It's tomato time. Along with the reappearance of these red fruits that actually ripen and soften if given an opportunity, there are several other items of unusual interest on display in some local supermarkets including fresh cornish game hens and spaghetti squash. One evening last week, I cooked a brace of the game hens and combined them with tomatoes and the squash. Spaghetti squash looks like a melon, but when cooked and cut open, pasta-like strands can be pulled from the shell with a fork. The result is a main dish that's low in calories.
Another recipe combines standard pasta with tomatoes and sausage - either one type or a mixture of sweet and spicy. As it utilizes standard pasta and is finished with the addition of cream, this one isn't intended for diet dining.
GAME HENS WITH SPAGHETTI SQUASH
(4 servings) 2 game hens (1 to 1 1/2 pounds each), split 2 to 3 tablespoons oil, preferably olive 1/2 cup chopped onion 3 tomatoes, seeded and chopped 2 cloves garlic, minced (optional) 1/4 cup red wine vinegar 3/4 cup dry red wine (such as zinfandel) 1 bay leaf 1/4 teaspoon thyme or marjoram 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or 1/2 teaspoon dried 1 chicken bouillon cube Salt and pepper to taste.
Heat oil in a dutch oven or high-sided frying pan. Pat bird pieces dry and saute them until nicely browned. Brown gizzards and necks as well, but reserve livers for another use (or cook and eat them yourself - they're small). Season with salt and pepper and remove from pan.
Add onion to pan and cook until softened. Add tomato pieces and optional garlic. Cook and stir until juice flows freely, about 3 minutes. Add vinegar. When liquid bubbles, add wine, herbs and bouillon cube. Stir to mix, return game hen pieces, cover pan and lower heat. Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, or until meat is tender, turning once.
Meanwhile, pierce spaghetti squash in several places with thin knife or two-pronged fork. Heat water in a pan and steam or boil the squash until tender but not soft to a knife 30 to 40 minutes.
Taste sauce and season with salt and pepper. If it seems too liquid, remove game hen pieces and reduce over high heat. When ready to serve, return meat. Cut squash in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds carefully and pull out pulp with a fork. Place on plates or in the center of a serving platter. Season, then add meat and spoon sauce over both. Serve with a green vegetable such as spinach to provide color contrast.
SPAGHETTI WITH SAUSAGES
(4 servings) 8 Italian sausages, sweet, spicy or a mixture 1 medium onion, chopped 2 tablespoons oil, preferably olive Salt and pepper 4 fresh tomatoes, seeded and chopped 1/4 cup sweet vermouth 1 cup heavy cream 3 tablespoons chopped parsley 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice 1 pound spaghetti or linguine, cooked al dente Poach sausages in water for 5 minutes to firm them up. Pour off water, add a glaze of oil and saute them until cooked, about 15 minutes.
Remove sausages and pour off any excess fat. Add onion and cook until softened. Add tomatoes and boil, breaking up tomatoes with a wooden spoon, until they are soft. Reduce liquid over high heat until oil comes to surface. Stir to prevent tomatoes from sticking to bottom of pan. Add vermouth and cream. Heat, stir and allow to reduce for 5 minutes. Taste and season with salt, pepper and lemon juice. (The recipe may be done ahead to this point.)
Return sausages, either whole or cut into pieces, add parsley and reheat. Drain pasta and toss in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of butter. Pour sauce and sausages over pasta and toss again. Serve at once. CAPTION: Illustration, no caption, by Cynthia Hellyer from "Unusual Vegetables," by Anne Moyer Halpin, Rodale Press