Spaghetti Squash with Bacon, Pine Nuts, and Balsamic Vinaigrette

Looking like a large, pale yellow football with rounded ends, spaghetti squash has a unique texture. When cooked, the pulp comes out in strands as thick and long as spaghetti noodles. Cut in half, the squash can be oven-baked in less than half an hour or microwaved in a rapid fifteen minutes. The long threads of vegetable goodness can then be forked out, topped, garnished, herbed, buttered, or tossed with cheese, nuts, or other vegetables in simple, exorbitant, conservative, or outrageous splendor. Here bacon, pine nuts, and a touch of lemon juice and vinegar produce an ambrosial warm salad.

1 spaghetti squash (3 pounds), halved lengthwise and seeds removed
4 thin slices bacon
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/4 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted

1. If oven-baking, preheat the oven to 375°F.

2. Place the squash, cut sides down, on a baking sheet or microwave-safe dish. Cover and cook until collapsing and soft all the way through, about 45 minutes in the oven, 15 minutes in the microwave. Place the bacon alongside the squash on the baking sheet for the last 20 to 25 minutes, or place the slices between 2 paper towels and microwave until crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove and let cool enough to handle.

3. Scoop the squash out of its shell and place the strands on a platter. In a small bowl, stir together the vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, parsley, salt, and pepper. Pour over the squash. Sprinkle the pine nuts and crumble the bacon over the top and toss gently to mix. Serve right away or at room temperature.

From BOLD: A Cookbook of Big Flavors by Susanna Hoffman and Victoria Wise.