Yesterday was just another hamburger day, but the sides made it more than ordinary—roasted spaghetti squash and onion straws. Usually I roast this kind of squash in halves, cut side down in an inch of water for a half hour, then flipped and brushed with melted butter to roast and brown for another half hour. I scoop out the strands of flesh and add a little more butter. Yum. I didn’t see why I couldn’t roast the squash more like other veggies, though, peeled and cut in chunks, tossed with olive oil. And then I had half the sheet pan empty, so I cut three onions into straws and tossed them with olive oil, too. Kind of a lazy person’s version of caramelized onions, without all the stirring—they topped my smashed burgers. I roughly mashed the squash into what I think I’ll call a rustic mash and drizzled over it a little melted butter. 👍 It was definitely a more-than-ordinary burger day.
👉 I used an odd photo filter here—Sparta—and it lives up to its name, making the food look a little spartan. 🤔 In reality, the squash was a little more orange-yellow and the onions white. Use your imagination.
Roasted Spaghetti Squash and Onion Straws
Preheat oven to 350-375º; line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. I often roast vegetables, like potatoes, at a higher temperature, so it’s your call, but I didn’t want the onions to incinerate before the squash was done.
- 1 spaghetti squash
- 2-3 cups finely sliced yellow onions
- olive oil, for roasting
- Optional: melted butter, for serving with squash
- Peel the squash, making sure to cut down to the yellow flesh. The outer skin has some long tough fibers that you can see as you peel, but you don’t need to cut off much of the skin.
- Cut the ends off and then cut the squash in half. Scoop out and discard the seeds, or save to roast. Cut the remaining flesh into 1″ cubes.
- Toss in a bowl with olive oil to coat. Spread out on sheet pan. Mine only took up half the pan.
- Peel onions and cut in half lengthwise (basically, you’re cutting the rings in half). Slice the halves thinly and separate with your fingers.
- Toss the onions in a bowl with olive oil to coat. Spread out on the remaining half of the sheet pan.
- Sprinkle all with coarse salt and pepper.
- Roast for about 45 minutes, or until the squash is tender. You can periodically toss the onions to distribute the ones on the edges that are likely to burn, although I expect a little char on roasted vegetables.
- Serve the onions on your burgers.
- Coarsely mash the squash, leaving some chunks. Drizzle some melted butter over the squash for decadence. 😉
Just think of all the savory things you could put in a strudel
I made a tomato pie once, but I can’t eat a whole pie by myself, and my husband didn’t want any part of it. This year, I still wanted something with a crust, just not as big as a pie. I did think about turnovers or a tart, and am keeping those ideas for another time. This year it’s strudel, made with frozen puff pastry. I have used frozen phyllo sheets (long ago) and even tried rolling out authentic strudel dough (longer ago), but, come on, frozen puff pastry is a handy piece of magic.
The tomato layers are my Maple Tomato Jam plus layers of roasted tomatoes. I pretty much follow Rachael Ray’s recipe for the roasted tomatoes, but did not use any garlic this time. The tomatoes are topped with shredded fontina cheese and fresh thyme. My husband said it was a kind of pizza. Hmm. Puff pastry pizza—there’s an idea.
Tomato Strudel with Fontina and Thyme
- 24-40 roasted roma tomato halves (some of mine were Big Russians, which are very big; most were small San Marzanos)
- 1/2 cup maple tomato jam
- 1 sheet frozen puff pastry dough, rolled out 12″ x 16″
- 1/2-1 cup shredded fontina cheese (I went light on the cheese to highlight the tomatoes, but you could add more)
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme (Note: thyme is also used in roasting the tomatoes
- 1 egg + 1 tablespoon water whisked for egg wash
- Optional: coarse sea salt
- Roast tomatoes according to recipe link above and let cool. I roasted mine the day before when I was doing other garden-related things. That made it easy to put the strudel together. I took them out of the refrigerator about an hour before assembly so they would come to room temperature.
- I had some of the tomato jam in the freezer and took it out to thaw beforehand.
- Thaw one sheet of puff pastry (folded) on a lightly floured mat for about 40 minutes or until it will unfold without cracking. If at any time during the making you think the dough is too warm and sticky, just pop it back in the freezer for a few minutes, then continue at whatever stage you’re at.
- Roll out the pastry to a 12″ x 16″ rectangle. Just keep at it and don’t try to rush it. If the dough seems stiff, it will begin to soften as you are rolling. When rolled out, lift and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet pan. It will be a little floppy, but you can easily rearrange it into an even rectangle (I say confidently).
- Spread the tomato jam down the center third of the pastry lengthwise.
- Layer on roasted tomatoes as thick as you desire. I would say I had about three layers.
- Sprinkle with cheese and thyme.
- Cut slits at an angle into the remaining thirds of the dough, ending about 1/2 inch from the filling, so that you have about 12 strips to weave.
- Some people try to close the ends of a strudel with the first and last strips—I don’t worry about that. Just begin alternating the dough strips across the filling until the whole strudel is enclosed. If you find too much flour on the dough, you can brush it off now.
- Brush with egg wash of 1 egg and 1 tablespoon water whisked together. Sprinkle on coarse sea salt, keeping in mind that your roasted tomatoes were already seasoned with salt.
