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Elegance for two: Shrimp and roasted spaghetti squash

This dish represents no particular cuisine. Spaghetti squash originated in China in the late 19th century. Shrimp are ubiquitous to many regions of the globe. The remaining ingredients compliment the main flavors but were part of my design for the recipe.

Shrimp and roasted spaghetti squash
Shrimp and roasted spaghetti squash
Marc d'Entremont, ©penandpalate.com
Georgia white shrimp
Marc d'Entremont, ©penandpalate.com

I’m not the only chef who enjoys creating with whatever’s on hand. A well-stocked home kitchen has the ingredients for many imaginative dishes. It’s simply a matter of learning what will create the desired flavor palate. The subtle nutty flavor of spaghetti squash and its unique texture make it a versatile vegetable – brushed with seasoned oil and roasted, removed from its shell after cooking and eaten with any number of pasta sauces or stuffed are just a few variations. Wanting to feature spaghetti squash for a nice dinner for two, I took a quick inventory of available foods in the kitchen.

With the shrimp, I knew there was the making of a main course. Probably because this winter squash has an improbable Italian association – the name has to do with the texture of the cooked interior vegetable – creating a dish loosely Mediterranean was natural. Any well-stocked kitchen should have fresh tomatoes, sweet onions, olive oil and dried herbs on hand. I usually keep fresh cilantro, but since it’s used only as a garnish, parsley, basil or similar fresh herb would be fine.

Roasting vegetables is a technique I favor. It caramelizes the sugars and evaporates excess water concentrating the vegetable’s natural flavor. The squash halves make for convenient, edible and attractive serving containers for the shrimp. Each fork full should bring some of the spaghetti squash along with its shrimp sauce.

Shrimp and Roasted Spaghetti Squash

Ingredients:

  • 1 small spaghetti squash (2 to 2-1/2 pounds)
  • 4 fresh plum tomatoes (not canned)
  • 2 heads of fresh garlic
  • 1 large sweet onion (Vidalia or other sweet onion)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil & 1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
  • salt & white pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ pound (12 ounces) raw shrimp in the shell.
  • 1 tablespoon sweet butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • Cilantro for garnish

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. Cut squash in half, discard the seeds and trim the underside of each half a little so that they will stand upright on a baking sheet.
  3. Combine olive oil, basil, oregano, salt & pepper. Brush over the inside of the squash.
  4. Wrap the garlic heads, unpeeled, in aluminum foil and place on the baking sheet with the squash. Place the whole tomatoes and the unpeeled onion on the sheet as well. Set the baking sheet in the oven and roast for 40 minutes.
  5. Peel the shrimp and place the shells in a small saucepan. (Reserve shrimp in a bowl) Add fennel seeds and one cup of water to the shells and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook until reduced to 1/8 cup (2 tablespoons). Strain the reduced stock into a small bowl and discard the shells. Set the stock aside.
  6. Melt the butter in a medium sauté pan. Add the raw shrimp and quickly sauté until pink – 3 minutes or so. Remove the shrimp and set aside, keep warm. Add any pan drippings to the shrimp reduction.
  7. Remove tomatoes and garlic from the oven and set them on a cutting board. Continue baking the onion and the squash for an additional 10 minutes.
  8. Remove the onion from the oven and let it rest on a cutting board for 10 minutes until cool enough to handle. Peel and dice with a sharp knife.
  9. Slip the skins off the tomatoes, discard and place peeled tomatoes on a cutting board. With a serrated knife, cube the tomatoes and place in a bowl.
  10. Slip the skins off the garlic cloves and mash the garlic.
  11. In a medium size bowl, combine the onion, garlic mash, lemon juice, stock, tomatoes, any remaining oil and herb mixture and the shrimp. Gently combine the mixture. Check for salt and white pepper.
  12. Remove the squash from the oven and place a half on each of two plates. Fill the squash with the shrimp mixture and garnish with cilantro.

Low in calories and fat, high in fiber and vitamins, shrimp and roasted spaghetti squash looks good on a plate and tastes better on the palate.