I was shocked to get a Google Alert on my calendar this morning telling me it was my blog’s one-year anniversary. I really can’t believe it has been that long. I remember when some friends tried to nudge me into starting; I assumed there was no way I cooked/baked enough to post regularly, especially since I’m not the only foodie in this wacky household. I was even more shocked to look back at what my first posts were and see Porov Kufte (Bombs) among them. I think that was the last time I made them. I’ll have to remedy that soon!! My very first was Yelanchi(Stuffed Grape Leaves), then the Bombs, then Baked Tomatoes with Cornbread andBasil. The tomatoes reminded me to share a tip with you later in this recipe. If I didn’t already have a dessert in mind for tonight, and it wasn’t the season premiere of House, I would be tempted to bake something celebratory – oh well.
A year or two ago, I had Giada DeLaurentis’s Chicken Burgers with Garlic-Rosemary Mayonnaise for the first time. Everyone loved them, even a friend who is not fond of mayonnaise. They immediately made me think about an appetizer application - using the mixture to form mini-meatballs and serving them with a dipping sauce. I have had that thought tucked away for a while now, and when I was recently contemplating a spaghetti squash, the idea hit me – combine the two into a twist on Spaghetti and Meatballs.
I modified Giada’s chicken mixture to suit my own needs and came up with this recipe to serve four. Not wanting to overpower the squash by using my usual homemade spaghetti sauce (thick and on the spicy side), I decided to use some fresh tomatoes to create a lighter option.
1/3 c Hellmann’s Mayonnaise
4 t finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 t roasted garlic paste (optional – had fresh in the fridge)
1 t Better than Bouillon Chicken Stock Base
1/2 c fresh bread crumbs *
Pinch of salt
1/4 t pepper
1 lb ground chicken
2 spaghetti squash
Salt and pepper
5-6 plum tomatoes
1 t jarred minced garlic with red peppers
1 shallot, diced fine
Fresh chopped parsley
Fresh grated Parmesan
MEATBALLS: Start with the chicken mixture so you can get that nice rosemary flavor infused into the mayo. Actually, if you know ahead that you’ll be making these, you can do that the day before just to save you time. Mix the rosemary, garlic paste, and stock base into the mayo and pop it in the fridge until you’re ready for it. If you’re going to do it all at the same time, mix all of that together to get it nicely blended, then add the crumbs and chicken and mix to incorporate. The mixture will be very loose and “goopy” for lack of a better word. I actually cut back on the mayo from Giada’s original burger recipe, and added the bread crumbs, and it’s still goopy.
I wasn’t sure if I would be able to brown these on the stove without them slumping out of shape. You can make the burgers that way, but burgers are flat. I thought maybe if I formed the meatballs and let them set for a little while, I’d stand a better chance, so I lined them all up next to my pan on a sheet of foil. I figured if it didn’t work, I could just slide the foil onto a baking sheet, but as it turned out, it worked just fine. I sprayed an oven-proof pan with PAM Olive Oil, heated the pan to med-high and started adding the meatballs. I used a spoon thinking that would enable me to roll them around the pan without pressing them out of shape. Once they had a nice brown on them, I tossed the whole pan in the oven to finish. The time and temp will vary, depending on how big you roll your meatballs, how long you cooked them on the stove, and how long your squash has left to cook so they can be done at the same time.
SQUASH: If you look online, pretty much every recipe calls for cooking the squash in a different manner – baked whole, then split open and seeded; baked whole, with holes skewered through it, then split open and seeded; split and scooped out then baked cut-side up; split and scooped out then baked cut-side down; microwaved whole; microwaved quartered…. Phew!!
If you have a preference, by all means, knock yourself out. What I did was split the squash in half lengthwise, scraped out all of the seeds with a spoon, brushed the cut side with olive oil, and a little salt and pepper, and baked them at 375 until tender. I started them off cut-side down, then flipped them over about half-way through so the edges would have a chance to caramelize a little. A few of the recipes I looked at called for baking them for 40” at 375, but mine definitely needed a full hour. If you haven’t cooked spaghetti squash before, to test for doneness, grab a fork and try scraping the flesh away from the rind. It should pull away easily, forming your strands of “spaghetti.” If it pulls away easily at first, but you meet with resistance when you get closer to the rind, give it another few minutes.
When the squash is cooked through, top each with a few thin pats of butter, let that melt in, then use your fork to shred/string them all. I kept mine right in the shell, but you could certainly transfer it to a bowl or plate if you’d rather.
TOMATO SAUCE: Cut an “X” through the skin at the top of each tomato, then drop them into boiling water for about a minute. Pour out the water and run cold water over them until they are cool enough to handle. The skins should peel right off for you when you pull the little tabs left from the cuts you made. Petite dice the tomatoes and set aside, then finely dice your shallot. Sauté the shallot and garlic in a little olive oil until just starting to brown, then add the tomatoes, some Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper to taste. The tomatoes will start to break down and give off a lot of liquid. I just turned it to low and let that cook down until the squash and meatballs were done. Give it a stir every now and again so it doesn’t stick.
To serve, fluff the squash, dot with meatballs, top with the tomato mixture, then sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley and grated Parmesan.
* When it comes to breadcrumbs, I always try to keep a bag handy in the freezer for chicken croquettes and that sort of thing. When you have bread that will otherwise go to waste – maybe it’s starting to dry out and nobody will eat it; or you’ve got extra hot dog buns because you can never match up the right number of buns with the number of dogs that come in a package; or the end slices in the loaf get passed up, etc. Just pulse them in the food processor and dump them in a ziplock bag in the freezer. You can just keep adding to it as you go along. It doesn’t really matter what’s in there. I think my current bag has a mixture of dinner rolls, white bread, French bread, even a few slices of rye. You can do this with muffins too, but keep them separate! I mentioned a tomato recipe at the beginning of this post; that recipe calls for crumbled corn muffins. If I have leftover muffins or cornbread that will go to waste, they get turned into crumbs and head for the deep freeze to go on veggies, desserts, macaroni and cheese, whatever works.