As we rode our bicycles down the bike path on Kenai Spur Highway with our yellow lab, Rosie, running beside us, my wife turned to me and said, "I really love fall. I don't think I ever realized how much I love it." She talked about how crisp the air feels on her face, how it smells, the way the damp leaves lay across the bike path like a golden carpet.
It won't be long before the path is covered in snow and we'll have to retire our road bikes for the season, so our family is trying to sneak in as many rides as we can before we run out of time.
"I love it too," I offered, and when she asked why I love it, it wasn't long before I launched into the food and the flavors of fall, in typical fashion: pears and apples, wild mushrooms and Brussels sprouts, cinnamon and nutmeg, sweet potatoes and pomegranates, maple and butterscotch, all varieties of hardy, colorful squash. My list could go on and on.
For dinner that night we had these spaghetti squash bowls with a cheesy garlic and spinach cream sauce. Despite being naturally low-carb and vegetarian, this dish feels very rich and indulgent, so I served it up with a nice green salad on the side dressed with an acidic balsamic vinaigrette.
Cheesy spinach and garlic spaghetti squash
1 medium spaghetti squash
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
8 ounces spinach
4 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
2/3 cup mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Pierce the spaghetti squash with a fork a couple of times on each side. Place the whole spaghetti squash onto a rimmed baking sheet. Roast the squash whole for 1 hour. When the squash is roasted, allow it to cool at least 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, as the squash is cooling, heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil. Saute the garlic and red pepper flakes until fragrant, about 90 seconds. Add the spinach to the pan and saute until wilted. Stir in the cream cheese until warmed through and melted. Add the milk and Parmesan cheese, stirring until combined and creamy. Season generously with salt and pepper to taste (you'll be adding it to the spaghetti squash, which will water it down a bit, so add more salt than you think you need). Reduce the heat to low and keep warm while you prepare the squash.
Preheat the broiler to high. Carefully slice the squash in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop out the seeds in the center until clean. Discard the seeds. Using a fork, shred the spaghetti squash into "noodles," leaving the noodles inside their shells. Divide the spinach cream sauce between the two spaghetti squash halves and toss the sauce and the squash to coat. Sprinkle the top of each squash half with 1/3 cup mozzarella cheese. Return the squash halves to the oven and broil for 5 minutes, or until golden and bubbly. Serve promptly.
Maya Wilson lives in Kenai and blogs about food at alaskafromscratch.com. Have a food question or recipe request? Email email@example.com and your inquiry may appear in a future column.