Tuesday, September 29, 2009

roasted spaghetti squash with spicy yogurt and seared shrimp

spaghetti squash, spicy yogurt mint sauce, shrimp
last week i was faced with
a very common dilemma:
what to do with
leftover herbs.
in this case:

i had caved,
agreeing to add it
to the salad,
but i needed only 1/4 cup
and mint is sold
in very large bunches.
i had created my situation.
now i had to live with it.
and eat it.
fresh mint leaves
i spent a long time
thinking and looking
up recipes
until i remembered the one
thing made with mint
that i can semi-tolerate.

until very recently,
i've had a
hate-hate relationship
with indian food,
much to my mother's dismay.
she tried many times to get
all three of us - all three
of us who will eat almost
anything - to eat indian food,
but it was always a struggle.

finally, last year, i realized
that my indian food issues
stem from a single spice:

(it's funny. i've always
considered myself a very open
eater, willing to try most
things, but this blog is like
a mirror, pointing out all
my quirks, all my weaknesses,
all the things that i do not like.
it turns out, there are a lot.
that's sad.)

i finally understood that if
i could just find dishes that are
curry-less, i could enjoy
indian food. and, so, for the past
year, i've visited a few places -
ok, one restaurant several times -
and have come to appreciate
the cuisine.

especially the spicy
tamarind and mint chutneys
that are always served with
the breads and salads.
together, they're sweet,
bold and spicy and i always
look forward to drizzling
them over the naan and
potato, onion, cucumber mixtures.
usually, i regret it because
they. are. spicy. but, my burning
mouth doesn't stop me from
eating more.

so, it came to be that i
researched mint chutneys
and mercifully
a) settled for one of the first
recipes i found, which
b) was made up only of
ingredients i already had
at home.

the day before,
at the farmer's market,
i had picked up our first
spaghetti squash of the season
and i was determined to
use it - not let it waste away
on the counter.

somehow, once i connected
the chutney and the squash,
the rest of the dish came
together rather quickly.
in my head.
i would pick up greek yogurt,
and stir a couple tablespoons
into the chutney, dollop
the creamy sauce
over roasted strands of squash
and top the whole tangle
with seared shrimp.

in reality,
it's another story.
have you ever made spaghetti squash?
i love it - it's my favorite of the squash,
but it's up there with a butternut squash
or large pumpkin when it comes
time to halve the sucker.
it is hard and heavy and thick.
and to halve it means to have
an excellent knife,
strong muscles
and a willingness to forget
the fear of cutting yourself.

so, by the time both larry
and i wrestled the squash and
the oven heated up
(maybe it's rusty from a
summer spent sitting idle?),
then the squash
let's just say it was later than i
had expected.
mint, scallions, garlic, serrano and more
in the meantime,
i had made the chutney.
and maybe the recipe had
called for a teaspoon and a half
of a small chopped serrano.
and maybe i used
a large one and did not bother to measure.
this chutney was very hot.
greek yogurt
spicy mint chutney yogurt sauce
i had originally planned to mix
it with a few spoonfuls of yogurt,
but the heat called for
a change of plans.
instead, i took all of the yogurt,
and stirred in three tablespoons
of the chutney. it was very spicy,
but closer to tolerable.
i took some of the
remaining chutney and mixed it
with the shrimp to marinate.

i crossed my fingers
that our tongues would still
have feeling after we ate.
seeded roasted spaghetti squash
spaghetti squash strands
once the squash was out
of the oven, i let it sit
until cool enough
to handle, before remembering
that i could use those crazy
to hold the squash with one
hand and separate into
strands with the other.

shrimp, searing
i seared the shrimp,
then tossed them on top
of two bowls:
one, squash, simply topped with spicy yogurt
and another
squash mixed with the mixture.
i'm not sure which we liked better, but
i know that the former option
allows you to occasionally seek relief
by stumbling upon a few sauce-less pieces.

i like spicy, but the mixture - although
oddly irresistible - was a bit spicy for me.
larry thought it was perfect.
we both loved the chutney.
mint and all.
spaghetti squash mixed with yogurt sauce and topped with shrimp
roasted spaghetti squash with spicy yogurt and seared shrimp
you can cook a spaghetti squash by boiling or microwaving it, but i love the flavor that comes with roasting. surprised? you want the strands to be just a bit al dente, not mushy. if you're unsure if the squash is done, don't worry, it will tell you: if it won't separate into spaghetti, it's not ready. for the greek yogurt, i always use nonfat. it's so thick and creamy anyway that the full fat just feels way too indulgent.

you could also skip the shrimp and serve the rest of the dish as a side for chicken or fish.

1 spaghetti squash (about 3 pounds), halved
2 teaspoons olive oil
kosher salt and pepper
1 container (6 ounces) fat-free greek yogurt (i like fage)
6 tablespoons mint chutney, divided (recipe below)
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined (13-16 count)

heat oven to 400˚f. brush cut side of squash halves with olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. roast, cut side up, 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until golden brown and strands separate easily from squash. let sit 20 minutes, or until cool enough to handle.

meanwhile, stir together yogurt and 3 tablespoons mint chutney; cover and set aside.

twenty minutes before you're ready to cook (after the squash has been sitting for about 10 minutes is probably a good idea), stir together remaining mint chutney and shrimp. cover; chill. (you don't want the shrimp to marinate longer than that - the lime in the chutney could start to cook them.)

using spoon, scoop the seeds from the squash; discard (squash should look like picture, above). using fork, separate flesh into strands over a bowl. discard squash shells.

in large skillet coated with a mist of olive oil over high heat, sear shrimp 5 minutes, turning once.

you have two choices: either toss the squash with the yogurt or place squash in serving bowls and top with dollops of yogurt. top with seared shrimp. garnish with mint leaves, if desired.

spicy mint chutney
adapted from gourmet magazine
when on first taste the mixture was very spicy, i added an extra 1/4 cup of mint leaves an extra teaspoon of sugar. both changes are included, here. i also had originally added ground coriander, which i'd say is optional. the original recipe recommends using the chutney the same day that you make it or risk it turning an ugly brown. when first made, it's a beautiful bright green. i made this in my mini food processor - it was the perfect size.

1 1/4 cups packed fresh mint leaves
4 scallions, sliced
1 serrano chile, including seeds, chopped (use your judgement)
1 large clove garlic
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander (optional)

in bowl of mini food processor (large would work, too), puree all ingredients until combined. it will still be coarse. taste and adjust seasoning, if desired.

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