Before the real "vine-ripened" tomatoes are gone and the crisp cucumbers replaced by the big-seeded, soft, spotted ones, yet you're ready to think of something hearty because the nights are cool, this 30 minute meal will bridge the seasons.
When you make that quick trip to the grocery store on the way home, don't spend any time considering whether of not to spend the extra money for the more expensive ground beef. Don't. Whether the ground meat has 30 percent fat or 10 percent, after it's cooked the fat content is virtually the same. From the fattier meat more fat is cooked out; from the leaner more water so they end up in the same place. Just be sure to pour off the fat.
If calories are a concern you can substitute spaghetti squash for spaghetti and achieve the same texture with perhaps a bit more interesting taste. For those who need some starch, bread sticks are the answer to this Italian (sort of) meal. MENU FOR FOUR Meat Sauce and Spaghetti Squash Chunky Tomatoes and Cucumbers Bread Sticks Melon or Apple Slices and Honey
STAPLES: garlic, onions, oregano, basil (fresh or dried) salt, pepper, red or white wine vinegar, olive oil.
SHOPPING LIST: 1 pound ground beef, 29 ounce can tomato puree, medium green pepper, 3 pound spaghetti squash, wedge Parmesan cheese, 12 to 16 bread sticks, 2 large tomatoes, 2 large cucumbers, melon or apples.
GAME PLAN: Scrub squash, cut in quarters and cook. Brown meat. Chop onion and add to meat. Press garlic and add. Cut up green pepper and add. Make salad dressing. To meat add puree, oregano, basil, salt, pepper and water; cover and cook over low heat. Prepare tomatoes and cucumbers. Mix with salad dressing and refrigerate. Coarsely grate Parmesan. Drain squash; cover with sauce. MEAT SAUCE (4 servings) 1 pound ground beef 1 large onion 1 large clove garlic 1 medium green pepper 1 (29 ounce) can tomato puree 1 teaspoon oregano 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped or 2 teaspoons dried Salt and freshly ground black pepper 1 cup coarsely grated Parmesan cheese
In large skillet brown beef in its own fat. While beef is cooking chop onion and add to beef. Press garlic through press and add. Cut up green pepper into medium chop and add. Cook until onion is soft and beef is brown. Pour off excess fat. Add puree, pouring a little water into can to pick up tomato residue and adding to skillet. Add seasonings; cover and cook over low heat until serving time. Stir occasionally. Meanwhile grate cheese.
Serve sauce over spaghetti squash quarters and pass cheese separately. SPAGHETTI SQUASH (4 servings) 1 (3 pound) spaghetti squash Salt Water
Fill a large pot with an inch of hot water. Scrub squash; cut in quarters.
Place quarters in water; don't let the water come up as high as the cut surfaces. Cover pot and cook over medium high heat until squash is tender, about 20 minutes. Remove squash from water; scrape out seeds and pulp in center. Season with salt, if desired, and serve with sauce. s CHUNKY TOMATOES AND CUCUMBERS (4 servings) 2 large cucumbers 2 large tomatoes 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley 1/4 cup red or white wine vinegar 1/4 cup olive oil 1/2 teaspoon powdered oregano Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Peel cucumbers if they are waxed. Cut into bite-size pieces. Core tomatoes and cut into bite-size pieces. Chop parsley. Beat oil and vinegar together. Beat in oregano and mix in parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Pour over tomatoes and cucumbers and refrigerate until serving time. Stir to serve.