Haiti was my first experience living overseas. We didn’t live in the capitol city of Port au Prince, but in the southern town of Les Cayes, about 12-13 hours over unpaved roads, about 190 km (118 miles). But we were young and the trip was an adventure. We thought it was so cool to have to ford rivers, sometimes getting stuck in the middle and then being pulled and pushed out by the very friendly locals. Ah youth! Idiots :D
Because Les Cayes was in the “deep” country, there weren’t a lot of supermarkets. There was one, a sort of general store that sold everything from pesticides to take out sandwiches, often side by side. Most shopping was done in the country farmers’ market. It was in these local markets that my love affair with Haiti hit shaky ground.
Cows, pigs and goats were slaughtered and butchered in open fields at the markets. It wasn’t that I didn’t know where meat came from, it was just that I was used to buying it on a styrofoam tray, wrapped in plastic, with a descriptive label. Even back then, presentation was an issue for me. I didn’t know what part came from where and every newly butchered piece of meat looked the same to me. I would just choose a likely looking lump, take it home and try to cook it. I hated not knowing what I was getting. I still hate that.
I bought some red pears at the Super Duper market yesterday. The sign above, rather redundantly, said “red pears”. I thought the tiny sticker attached to each pear would enlighten me but it just said U.S.A. Were these Bartlett, Anjou, Bosc, Concorde, Starkrimson, Williams??? Not that I know a lot about which varieties of fruit are good to cook with, but I could always look it up on the internet.
I mean, what if I had never heard of or cooked spaghetti squash(my first time was in Sens) and when I saw it at the Scranton Farmers’ market, it just said “yellow squash?”
Imagine what my reaction might have been when it fell to pieces in shreds and strings after cooking! A perfectly good yellow squash tossed into the garbage bin! Hello supermarket people! We, the other people, need to know!
Anyway, let’s get back on track. I saw this marvelous recipe for spaghetti squash on the internet that sounded delicious and I wanted to make it or a reasonable facsimile thereof. Such wonderful ingredients; spaghetti squash, garlic, fresh basil, spinach, tomatoes, mozzarella!
I went rogue immediately by crisp frying some chopped bacon that was languishing in the refrigerator, then toasting the chopped garlic in the bacon fat. I added the bacon because it existed, but it wasn’t necessary. The original recipe, Spaghetti Squash Caprese is wonderful as it was written. I call my version Spaghetti Squash Capricious :)
My husband mounded an unsightly amount of this casserole on his plate for lunch! I was pleased ;)
I’ve always thought that my favorite color was blue but I’ve changed my mind. Red is my new favorite. I mixed the red pears with red potatoes, white onions and green thyme whose scientific and common names will remain as anonymous as they were when I bought them.
I bought the smoked pork chops at the Alpine Wurst and Meat House (German butcher). He purchases his meat locally and smokes selected cuts in house. The chops were delicious as usual.
Spaghetti Squash Capricious
1 large spaghetti squash
1/3 cup chopped bacon
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 handfuls spinach, chopped
3 tbsp fresh basil leaves, chopped
4 plum tomatoes, cut into chunks
2 tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup mozzarella plus extra, as much as you like, for topping, grated
Salt and pepper
Pierce the squash with a cooking fork on four sides, then roast for 40 minutes at 375 F, turn, and roast for another 40 minutes. Remove the squash from the oven, cut off the stem end, cut in half lengthwise, remove the seeds and slimy stuff, then scrape with a fork and remove the spaghetti like threads to a large bowl.
Cook the bacon in a skillet until brown and crisp, then remove and drain on a paper towel. Add the garlic to the skillet and briefly toast. Put the bacon, garlic, spinach, basil, tomatoes, olive oil, the 3/4 cup of mozzarella, salt and pepper in the bowl with the squash. Mix well, then pour into a baking pan, sprinkle with the extra cheese and bake at 375 F for 30-40 minutes.
Baked Smoked Pork Chops with Pears and Potatoes
1 large onion, cut into 8 wedges
2 red pears, cored and cut into 8 wedges
1/2 -3/4 lb red potatoes, sliced thickly then halved or halved and sliced thickly :D
Several sprigs of thyme
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp brown sugar
4-6 smoked pork chops
Mix the onion, pears, potatoes, thyme, salt, pepper and olive oil in a large bowl, then pour into a baking pan. Roast at 425 F for 15 minutes, stir and sprinkle with the brown sugar, then top with the pork chops. Return to the oven for 20 minutes, then turn the pork chops over and continue cooking for about 15-20 minutes more.