|Spaghetti squash pancake topped with sour cream (the goat version for me)|
and Cabernet Franc ice syrup.
There's a reason it's called spaghetti squash.
The more time I spend with these oblong, yellow, pulpy beasts, the less convinced I am that their moniker came to be because of the stringy, spaghetti-like consistency of their innards. Nope, I'm convinced it's called spaghetti squash because really, it's not good for much else other than a pasta substitute.
Proof came this week when I tried another suggestion I received after tweeting for ideas of how to pare down the pile of local spaghetti squash that had grown in my garage.
First up was spaghetti squash ramen, a brilliant idea that resulted in a meal I will repeat.
The other was for spaghetti squash fritters or pancakes drizzled with ice syrup, compliments of the Niagara-on-the-Lake grape grower behind ice syrup, Steve Murdza. A savvy marketer, Murdza is constantly tweeting clever and eyebrow-raising ways to use his creation, which could give maple syrup a bit of a run for the title of ultimate Canadian elixir.
Ice syrup is made from frozen wine grapes, which, instead of being fermented and used for icewine, are bottled as a thicker, sweeter, non-alcoholic incarnation that, according to Murdza's tweets, can be used on anything, including breathing new life into a spaghetti squash. Ice syrup comes in two varieties, Vidal and Cabernet Franc, and he suggested I try the red Cab Franc version for my experiment.
So, for dinner one night this week, I set about steaming a large squash (do they come in any other size?).
Once that was done, I treated it like I would potatoes in the making of potato pancakes. I love potato pancakes. Sure, they're far from sexy but they're a comfort food for me and filling. Topped with apple sauce, I'm sold even more on the potato pancake's merits. But for this experiment, I went with sour cream and then topped that with the ice syrup.
To give my simple, super mild squash a bit more oomph, I added two flavours that make the perfect couple: apple and leek. Oh, and of course, salt and pepper.
I fried them up and dug in. And while it was a creative use of my squash, I wasn't as sold on this version as I was the ramen.
Spaghetti squash is brilliant at maintaining its firmness. It doesn't get mushy, which is why it's the perfect pasta replacement. It's always al dente.
But when I cut into my pancakes, that firmness required me to use a knife instead of a lone fork, which can easily hack into and pry apart a potato pancake. The knife was needed to cut through the long strings of squash that just wouldn't separate easily from the pancake to make the journey to my mouth.
Normally, I like my potato pancakes big. Maybe among potato pancake purists, this is wrong, but it's never been an issue for me. With spaghetti squash pancakes, the silver dollar size is essential. At that size, they came out crispy. No matter how long I kept the larger editions on the heat, they didn't crisp up. Not good in my world. (If only I had a cast iron pan or a deep fryer...)
Also, Murdza knows what he's talking about with his syrup suggestions. Never doubt when he tells you to try it with borscht or anything else unexpected because without the syrup, this recipe would fall flatter than, well, a pancake.
I tried my spaghetti squash pancakes with just the syrup and it tasted like a waste of perfectly good ice syrup. With just the sour cream alone, it was like going on a dinner date with someone who wouldn't talk about anything other than work. Boring.
But with the syrup and sour cream together, it was actually pretty decent, picking up the slack of the apple and leek, which were maybe too mild for even the meek spaghetti squash. This is definitely a recipe that calls for the same punchy garlic greens or green onions that have a special place reserved for them in my potato pancakes.
While the next spaghetti squash to cross my path will wind up as ramen, this wasn't a total write-off. It's definitely more of a side dish rather than a main and is a worthy change from the usual squash-as-pasta dish, if like me, you're swimming in spaghetti squash. Just don't forget the ice syrup and sour cream.
Spaghetti squash pancakes (serves 4)
1 large spaghetti squash
2 apples, shredded with skins on
2 medium leeks, whites only, chopped/a large bunch of garlic greens/6 green onions
1 cup flour (I used Tom Neufeld's whole grain flour that he grinds at his Campden farm. It's wonderful and he sells it Saturdays at the St. Catharines Farmers Market)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
A good glug of oil for frying (I used about 3 tbsp, divided between each batch)
Steam the spaghetti squash in a steamer or pot until tender and easily pierced with a fork. Let cool. Scoop out innards.
Shred apples in a food processor and chop leeks, set aside in bowl. Add egg, beaten, squash and flour to leeks and apples. It's important that the squash has cooled so it doesn't cook the egg. Add salt and pepper and mix well.
Heat oil in frying pan. Use a cast iron one if you have it. Add a heaping tablespoonful of batter, flatten and fry until golden brown and crispy. Drain on a paper towel.
Serve topped with a dollop of sour cream and don't forget the drizzle of Cabernet Franc ice syrup.