Not your usual spaghetti…

IMG_3083

Do you fear the carbs?

I spend a good portion of my patient time counseling patients on how to manage their weight and diabetes, and often that involves talking about food choices, nutrition, and exercise (yes!  a few of my favorite things!).  Some of my patients hardly know where to start, while others have embraced multiple fads (Atkins, South Beach, Paleo, Grain Brain, Gluten-free, etc), sometimes even eliminating whole food groups or cooking (i.e. only eating raw) in their efforts to lose weight and feel better.  There is a lot of controversy over carbohydrates, which have recently been cast as the new enemy in our fight against diabetes and obesity.

I wish I had an answer for “Which diet is the best diet,” but I don’t.  The best diet is the one you actually adhere to, the one you can follow sustainably.  For me, that means a more plant-based diet that emphasizes fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables, while also incorporating lean protein, whole grains, and good fats.   Make your calories count, and be mindful of avoiding foods that are highly caloric but not necessarily nutritious.   It’s amazing how different 2,000 calories can look on your plate, depending on what you choose.

I think that carbohydrates (whole grain, unprocessed and unrefined ones) do have a place in our diet and can be enjoyed in moderation.  For those seeking to expand their options beyond pasta, however, the following is a tasty rendition of spaghetti squash – this would never be a substitute for pasta…it stands alone as a tasty interpretation of this now very popular squash, which is low in calories, high in fiber, and contains folic acid, potassium, vitamin A, and beta-carotene. 

Spaghetti Squash with Prosciutto, Lemony Kale, and Cherry Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 shallot, sliced thinly
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 slices proscuitto, chopped
  • ½ tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 2 packed cups of chopped kale leaves
  • ½ lemon, juiced
  • ¼ cup oven roasted cherry tomatoes*
  • ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
  • salt & pepper
  • optional: freshly grated parmesan cheese

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Slice squash in half lengthwise and remove seeds.  Drizzle cut surface with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Place the squash on a baking sheet, cut side up. Roast for about ~30-45 min until the flesh is tender and you can scrape noodle-like strands with a fork.
  3. Remove squash from the oven, cool slightly and use a fork to scrape the squash into strands.  Set aside.
  4. In a large skillet over medium heat, add about 1 tbl olive oil to the pan.  Saute shallot and proscuitto until slightly crisp.  Add garlic, rosemary, and chile flakes.
  5. Add the kale leaves and a good pinch of salt.  Stir in lemon juice.
  6. Once the kale is partially wilted, add the squash strands, a little grated cheese, the oven roasted cherry tomatoes, and salt and pepper, to taste. Toss to incorporate.
  7. Remove from heat and top with toasted pine nuts and extra grated cheese.

* for oven roasted cherry tomatoes – halve cherry tomatoes crosswise and toss with a little olive oil, making sure they are evenly coated.  Lightly season with salt and pepper.  Stir in minced herbs if using (e.g. thyme or rosemary).  Roast in preheated oven at 250 degrees F for about 1 hr or until shriveled and almost dry, with a little juice.

On books, books, and more books.

IMG_2627“Is this a case of the rich getting richer?” J asked me when he saw me happily engrossed in Ottolenghi’s Plenty.  I think the answer would have to be unabashedly yes.

I have now also added Plenty More to my growing cookbook collection, courtesy of my thoughtful sister at Christmas.  Despite less and less free time to read over the years, I’ve continued to amass quite a few books, as my poor family and friends can attest after all the times they have had to help me move them – sometimes across the country!  (I have a hard time letting go of my books, academic or not).  Cookbooks have come to occupy more and more space in that library, despite the wide availability of resources online.  There is just something so engrossing about flipping through pages of beautiful pictures and recipes – recipes occasionally accompanied by others’ stories, but which also call out to be contextualized in new ways, in my own kitchen.

I would love to have a wall to wall library (like Belle in Beauty and the Beast!) someday.  A walk-in closet would also be nice, but I think J will really accuse me of being one of those “rich getting richer” if I insist on that.

Despite all of the zigzagging I’ve done on planes since college, I have yet to really travel the world.  Cookbooks are my window into other places and countries, a chance to discover other cuisines and cultures through taste, texture, and smells.  I’ve been fortunate to live in metropolitan areas rich in ethnic restaurants and cooks adept in translating the tastes of their homelands, but I know nothing compares to actually traveling there.

I recently made shakshouka* and this celery salad with feta and soft-boiled egg from Ottolenghi’s Plenty and Plenty More.  Both were fantastic, and I can not wait to try more recipes (I may or may not have bookmarked almost the entire book 😉 ).  I love the vibrant simplicity and bold flavors of both – delish!

IMG_2959 IMG_3100