Top Chef Inspires a Vegetarian Meal
After eating Cheese Steak Pasta and lots of other unhealthy snacks and foods while watching World Series games and celebrating Halloween, it was time for some vegetable cleansing. As a fan of all vegetables, I have no problem creating a meal that is vegetarian. The challenge is to make a vegetarian meal still feel hearty and satisfying so you don't even think about not having meat.
Recently on Bravo's Top Chef, the chefs were challenged with cooking a vegetarian meal in a Steakhouse kitchen for Natalie Portman and friends. As I watched this challenge, my mind was spinning with ideas for great satisfying vegetarian dishes. As much as I do like the contestants on this show, I was disappointed that some faltered when it came to making a filling vegetarian entree. While I don't know what ingredients they had to work with, it appeared that the Steakhouse was stocked with everything under the sun, so why was this so difficult? Well, I will give you an idea of what I would have made.
I would have utilized an element from one of my favorite vegetables, the heart of an artichoke, as the "steak". A large, beautiful, green artichoke covered with olive oil would have been steamed in a vegetable stock with a few cut lemons. Then I would completely remove the artichoke leaves leaving only the meaty whole heart of the choke. After drizzling the choke with a truffle oil, I would top it with this tasty, colorful and healthy dish of Spaghetti Squash. I would also add sauteed seasonal mushroom and fresh herbs on top of this dish.
Spaghetti Squash is a seed bearing winter squash with yellowish skin and an inside that appears like most other squash however, when it is cooked it pulls away from the skin in thin strands looking like spaghetti. This vegetable is the perfect replacement for pasta when you are trying to cut back on carbs and calories being that it is low calorie, low carb, and high in nutrients like folic acid, potassium, vitamin A and beta carotene. The best part is that you can eat larger servings of the spaghetti squash without feeling guilty because not only is it tasty but also good for you.
This cooking method for Spaghetti Squash is simple and perfect for quick weeknight meals with family or just for yourself. If you are cooking for just one or two, then no worries because this reheats perfectly and makes for a great lunch or even breakfast with a fried egg on top. The fried egg on top may sound strange to some but trust me-pretty much anything with a fried egg on top makes for fantastic breakfast or brunch, and is a great way to utilize leftovers. Without further ado, here is my spaghetti squash recipe.
Lizzy M.'s Roasted Vegetable Spaghetti Squash
1 Spaghetti Squash
1 Cup Cherry or Grape tomatoes
1 Cup frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
1 Medium onion
2 Garlic cloves
2 Cups fresh baby spinach leaves
1/2 Cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 Cup crumbled feta cheese
1 Tbsp Italian Seasoning
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Start by carefully cutting the Spaghetti Squash in half lengthwise. Raw squash is tough to cut through so be thoughtful when doing this so you don't cut yourself. Next, scoop out the seeds inside each half of the squash with a melon baller or spoon. In a large microwave safe dish, place both halves in the dish inside face down and add about 1/4-1/2 inch of water. Cover the dish securely with plastic wrap and cook in the microwave for 12-14 minutes depending upon how large your squash is.
While the squash is cooking, cut the onion in half and then make thin long slices with each half. Peel and cut the garlic cloves into thin slices as well. On a large baking sheet, place the onions, garlic, tomatoes, and artichokes. Season these vegetables with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and Italian seasoning. Next drizzle liberally with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and toss the ingredients together to thoroughly distribute the oil and seasoning. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. By roasting these vegetables, the flavors of each will develop and really stand out in this dish. The onions will caramelize and become slightly sweet. The artichoke's woodsy flavor will be intensified while the tomatoes will become sweet bursts of tomato flavor throughout the dish all enhanced by the roasted garlic.
When the squash is done, let cool so you are able to handle it. Once cool enough to touch, take one half at a time over a bowl with a colander in it, and with a fork scrape out the squash which will easily fall out in stringy spaghetti form. Let the squash sit in the colander to allow for the liquid to drain out. Once drained put into a bowl and add salt, pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, and the Mozzarella and Feta cheeses. With tongs gently mix the squash with all of these ingredients. Once the roasted vegetable come out of the oven, pour them into the squash as well as the fresh spinach leaves and again gently mix with tongs. Serve this beautiful squash dish along side a bowl of soup, with a piece of crusty garlic bread, or solo.
My husband was not interested in the low-carb meal that night, so he tried something different. He took a portion of the roasted tomato, onion, and artichoke mixture and placed it on top of a crisped tortilla like a mini pizza. After adding some spinach and the Mozzarella and Feta cheeses, he toasted the "pizza" in the toaster oven for about 5 minutes. The tortilla pizza is a great healthy way to feel like you are eating something indulgent like a take out pizza. Try my Top Chef recipe by topping my Spaghetti Squash dish over a whole steamed artichoke heart for a show stopping vegetarian meal. Enjoy the squash dish or the "pizza" for a guilt-free weeknight or any night meal.