Spaghetti Squash with Black Beans & Spinach
Sunday, 4 October 2009
First off let me say that I recently dropped my camera and ever since it has been hit or miss getting it to focus. Sometimes it turns out great and others not. I plan to get a new, better camera sometime this fall. Until then I will do the best I can and hopefully the descriptions of my recipes will be more appealing than the pictures!
My chiropractor gave me some fresh black beans from his garden the other day, so I decided I had to come up with a new idea for preparing them. When I was at the farmers’ market last week I discovered they had spaghetti squash. I LOVE spaghetti squash and was happy to see it come back in season. It is so tasty and also absorbs all the flavors of whatever you cook with it. It can be a little time consuming to prepare, but not if you time it right. Slow-cooking the beans and the squash was actually quite easy and added a nice warmth to the apartment as the air outside was beginning to chill.
Basic Slow-Cooked Beans
You can use canned black beans for this recipe of course, but slow-cooked from dry beans taste so much better and have a moist texture. If you have a crockpot, this is super easy. All you have to do is plan ahead for a few easy steps. First soak the beans overnight in 3 parts water to 1 part beans. Then in the morning, drain the water and put the beans in the crock pot with again 3 parts water to 1 part beans. They will have expanded overnight, so you will need more water this time. Usually I just measure by eye level. If I add enough water to bring the level to at least twice as high as the beans, that is usually enough. Turn the pot on low and allow it to cook for 8-10 hours while you go about your day. I have read that crockpots use only $0.02 of electricity per hour, so it is a very energy-efficient way of cooking and low-maintenance as well. In the last hour or so of cooking, add 1 tsp salt per cup of dry beans to the crockpot.
The spaghetti squash I prepared ahead of time too. Take a sturdy knife and carefully cut the squash in half. With a spoon, remove the seeds and inner pulp. Drizzle the insides with olive oil and rub with a sprinkle of salt and black pepper. Wrap each half in aluminum foil. Heat the oven to 375 degrees F and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the squash, testing with a fork for softness. It should be easily pierced with a fork but not mushy. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. When it is cool enough to touch, take a fork and scrape out the insides. They will look like thin strands of spaghetti. Store in a container in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook with it. You can do this the night before, when you start soaking the beans. That way when you are ready to cook dinner the next night, your squash and your beans will both be ready and you can throw the meal together in less than 10 minutes.
Spaghetti Squash With Black Beans & Spinach
2 cups spaghetti squash, prepared above
1 cup cooked or canned black beans
1 small bunch fresh spinach
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
1 cippolini onion (these are in season right now, and are very flavorful)
3 cloves garlic
2-3 T olive oil or reserved bacon fat
2-3 T stock
sea salt & cracked pepper
If you are not a vegetarian and don’t have a cholesterol problem, I highly recommend cooking this dish in bacon fat. I know it sounds really unhealthy but if you eat well regularly, a little animal fat in moderation can be good for you. We make bacon once a week for breakfast. We eat meat on average for 1 meal or less per day, and not very much at that, so we enjoy the good stuff – like Niman Ranch nitrate-free uncured bacon. When we make it for breakfast we skim off some of the fat and keep it in a little glass jar on the counter top and then cook pancakes right in the pan with the remaining fat, adding a little oil if necessary. Then I use the reserved fat for cooking when the idea strikes me, like for this recipe. It really adds a lot of flavor. But of course, a good olive oil will do just fine, and makes it completely vegan. Or try using a combination of both.
Heat the oil and/or bacon fat in a large skillet and saute the onion & garlic for a few minutes. Add the prepared squash, black beans and spinach and saute for about 5 minutes, adding a little chicken or vegetable stock to steam the spinach. When the spinach becomes bright green and tender, toss in the fresh basil leaves, stir, and remove from heat. Season with salt & fresh cracked pepper to taste and serve. How’s that for a quick, easy meal?
Makes 2 servings.