Dark Days Challenge #1: Moroccan Spaghetti Squash, Roasted Beets and Garlic Lamb Sausage

as my garden waned and fall came into its full, i decided to make a bold move and sign up for the Dark Days Challenge. for two winters now i have hibernated, sedately watching dvds in my living room and bemoaning that it is dark when i leave work.

i wanted this year to be different.
i wanted to challenge myself and remain intrigued and involved in food, even if i couldn't be growing it just then.

i will readily admit that i have so far spent a fair amount of time mulling over the possibilities. realizing the foods that won't be able to make it to my S.O.L.E. table—rice was the one that came to me most recently—as well as congratulating myself on working so hard this October to put up so many tomatoes.

as of a couple of weeks ago i decided that it was fate that the Moroccan Spiced Spaghetti Squash recipe on Smitten Kitchen fell into my lap. i have several from the farm and had been wondering what i would do with them. as a child i loved spaghetti squash for its novelty factor but as i've grown older i've mostly lost interest.

but then, i've never done much with it besides butter or tomato sauce, like i did as a child.

so i started with that and then added items as they came to me. roasted beets because they needed to be eaten and some garlic lamb sausage from Thundering Hooves to round things out.

i will throw out there that i feel incredibly lucky to be living in Walla Walla with so many wonderful local farmers and artisans around me. i have access to delicious free-range organic meats, cheeses and milks, and a bevy of organic farms and orchards in the region. my greatest hurdle will likely be grains—although i may make exceptions for locally made bread and there is a regional grain producer about 250 miles away, so there may be some stretching there. if needed.

this week has been an oddly busy one, so i didn't get myself into the kitchen until Saturday afternoon. however, i know my way around a spaghetti squash and a handful of beets, so things went quickly. i will admit i chose sausage in part because of its quick and simple preparation—but hey, i knew my week was busy.

the cooking was a chaotic experience, roommates and friends in the house fixing up their own grub (cheesy broccoli, mashed potatoes and fried chicken at that). i was admittedly both rushed and slightly inattentive.

the beets (variety: cylindra) were roasted in the oven after being tossed with olive oil and salt (neither local). i let them roast until i was almost ready to eat and then tossed them with basalmic vinegar that i had cooked with sugar and cumin in a failed attempt at a reduction sauce.

the beets in all their glory

this may speak volumes of my effort but the sausage was both the easiest and the tastiest item on my plate. i simmered it in a small frying pan in a water/cabernet juice mixture, the juice from a local wine maker. as a garnish i used a lavender mustard made from the Blue Mountain Lavender Farm.

the meal in all its glory

in the end, the initial dish—the squash—was disappointing.
verdict? mixed bag. for one, i think it was over cooked and therefore had none of the strand-y texture i was anticipating. the spice was a welcome addition but others partaking found the cumin overwhelming. perhaps i would try it again a little simpler: butter, salt, and cayenne. either way, the recipe is posted below.

i ate the meal with a friend, with our laptops on the kitchen table along with a camera, a box of satsumas, a roll of paper towels, and the makings for a gin and tonic. funky indie music, youtube videos and impromptu photoshoots were the entertainment.

to our credit, we sipped raspberry apple cider from Blue Mountain Cider Company to complete the local vibe. it was delicious.

so in the end it was not as much of a stretch to eat local but i will say that i didn't execute my game plan very well. or if it was, it wasn't very tasty. there is always next week.

moroccan spiced spaghetti squash
1 (3 1/2- to 4-pound) spaghetti squash
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or flat-leaf parsley (omitted)
Cut the squash in half length-wise, remove seeds with a spoon and roast, cut-side down on an oiled baking sheet in the oven. 375 degrees for approximately 40 minutes.
While it roasts, melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until it is barely golden. Stir in spices and salt. Remove from heat.
When the squash is done, scrape sides with a fork to loosen the insides into spaghetti-like strands.
Toss strands with spices and butter.


  1. Interesting. I hated squash as a child, and pretended to barf once when my mother made me eat it -- she never made me eat it again. Now I love (and grow) acorn, delicata, butternut, and some other random winter squashes, but not spaghetti, the offending barf-pretending variety.

    I suppose I should let bygones be bygones and give it a shot. Will moderate spices as you suggest.

    The other reason for my comment is I love meals at the table with laptops and random stuff everywhere. Also gin & tonic.

    To Dark Days!

  2. spaghetti squash can be tricky. i only make it about once every few years, and end up with something yummy about one in four times. It's a good alternative, though, for making a "dark days" local meal.


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