Back in October, I read an article in The New York Times about legions of iCarly fans who were begging their parents to make a dish that had been featured on the show, which is a colossal tween favorite: Spaghetti Tacos.
Dan Schneider, the creator of Nickelodeon's iCarly, is the genius (no, I'm not kidding -- consider what a phenomenon all of this is!) behind the joke of the spaghetti tacos as a dinner option. They've now become all the rage at birthday and slumber parties, and are precisely what you think they'd be -- taco shells filled with noodles à la Chef Boyardee.
But in reading further about variations on the dish -- some with meat, some with oversized shells, and some (like those of my blogging buddy Dan, of The Haggis and The Herring) using linguine and cheese sauce to accommodate family preferences -- the notion of somehow making them appetizing and edible kept gnawing at me. There had to be a way! There had to be some way to make these less repulsive, more nutritious, and something that adults could eat, as well.
And then my epiphany struck: spaghetti squash. I'll use spaghetti squash!!! That still makes it a spaghetti taco, right???
So I baked up a squash, then coated the spaghetti-like strands with taco seasoning to make the basis of the filling. Top it all off with the usual accoutrements of lettuce, cheese, salsa, etc., and you've actually got yourself a nutritious vegetarian meal.
And so, now for the big question: how did the tacos taste ...?
They were pretty good! I can't promise that I'd ever make them again, as I'm a pretty big fan of beef and chicken tacos and I don't have any iCarly fans in my house clamoring to eat like their favorite t.v. star. But they definitely made an excellent, though messy, dinner.
I had bought Trader Joe's taco seasoning, which was heavy on the cumin and not as high in sodium as other mixes; it had a very good flavor which was exceptionally well suited to the sweetness of the squash. The squash didn't overpower any of the other parts of the dish, but every so often there was just a hint of it shining through. With the exception of the filling being so different from the norm, otherwise these were just good ol'-fashioned familiar comfort food, falling apart as they were bitten into ... part of the joy of tacos!
Spaghetti Squash Tacos
1 spaghetti squash
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons taco seasoning
12 taco shells
shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 400F. Grease a 9"x13" baking pan.
Cut the squash in half horizontally, and scrape out the seeds.
Place the squash cut-side down into the prepared baking pan and bake for 50 minutes until very tender.
Scrape out the flesh of the squash, and place it into the dish you just baked it in, discarding the shell. (Who needs another bowl to wash??? The baking pan is already dirty.) Combine the oil and the taco seasoning to make a paste.
Spread the seasoning over the squash, then use 2 forks to toss the squash with the mixture until the squash is coated evenly.
Meanwhile, heat the taco shells according to package directions.
Place some of the squash into the taco shells; top with lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, scallions, salsa, guacamole and sour cream as desired.
Makes 12 tacos, and you may have some extra squash left over for burritos or nachos or quesadillas or anything else your little heart desires.