- Bake at 400º for 35 mins. I lowered my oven to 375º for the last ten minutes.
It was inevitable that with all the tomatoes my husband plants every year, I would come around to tomato jam. I could stick to making only sauce or roasted tomatoes for the freezer, because we always run out before the next growing season comes around, but I wanted to add something new to our tomato arsenal. Plus, we are fond of homemade condiments that dress up plain old traditional foods like burgers, so this glorified ketchup seemed like a good idea. In honor of the occasion, I added a condiments category to the site menu.
My jam is not preserved—because I don’t know how to do that and don’t have canning equipment. Plus, I must admit that I am a little afraid of home-canned foods. So this fresh jam can be refrigerated for a couple of weeks or frozen for longer storage.
Maple Tomato Jam
- 4 lbs tomatoes, cored and chopped (not seeded)—mine were half San Marzano roma and half Early Girl globe tomatoes
- 1 cup pure maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon ginger paste or grated ginger
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon ground dried hot pepper—mine were California chiles
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- Combine all ingredients in a large, heavy stockpot.
- Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium to keep the jam at a low boil for 2 hours. Stir occasionally, and a little more often during the last 20 minutes.*
- Fill your jars and cool slightly before sealing with lids. Refrigerate for up to two weeks or freeze. If freezing in plastic bags, cool before filling and sealing.
*I have a gas stove, but you will have to choose the temperatures that you know work on yours. Basically, you want to see bubbling throughout the cooking time—without using a lid. If your temperature is too low, it will take a lot longer for the moisture to evaporate. Mine was thick and ready at 2 hours and 10 minutes. But don’t try to hurry the jam, either, and risk scorching it. Let the flavors develop over the 2 hours at a low and visible boil. Follow the rule of dragging your wooden spoon across the bottom of the pan, waiting for the point when liquid doesn’t run into the path. You think it will never reach that stage, and then the magic just happens.
I tried to get the essentials into the title—roasting, garden harvest, classic panzanella, and pasta. From the garden, I’m roasting tomatoes and green beans. My husband doesn’t care for tomatoes, but he tends the garden—sometimes you have to eat what you sow. The green beans are meant to draw him into the dish. I’m going to roast the bread cubes, as well, instead of toasting the bread in a skillet. Then it’s just a matter of making the right dressing and tossing it all with pasta and cheese curds. I know mozzarella is traditional, but I’m in love with Yancey’s Fancy® Fresh Cheddar Cheese Curds, and I think they will be perfect.
I’m going to use rice vinegar in the dressing, because it’s the mildest of the vinegars. I’m also going to seed the tomatoes before roasting and add all that liquidy stuff to the dressing, straining out the tomato seeds. But olive oil will be the star. The bread cubes, green beans, and tomatoes will all be tossed with extra virgin olive oil before roasting, and then some more will be in the final dressing.
I’m roasting more ingredients than I will use, but nothing is lost. The extra roasted tomatoes, beans, and bread cubes, will probably end up in lunches or snacks.
Seeding the tomatoes
Strain seeds out of dressing
Roasted Garden Panzanella Pasta
- 2 cups cubed crusty bread, such as from a batard or baguette—I toasted the whole loaf, but only used 2 cups in the dish
- enough tomatoes to make about 1.5-2 cups—use any type of tomato; mine were Early Girls, the first to ripen here. I roasted 10 tomatoes, but used only 4 in the dish.
- 1.5 cups fresh green beans
- 4 oz. pasta cooked according to package directions—I used whole wheat penne
- 6 oz. cheese curds—mine were fresh cheddar, which is much more mild than aged cheddar
- 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil for dressing
- 4-6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil for roasting vegetables
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar or other mild vinegar
- 2 large cloves garlic, finely grated
- salt & pepper
Preheat oven to 425º; line 2-3 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Bread: Toss bread cubes in large bowl with 2-3 tablespoons olive oil—I used 3 for the whole loaf—don’t overdo it. Spread on one of the baking sheets and toast in oven for about 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove and set aside 2 cups for the dish.
- Vegetables: Core and seed the tomatoes, reserving the tomato seeds and pulp for the dressing—I had about 1 cup of liquid from the tomatoes. Place the halved tomatoes, cut side up, on one of the lined baking sheets. Drizzle with olive oil. Salt and pepper.
- Toss the green beans with about 2 tablespoons olive oil. Spread on the second lined sheet; salt and pepper.
- Roast the vegetables on separate racks in the oven, about 15 minutes for the green beans and about 30 minutes for the tomatoes. I like a little caramelization on the tomatoes.
- Dressing: In bowl with reserved tomato seeds and pulp, add the 3/4 cup olive oil and vinegar. Whisk until combined, then pour through strainer to remove seeds—whisking helps to separate the gel from the seeds before you strain them out. Whisk in garlic. Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add more oil or vinegar to taste.
- Panzanella: In large bowl toss pasta, bread, vegetables, and cheese with dressing until well coated. Set aside and allow the dressing to be absorbed by all the ingredients. Serve at room temperature.
We also had a roasted pork tenderloin, but that was really just a bonus for the gardener, who did eat a few of the tomatoes.