January 29, 2014 at 1:00 am

Maureen Tisdale

Let's Talk Food: All about spaghetti squash

Spaghetti squash is easily shredded with a fork. (Brandy Baker / The Detroit News)

“Hey, babe, the spaghetti squash are huge this week. Want me to get some?”

I just love my husband. He knows me inside and out — including little things like the fact that I’m most likely to mess with spaghetti squash if it’s huge and therefore (in my mind) less work than dealing with a bunch of little ones. And he is very good to me with his patient checking on what I want as he helps with the grocery shopping.

So, despite the fact that I’m in a lazy veggie mode lately (loving those steamable bags from Sam’s), I told my husband to go ahead and grab a couple.

Not everyone, it turns out, knows this produce marvel. A woman who saw my husband get them asked him, “What do you do with those?” I can see where the uninitiated would be at a loss with this winter squash, very different from its butternut or acorn cousins. I was amazed when I first saw how when you rake a fork down the inside of the squash once it’s steamed, you get spaghetti-like strands that go great with tomato sauce for crazy fewer calories (42 calories a cup for spaghetti squash versus 220 for spaghetti pasta).

Even my husband, usually a self-proclaimed squash hater, loves it; he’s quick to tell people it’s “nothing like squash” (believe me, I would never EVER get that call from his shopping trip to Randazzo’s about any other squash, not even for the Baked Squash Gratin at Thanksgiving my supposed squash hater loved).

So last week I cut the massive spaghetti squash in half, dug out the seeds and gave each half about 7 minutes — we like it a little al dente — in the microwave over water in a Corningware dish (with plastic wrap over it to keep the moisture in and help it steam quickly). I seasoned a 28-ounce can of tomato puree to add, and we had a massive batch of a nutrient-dense, calorie-light squash that lasted nearly a week even with two of us eating quite a bit at each serving.

When I stopped by Randazzo’s Monday to see if they still had the massive spaghetti squash, I just found the more modest sizes — which believe me, will make plenty. Plus it’s not really too much more work if you pop them in the oven to bake several at once (wrap in foil, try 30-45 minutes at 350; they’re ready when soft to poke).

But straight-up “red-spaghetti-style” isn’t the only way to go; my mom sautes the squash strands with olive oil and garlic for a light version of the pasta we called “white spaghetti” (no tomato sauce) as kids. And my friend Dana — she of last week’s rice-cake kettle corn — played with it to come up with a sort-of simple Tex-mex version. In her words:

I poke holes all around the squash and put it in the microwave for about 20 minutes (turn halfway through). Then, cut it in half and remove seeds (much easier than when raw).

I take more than 8 oz of the cooked spaghetti squash (it cooks down from there), sprinkle with garlic salt and saute it in ½ tbsp margarine until it gets brown.

In my bowl, I measure 2 oz salsa, 2 oz cheese (or 4 oz chicken is just as good too). After the squash is browned, I measure out 8 oz of squash and put on top of the salsa/cheese or salsa/chicken and mix it together.

It is so yummy.

So if you haven’t tried this squash, don’t be skeered (as my sister Tiff would say). It may not be as easy as the steamable bags of green beans and broccoli I keep leaning on, but it’s a lot more fun to eat.

Doing anything special with spaghetti squash? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below. You need a Facebook account to add comments, but they’re easy to sign up for, and free. Detroit News Food Editor Maureen Tisdale will respond to comments or questions in the next few days. You also can follow her on Twitter @reentiz. Join the discussion!

Just drizzle on a little tomato sauce — hopefully less messily than I did ... (Brandy Baker / The Detroit News)