I hope this first full week of Autumn has been a good one for you! I've really enjoyed the abundant sunshine, paired with the cooler drier air. It's the perfect antidote to our swampy summer weather here in Baltimore!
This week, I've been thinking a lot about rituals. When I refer to rituals, I'm not speaking of religious acts, though. A ritual, according to dictionary.com is "any practice or pattern of behavior regularly performed in a set manner". For example, my daughter's ritual when in Washington, D.C., is to go to Baked & Wired and get a cupcake. My husband has a ritual of putting his socks and underwear for the following day on the counter next to his bathroom sink. I have a daily mediation practice every morning, that's my most precious ritual. When I stop to think, I have many rituals, possibly too many rituals; some serve me well, while others I'd like to remove from my daily practice.
One of my favorite rituals is making tacos for dinner on Tuesday. #tacotuesday became a ritual in our house several years ago and it has become one of my creative outlets in meal preparation each week. I like to think outside the box, above and beyond the norms, when it comes to tacos. After all, is there any rule for what can be a filling for a taco? There are savory varieties and dessert tacos, although my recipes tend to stay on the savory side. I like to experiment with seasonal vegetables and seasonings to make our weekly taco meal.
This week, being the last week in my month of squash recipes, I decided to make a taco filling using spaghetti squash. This is a variety of squash that I don't often cook with, and not because I don't like the taste, but because it's not so simple and straightforward to prepare. That being said, I don't want to scare you away from trying spaghetti squash...it just takes a little finesse or patience in its preparation. From the outside, a spaghetti squash can be white-ish or yellow-ish in color. It should be firm and feel heavy. The peel is very hard - use caution when cutting this squash open! Once inside, there are lots of seeds to clear away. The seeds can be dried and roasted, as you would with pumpkin seeds or other squash seeds. The flesh of this squash should be orange, indicating its high levels of beta-carotene, and it should be solid when raw.
Cooking the spaghetti squash is simple, just bake it cut-side down on a lined sheet pan until the skin yields to the press of your fingers. Once cool enough to handle, the flesh of the cooked squash peels into thin ribbons and strands, which resemble spaghetti! I've seen many recipes which use spaghetti squash in place of pasta, and it's definitely a delicious substitute. Originally, I had visions of making spaghetti squash fritters this week, and I still plan to create that recipe in the near future. But for now, I present you my newest taco - the Sweet & Smoky Spaghetti Squash taco!
The best part about this recipe, other than its simple list of ingredients and delicious flavor, is the ability to make the filling in-advance. Even though I make dinner from scratch nearly every night, I rarely make our meal right before I sit down with my family and eat. I guess one of my rituals is cooking during the daytime, when I'm home alone, at my own pace and at my own time. Those moments in my kitchen are my way of grounding myself, since repeated behavior and established patterns contribute to the calming rhythm of my day.
What are your rituals? How do they serve you? Where can you add more ritualistic behavior to your life, and where can you remove rituals which are no longer working in your favor? Tell me.
Wishing you a relaxing weekend, full of delicious food, health & wellness.
Sweet & Smoky Spaghetti Squash Tacos
Ingredients: (note - use organic whenever possible)
1 spaghetti squash
2 T sunflower seed oil
1/2 red onion
1 t cumin
1/2 t coriander
1 t dried oregano
1/2 t smoked paprika
1/4 t sea salt, or more, to taste
6 corn tortillas
freshly chopped cilantro
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Wash the spaghetti squash under cool water to remove any dirt. Using a very sharp knife, carefully cut it in half, from stem to root end. Scrape out and discard the seeds inside the squash (or save to dry and roast for later). Place the halves, cut side down, on the lined baking sheet. Use the tip of a knife to poke a few holes into each half of the squash to allow steam to escape. Bake for 1 hour, until soft to the touch. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes.
Once the squash has cooled, use a fork to scrape the flesh of each half into a large bowl. Scraping the squash flesh with a fork yields the spaghetti-like strands. Set the bowl of squash aside. Slice the onion into thin pieces.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions. Sauté the onion until it has softened and started to brown on the edges, stirring occasionally, 6-8 minutes. Add the squash to the skillet with the onion and gently toss to combine. Lower the heat to low, to prevent the squash and onions from burning.
Sprinkle the cumin, coriander, dried oregano, smoked paprika, and 1/4 t sea salt over the squash-onion mixture; gently stir the ingredients, to distribute the spices but to keep the squash strands intact. Allow the mixture to simmer, uncovered, to blend the flavors, for 5 minutes.
Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more salt or other spice, if desired.
To serve, heat the tortillas and place a large spoonful of the squash-onion mixture on top of each tortilla. Garnish with sliced avocado and freshly chopped cilantro.
recipe yields 6 generous servings
squash may be roasted, scraped, and chilled in a covered container, 2 days ahead of proceeding with the recipe; bring to room temperature before adding the squash to the hot pan with the sautéed onion
leftovers keep well, in a covered container and chilled, for 2-3 days
serve the squash-onion mixture over a bowl of your favorite grain, or atop a piece of toast, instead of on a tortilla