Playing With My Food

Sometimes, the food I come up with is classic, suitable for White Tie Dinners or to set before Royalty. Most of the time, though, it falls into the Weird Food category, earning double-takes, laughs, and the occasional request for seconds.

Halloween brings out the weirdness more than any other time of the year. I’ve created Flying Spaghetti Monster cookies and entrees, stewed monkey heads, gorilla toe stew, monster meatballs, flying saucers, buzzard claws, and more.

But weird isn’t just for Halloween. I hosted a Tea where I served Time Tarts – tiny tarts filled with dried cranberries and decorated to look like pocket watches. Or the All Pie Meal, where every dish was a pie, from the appetizer fried cheese pies to the sealed salad to the secret lagoon soup to the coffined entree and on to the more common dessert pies. Or the food onna stick, where I created Fried Dr. Pepper onna stick, and soup onna stick, and all of Thanksgiving Dinner onna stick.

So, I thought I’d share some of my food adventures here.

My trip into food experimentation began with spaghetti, so that’s where I will start here. I am very loose in my definition of “spaghetti” – the pasta can be any long, stringy noodle: spaghetti, angel hair, linguine, bucatini, vermicelli, capellini, bucati, spaghettini, spaghettoni, fedelini – you get the idea. The sauce, though, is always tomato based. It may or may not have meat, and the seasonings vary. All my spaghetti dishes have stringy pasta and a tomato-based sauce. All the rest can change.

My first spaghetti variation was spaghetti pizza. I made it 2 different ways, the second is my favorite.

The first spaghetti pizza used the pasta as the crust – cooked pasta was well buttered then coiled into a buttered pizza pan and baked until firm and slightly crisp, then topped like pizza and baked until the cheese was melted. This makes for a nice, thin pizza with a lighter taste than a dough crusted pizza.

But I love dough pizzas, so my second spaghetti pizza used pizza dough, tossed onto a clay baking tile and partially baked, brushed with garlic butter, coated with pizza sauce, then piled with cooked angel hair pasta tossed with spaghetti sauce, tiny meatballs sprinkled all over with chopped green peppers, generously topped with Mozzarella, Cheddar, and Romano cheeses, then baked again until hot, melty, and delicious.

I didn’t stop there, of course.

At one point, I shared a duplex with a family who ate Mexican all the time – that’s when I learned to make tortillas and to love burritos for breakfast. You guessed it – spaghetti burritos. I use the large tortillas and fill and wrap the spaghetti inside just like any other burrito, but I mix the spaghetti sauce with a nice red picante sauce and the meatballs are made with taco seasonings.

From there, it was a small step to make spaghetti tacos. Spaghetti tacos make splendid use of leftovers. For these, either tiny meatballs or loose thick meat sauce works best – and topping it with shredded lettuce and cheese and chopped tomatoes is pure awesomeness.

And, being from a strong fry bread state, topping Indian Fry Bread with spaghetti also made sense. I love that almost as much as the normal Indian Taco: frybread topped with beany chili, lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese.

Spaghetti soup is also a natural variation of spaghetti, making the sauce thinner and soupier, adding chilies and flat Italian green beans and shreds of carrots and topping generously with shredded cheeses, and garlic bread on the side.

Rolled spaghetti omelets, spaghetti crostini, lattice topped spaghetti pie, fried spaghetti hand pies, spaghetti po’boys, spaghetti casseroles topped with garlicky croutons, and spaghetti topped salads have also made their way to my table. Perhaps the biggest hit among kids, though, are the shrunken heads – bell peppers and tomatoes hollowed and filled with cooked spaghetti, drenched in spaghetti sauce, topped with cheese and a “bone” hair ornament made of garlic bread.

Spaghetti also makes for comment-worthy appetizers: make tiny phyllo shells filled with spaghetti and topped with a pair of teeny meatballs or deepfry “nests” of spaghetti and fill with sauce and meatballs and cheese. Put a thin layer of sauce tossed spaghetti in a hot skillet, pour beaten eggs over it, dot with meatballs, fry until the egg sets, cut into bite sized portions, top with cheese (possibly broil to melt cheese well) and provide a spaghetti dipping sauce. This Spaghittata goes well as a fondue dipper, too.