When increasing the fat content in the diet, it’s a great time to also reduce the amount of starchy carbohydrates. When we think of the Mediterranean diet, we tend to automatically think of a large plate of pasta with sauce. While there may be some truth to this today due to the general rise in the consumption of carbs – pasta, potatoes, bread and the like are consumed in relatively small amounts in traditional Mediterranean style cooking. Vegetables, fats in the form of rich sauces, and protein foods make up the bulk of the traditional Mediterranean diet.
Winter squash is a great way to move away from high carb foods. They are packed full of nutrients: their yellow or orange color indicate they have beta carotene – the precursor to Vitamin A. They are also high in Vitamin C and have good quality fiber. They are tasty and filling, yet have half the carbs and calories of grains and potatoes.
In Asian medicine, squashes are known as foods that enhance and heal the Earth Element, so they’re great for improving the digestive system – the Spleen/Pancreas Complex. Winter squashes keep for a long time after harvesting, and make delicious soups and side dishes.
My favorite winter squashes include butternut, acorn and spaghetti. I use butternut to make soup, acorn to stuff with veggies, and spaghetti for – well – spaghetti! Here’s my recipe for Spaghetti Squash a la Mediterranee:
1 medium-sized spaghetti squash, about 3-4 pounds 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 1 medium sweet onion, chopped 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and loosely chopped 1/4 pound shiitake or other mushrooms, loosely chopped 1 large, ripe tomato, chopped 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped 2 tablespoons butter or ghee, preferably from pasture-raised cows Salt & Pepper to taste High-quality Parmesan cheese (optional)
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Cut spaghetti squash length-wise down the center; remove seeds.
Place squash cut side down on a glass baking dish; add 2 tablespoons water to the dish.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, until squash can be easily pierced with a fork. (Sometimes I bake the squash the day before, and store covered in refrigerator until ready for use.)
When baked squash is cool enough to handle, heat olive oil in a heavy pot or large skillet. Add onion & garlic; sauté at medium heat for about 3-4 minutes.
Add mushrooms and let cook another 4 minutes.
Add tomato; cook 5 minutes more.
Using a fork or a spoon, remove the inside of the squash – it will look a lot like angel hair pasta. Add directly to the pot with the other vegetables.
Add basil; stir to incorporate all ingredients.
Add butter, salt and pepper to taste. Cover and let simmer on low heat for about 5 minutes.
Serve hot, with optional Parmesan cheese grated on top. Serve with roasted chicken, baked wild salmon, or marinated and grilled tempeh. Serves 4-6.