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Spaghetti Squash Latkes

I've always loved squash but the first time I tried spaghetti squash as a kid, I felt, well, betrayed. It certainly didn't taste like any pasta I had ever eaten. Sure, you could make a case that the stringiness of the squash resembles spaghetti but actually taste like it? Come on. To me, it was boring. It just was not my favorite.

But tastes change. When I was gifted with a spaghetti squash almost as large as my cat, I thought it was time that spaghetti squash and I become reacquainted.

The way I did it was to stop pretending that spaghetti squash was a pasta substitute. I finally started to treat it like what it is: a glorious cat-sized squash. Spaghetti squash is a winter squash like butternut. However, to me, it tastes more like a summer squash. And just like zucchini or yellow neck, spaghetti squash benefits from being sautéed and caramelized. So, I tried it. I dropped a clump of spaghetti squash strands into hot grapeseed oil and added a pinch of salt. I was sold.

And then--mainly because it's Chanukah--I thought, Latkes. Of course, latkes! I added some cooked spaghetti squash to my regular potato latke recipe and it got lost in the sea of potato. I then realized that the spaghetti squash could and should stand on its own.

Unlike my potato latkes, I add Parmesan and garlic to these. And in a tongue-in-cheek nod to the "spaghetti squash as spaghetti", I serve them with warm marinara or pizza sauce.

1-3 to 4 pound spaghetti squash

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 cup grated Parmesan (plus more for garnish)

1/2 tsp salt

Cracked black pepper to taste

2 large eggs, beaten

2 - 3 TBS all-purpose flour

Oil (I use grapeseed oil for sautéeing and extra virgin olive oil as a garnish but use what you prefer)

Your favorite marinara or pizza sauce

Cook the spaghetti squash. You can either roast it in the oven or in a slow cooker. The slow cooker method is easier and it makes the strands more tender but the squash does release quite a bit of water. The oven method is faster but the strands have more of an al dente quality to them. Try both ways to see which you prefer!

Oven Method:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds. Discard the seeds or roast them like pumpkin seeds.

Place the squash face down in a large baking dish. Add just enough water to the pan so it covers the squash by two inches.

Bake the squash for an hour or until a knife slides easily into the squash. Remove the squash from the oven and cool for 5 minutes.

Remove the squash from the pan and cool for another 5 - 10 minutes or until you can handle the squash without burning yourself. Using a fork, carefully scrape out the squash strands and set aside.


Slow Cooker Method:

Prick the skin of the squash in 2 - 3 places and place it in the slow cooker.

Add 1 cup of water. Place the lid on the slow cooker.

Cook on high for 3 - 3-1/2 hours or until a knife slides easily into the squash. Turn the slow cooker off, replace the lid, and allow the squash to sit for 5 minutes.

Remove the lid and allow the squash to sit for an additional 5 - 10 minutes or until you can handle the squash without burning yourself.

Cut the squash in half, scrape away the seeds, and discard them. Using a fork, carefully scrape out the squash strands and set aside.

Whichever method you use, place the cooked squash into a large sieve over a bowl and cool completely. Discard any water that may have drained from the squash.

Once the squash is cooled, place it in a lint-free kitchen towel and twist the towel to remove the excess water--which can be a lot!

Place the squash in a mixing bowl. Using your hands, pull apart any squash strands that may have clumped up.

Add the onions, garlic, Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper to the squash. Stir the ingredients gently with a fork. If it seems like the ingredients aren't sticking together, they will once you add the egg.

Make a well in the center of the squash and add the beaten egg. Using the fork, bring the squash into the egg until well-combined.

Add flour, one tablespoon at a time, to the squash. You just want the squash mixture to hold together but not be too dense. In the photo above, I used 2-1/2 tablespoons of flour.

Set aside the squash mixture for 15 minutes.

Place 2 tablespoons of oil into a large nonstick skillet. Heat on medium.

If any liquid was released from the squash mixture as it sat, stir it back in.

Using a fork or a smaller cookie scoop, drop the squash mixture into the skillet. Do not overcrowd the latkes. Cook for 3 - 5 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Flip the latkes over and cook for an additional 3 minutes or until golden brown. Place the latkes on a paper or clean lint-free kitchen towel to drain. If you're making a lot of latkes (that's fun to say!), place the cooked latkes onto a sheet pan and keep warm in a 200 degree oven.

Add more oil to the skillet if necessary and repeat the process until all of the squash mixture is gone.

Meanwhile, heat your favorite marinara or pizza sauce on low in a saucepan or covered with a damp paper towel in the microwave.

To serve the latkes, grate more Parmesan cheese over the top, drizzle with olive oil (if desired) and marinara or pizza sauce. Or serve the sauce alongside for dipping.

Depending on how big you make them, this recipe will make 8 - 12 latkes...which doesn't sound like a lot but I just ate three of them for breakfast and I'm quite full! You can also make bite-sized latkes as an appetizer.

Don't Freak Out!

1) Parmigiano reggiano is neither vegetarian or kosher. Use a domestic Parmesan made with microbial or non-animal rennet. If you're a vegetarian, kosher rennet is often--but not always--vegetarian. You can also substitute a vegan Parmesan cheese. If you use canned Parmesan cheese, although I don't recommend it (it's mostly salt and fillers), omit or reduce the salt from the recipe.

2) Speaking of cheese, the amount of Parmesan I use in the recipe gives the latkes a pleasant cheesy tanginess. But use more if you like more cheese. You can also add extra Parmesan during the cooking process: before flipping the latkes, add a pinch or two of the cheese to the top of the raw side. This will add a little cheesy crust.

3) You can also substitute grated grana padano, pecorino romano, or Dubliner Irish cheese (it's vegetarian) for the Parmesan. Smoked cheese would also be nice.

4) These latkes don't puff up like potato latkes but that's okay: they're still delicious and filling

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