By this point you should have your Thanksgiving menu decided upon and your grocery list done. HA! I have fragments of ideas ricocheting around in my brain and past issues of favorite Bon Appétit Thanksgiving issues opened to appetizing sides, and still confuse myself by gazing at delicious creations in the blogosphere.
Two things have been decided upon: for the first time I didn’t order an organic turkey, but rather a diminutive boned turkey breast and, with most of October spent traveling and College Girl only having four days off, we are looking forward to a quiet Thanksgiving at home and not being among the thousands of travelers flying the unfriendly skies!
So today’s post is a quickie because I’ve got work to do – and so do you I’m not going to tempt you with yet another idea for a Thanksgiving side, but rather a rustic, flavorful vegetarian dish that’s sure to please any non-carnivores or gluten intolerant guests at your feast as well as fulfill everyone’s craving for lighter fare after days of indulging in turkey and all the rich fixins. My Moroccan obsession, first realized in June with Moroccan Chicken and Green Beans, was reignited after reading Food Wandering’s review of Paula Wolfert’s The Food of Morocco cookbook. I guess I didn’t win that giveaway, darn!
Silken strands of Spaghetti squash became the vehicle for my rendition of Moroccan tomato jam flavored with aromatic Ras el Hanout*, cinnamon, and saffron water. When Shulie said that nearly all the recipes in the cookbook that include saffron, add it in the form of saffron water—crumbled, dried, and crushed saffron threads soaked in warm water – and, besides being more economical, it brings out more of the spice’s aroma and flavor; I was excited to try it.
Spaghetti Squash with Moroccan Tomato Jam
1 spaghetti squash
1 28 oz. No-salt added plum tomatoes
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided use
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon Ras el Hanout
2 tablespoons saffron water
1 tablespoon honey*
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
8 oz. package spinach
Garnish: Sesame seeds
Yield: 3-4 servings
1. Rinse whole squash. Using a meat fork, poke 6 holes in the skin. Microwave for 12 minutes. Allow to cool. Cut in half, scoop out seeds and discard. Using the meat fork, scrape the squash pulp out of the shell and transfer to a glass bowl. Set aside. I used only one of the halves for this recipe and saved the other for another use.
Meanwhile, prepare the saffron water. Crush 1/2 teaspoon of saffron threads, add to a heated pan, stir for a minute to release the flavors. Remove and crush again. Pour 1 cup hot water over. Reserve 2 tablespoons and refrigerate the remainder in a glass container for up to 3 weeks.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, add crushed garlic, cook for 1 minute. Add the Ras el Hanout and cook for another minute to release the flavors.
3. Add the tomatoes, using a large spoon to break into chunks. Add the saffron water. Cook until all liquid is evaporated and you ‘re left with a thick jam, stirring to prevent the mixture from sticking and browning. About 15 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in cinnamon and honey.
4. In a medium-sized skillet, saute the spinach in a tablespoon of olive oil and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes over medium heat until softened. Mix in spaghetti squash. Top with tomato jam and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.
*Note: Vegans can substitute raw sugar, agave, brown rice syrup or other preferred sweetener for the honey.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!
*Ras el Hanout can contain more than 30 ingredients and is a traditional Moroccan blend of herbs and spices, popular across the Middle East and North Africa. The name means “head of the shop” in Arabic and represents the very pinnacle of spice blends – for Moroccan souks (spice merchants) it’s a point of honor to have the most sought after version of this blend. Ingredients include saffron, paprika, cumin, ginger, coriander, tumeric, fennel seed, and allspice to name a few. I’ve been in love with a quality aromatic blend of Ras el Hanout from Awaken Savor Spices since “discovering” them at the Taste of Huntington Beach two years ago and use the spice to flavor stews, soups, eggs, and as a dry rub or mixed with olive oil to brush on meats, poultry, or fish.