larger container than I need.  A 1/4 ounce package of oregano and a 2/3 ounce package of basil provided me with just enough for this recipe.  

Preparation & Cooking Time:  It took me 40 minutes to complete this dish.  Sorry, I didn't break down my preparation time from cooking time, but I did come in just under the stated total time.    The recipe has a stated 15 minute preparation time and 30 minutes -1.5 hour cooking time depending on how you cook your spaghetti squash.  

Clean Up:  I was able to clean up a bit as I went a long.  Everything except my sauté pan went into the dishwasher. 

The Paleo Review: Thumbs Up!  Who needs tomatoes or wheat noodles to have a spaghetti night?  I don't.  Now, I'm not saying that this tastes anything like traditional spaghetti, but it is a lovely dish in its own right.  The flavor, to me, was a very balanced meaty one.  No one ingredient really prominent.

I will likely use Sarah's method for cooking spaghetti squash in the future.  I was concerned that it would be a pain to get the seeds out after the squash had cooked, but it wasn't.  While you still need to be careful while puncturing the squash, I felt like doing that was safer than my trying to cut the whole raw squash in half.  

Sarah suggests tasting and seasoning the dish at the end, and I suggest you follow her advice.  I'm not one to add salt to dishes very often, but I found that adding some salt brightened the entire dish.  I won't know for certain until I make it again, but if you have it handy, use wine.  Having made it with the beef broth, I think the wine would had a deeper more complex flavor to the dish.  When I make it again, I'll update as to whether my hunch is right.  

Do you have The Paleo Approach Cookbook yet?  Any recipe requests?

Blog Note:  I had planned to get this review up last week and then earlier this week, but it just didn't get done.  It seems lately that I just haven't had good energy to get all of my life/blog responsibilities taken care of.  Being a type A person, I've just called it laziness.  About two weeks ago I realized, my energy issues, weight (fat)  gain despite keeping a lower carb paleo diet and daily weight training wasn't just laziness.

Blood work doesn't lie and I feel like a paleo blogger cliché but I have adrenal insufficiency and a touch of hypothyroidism.  I'm hoping in a week or two I'll feel more like myself.   What does this have to do with the blog?  Well, you'll likely start seeing a few recipes with a little higher carb/starch content as I'm adding in more starch than I'd typically eat.  Yay!  And, hopefully, I'll keep a more regular blog schedule.