Tuesday, September 15, 2009

“learn from the vegetables”

Last night’s dinner…Baked Spaghetti Squash, Salad, Bread 
Last night’s song… “Day” Bill Callahan  

This summer, Austin Texas experienced a heat wave. And it wasn’t the usual Texas weather, like we all tried to tell ourselves as we were living through it. We’re talking 85 straight days of temperatures over 100 degrees. Barton Springs started drying up. Due to water restrictions, many lawns and gardens bit the dust. And, in the later summer, water restrictions required restaurant patrons to request drinking water for the table. We are living through “the most severe drought in the nation.”  
Cut to: my house. This year, we decided to put in a vegetable garden in our front yard. I’ve already mentioned my buddy Michael Pollan, who is a huge grow your own advocate, stating in this recent interview that Michelle Obama’s vegetable garden doing more for reforming the food system than any other move in the administration. (Yay, Michelle. What a freakin’ hip first family we have!) In February, I attended a training at Sustainable Food Center about starting a school garden, which was completely inspirational for work and home. At it’s peak, we were growing 4 squash varieties, okra, cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplant, 4 or 5 types of peppers, chard, green beans, and every herb you can imagine in our front yard. It was really beautiful. 

Taken early June

Last night I used a spaghetti squash from our garden that’s been hanging out for a couple of months. It was small, and I was never inspired to cook it when I first picked it. We had a few more during the season that were gorgeous and firm, perfect with nothing but olive oil, s & p, and parmesan cheese. But this little one just didn’t call out to me. Over the weekend my husband asked “When are we gonna eat this guy?” Good question.
When I got home from work yesterday, I immediately went to the garden to see what my happy plants had to offer. There was more than I expected. I harvested a nice amount of swiss chard and a big bushel of Thai basil. When I cut open our little squash, there were some sprouted seeds inside, but it was a beautiful yellow color.  

After consulting allrecipes.com for a baked spaghetti squash recipe, I put together this nice, fresh and satisfying meal consisting of garden spaghetti squash, garden chard, tomato sauce, and cheese.

Baked Spaghetti Squash 
For Sauce
½ white onion, chopped 
1 tablespoon olive oil 
2 cloves minced garlic 
1 can diced tomatoes 
About 10-15 fresh basil leaves (I used Thai basil and liked the little spice) 
Sprinkle cracked red pepper 
For the bake:  
1 spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeded 
Small bunch chard, kale, or spinach, chopped small  
1 cup fresh mozzarella cheese, chopped small 
¼ cup Parmesan cheese 

Cook the spaghetti squash in your preferred way. This link provides a great rundown of different spaghetti squash cooking methods. I always microwave it, and it always turns out perfect. While squash is cooking, make tomato sauce. Saute onion in about 1 tablespoon olive oil with sprinkle of red pepper. When onion becoming soft and translucent, add tomatoes. Simmer for a few minutes, until tomatoes begin to break up. Add basil and garlic and give it a quick stir. Allow to simmer for a few minutes more, until flavors have mingled. (By the way, add whatever you like to your favorite homemade sauce. This is my go-to recipe. Just don’t overcook your garlic, please!) Once your spaghetti squash is cooked, it’s time to assemble the bake. Remove squash strands from the squash using a fork. Based on the size of your squash, layer a small-medium baking dish with a spoonful of your tomato sauce, a layer of squash, chopped chard (no need to pre-cook), and mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers until ingredients are used, finishing with Parmesan cheese. Bake at 325 for 10-15 minutes until cheese is bubbly and melted. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving. The spaghetti squash will release a lot of liquid, so be careful when you’re serving as to not have a watery meal.  

Yummm. A homegrown meal for early fall/late summer. My happy plants and happy belly have inspired me to revisit my garden. I trust the time has come to plant again, and that the sun will be my friend and not scorch my little plant babies. So today I ventured out to Natural Gardener and chose plants for my fall garden-- cauliflower, collard greens, broccoli, artichoke, and lots of lettuce. We'll plant this weekend, and I’m looking forward to getting back outside. Looking at these little ones, I’m practically giddy anticipating driving up to a flourishing, overflowing front yard again.  

Hi, babies.

On a personal note, I've learned a lot from my chard- strong and thriving through hardships of summer, making a year cycle back to its supposed fall growing season. When I started a garden with my preschoolers, it became quickly apparent that you can learn just about everything while digging in the dirt.


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