It’s not a diet, it’s delicious

Bruschetta spaghetti squash to counter your holiday feasts.

Spaghetti squash topped with bruschetta and balsamic reduction. —Nicole Jackson

With the holiday season coming to a wrap, I think I have officially overdosed on turkey, stuffing, pot roast, croissants, sugar cookies, and red wine, well, at least until it’s time for corned beef hash for St. Patrick’s Day. A common New Year’s resolution is to eat healthier and exercise more. This is not mine, but naturally I am craving lighter, whole, healthier foods. Spaghetti squash, the pasta imposter, has an uncanny resemblance to spaghetti strands, and has been part of the fad to cut carbs for years. Topped with marinara or pesto sauce, made into a casserole, pizza crusts, pad thai, quinoa cakes, fritters, and hash browns. A quick Google or Pinterest search, and you can convert spaghetti squash into just about anything. I don’t want to advocate for cutting out certain food groups, or fad diets, but you will enjoy this substitute for a carb dish, and it will make you feel good on the inside.

Whatever your motivations are to eat healthier, I created a delicious bruschetta spaghetti squash recipe I would love to share with you.

Bruschetta topping

I made this prior to cooking my spaghetti squash to give the tomatoes time to marinate, but it’s not critical to the order of your cooking venture. In a bowl, I mixed 1 cup of distilled white vinegar, 1 cup olive oil. Then I halved a container of raw cherry tomatoes and put them in, along with 2 thinly sliced shallots. Please take the time to really make sure the shallots are thin; it’s worth the labor, and adds to the consistency of the dish. I break little pieces of fresh basil in; you can use a knife, but I prefer to use my hands. Add 8 ounces of mini fresh mozzarella balls, technically called “pearls.” The vinegar in the bruschetta then marinates into the tomatoes and starts to gently break down the shallots; you can almost see it before your eyes. Sample it, and feel free to add more of an ingredient to satisfy your taste buds. I added a little cracked pepper to mine.

Cooking the squash

If you haven’t done this before, it can be a little daunting. Cutting a 4- to 8-pound, round, slippery sucker can be quite dangerous. To avoid a trip to the emergency room, I use a smaller sharp knife and cut it open lengthwise, making smaller slits and working my way around the gourd until it’s completely open. I then take a spoon and scoop out the seeds, as if I were about to carve a Halloween pumpkin. To cook, place the two halves face down on a greased baking sheet. I cover the baking sheet with aluminum foil and grease that; when you’re done, the foil goes into the trash, and your pan can go back into the cabinet. The squash cooks at 375° for about 50 minutes, and then face up for 10 to 15 minutes. I like to keep a close eye on it so it’s al dente, making it perfectly is practically an art and has taken me many tries to perfect.

When it’s done, pull the cooked squash out with a fork. The shell isn’t edible, or at least I wouldn’t recommend it. Put the squash in a bowl with a tiny bit of oil, just as you would a pasta, and salt and pepper.

I served mine in two bowls — self-serve allows a perfect squash-to-tomato ratio for each person. I decided to get fancy with mine, so I put the squash into a 1-cup measuring cup to form it into the shape of a cylinder. (I think I watch too many cooking shows; I can’t seem to build a sandcastle to save my life, yet I can plate a dish like it’s my job.)

Topped with reduced balsamic drizzled over the top, and ta-daa, lunch or dinner is served. If there are leftovers, I recommend letting the bruschetta sit at room temperature before eating it; the oil and vinegar tend to separate, and the oil gets a gel-like consistency from the fridge.

If you haven’t made a spaghetti squash before, I would encourage you to try it. It’s a life-changing fruit (it is a fruit — Wikipedia told me so). It’s hard to find food that’s so versatile, cheap, healthy, and yummy.