Zucchini Noodles

A couple of weeks ago I came up with the amazing and revolutionary idea to make zucchini noodles. While I’m more than certain that many people before me have done this very thing, it still felt like my idea. ūüôā While this post doesn’t contain an actual recipe, I’m going to share with you how I made my zucchini noodles. Perhaps it will inspire you as well!

I took my Pampered Chef julienne peeler (a birthday gift last year that I’ve used many, many times!) and cut down the length of a washed and trimmed zucchini, creating zucchini “noodles.” Once I’d sliced all my zucchinis into noodles, I placed the lovely green pile into a fine mesh colander and salted them with about 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt (the salt draws out some of the water from the zucchini).

Then I left it to drain for about 30 minutes, squeezing out the excess moisture before sauteing in a little butter and olive oil for about 5 minutes. I seasoned them with a little more salt, pepper, and Italian spices before topping the noodles off with caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms, a little sausage, and marinara sauce. It was delicious! I might even like it better then the pasta. And, if you’re a spaghetti noodle twirler, zucchini noodles will twirl around your fork too!

If you too would like to make zucchini noodles and don’t yet have a julienne peeler, I highly recommend you get one. ūüôā It’s a small gadget, but well worth the space it will take up next to your vegetable peeler. I also like to use it to matchstick carrots for salads or stir-fries (they cook up much more quickly!).

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Market Fresh: Russian Zucchini Dill Casserole

This is another Kazakh/Russian dish. My husband didn’t love this one as much as I did. I liked the flavors and textures¬†together a lot! It is healthy and hearty. Dill is such a big part of many of the Kazakh¬†dishes I’ve enjoyed.¬†I will be growing it in my garden this year for sure!

RUSSIAN ZUCCHINI DILL CASSEROLE
adapted from Cooking for Kaz: Meals for Hope, Volume 2
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6 zucchini, sliced
3 med. carrots, peeled & chopped
2 c. onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 Tb. tomato paste
 3 T. fresh parsley, chopped
 2 Tb. fresh dill, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
2 c. tomato juice
¬ĺ tsp. sugar
1 ¬Ĺ Tb. cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large skillet or dutch oven, sauté carrots in water or vegetable stock over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. Add the onion, celery, and zucchini and sauté, stirring, until all the vegetables are starting to tenderize.

Stir in the tomato paste and saut√© for 3-4 minutes more. Remove from heat and stir in the parsley and dill. Mix the tomato juice with the sugar, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Stir this mixture in as well and just bring to a boil. Pour the mixture into a flat-bottomed heatproof casserole that will accommodate the entire amount. Bake in the oven until tender ‚Äď about 40 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley before serving if desired.

Counter Culture

My sister and her family are staying with us just now and so together we are having plenty of fun in the kitchen. Our cooking styles are very similar, except for the fact that my sister, Christina, must stay gluten-free. That’s not hard to do when there is so much summer produce abounding just now. Meals are simple but bountiful, full of salads, fresh veggies, and sometimes even homemade ice-cream.

Have you ever wondered what’s the big deal with fava beans? I have. And, when I saw they were available as an “extra” at our CSA this week I grabbed a few handfuls of the green-beans-on-steroids-looking-things. Later in the week my sister and I pulled them out and began shelling the beans. That’s when I remembered that favas have to be “double-shelled”. Once they are out of the bean husks, the favas must then be taken out of a further, tough-skin that surrounds the actual beans. That’s big deal number one about favas — they take a lot of work.

We dumped the handful of beans we accumulated into the steamer and let them be for a few minutes before placing them on a dish and dressing them with butter, salt, and pepper. Then we took our first bite. We knew instantly why favas are a big deal. Wow were they good! One by one we popped them into our mouths. The texture was amazing. I’m comparing it with the reason I like Macadamia nuts so much: that buttery, melt-in-your-mouth feel. Favas have that. What did they taste like? Something very mild, nutty, a bit like a buttery green bean. Now I’m hoping there will be more next week at the CSA.

I also came by some peaches in the last week. A friend is away for the summer and said I could have the harvest from her peach tree. The apricot-sized peaches arrived in between the July 3rd ¬†parade and two afternoon celebrations. They were so ripe that they were going bad by the hour. That first night I salvaged what I could from the bad ones and the next day I blanched, peeled, and chopped the rest. Some of the peaches are destined for jam — those I chopped fine and froze in batches of 2 cups for easy conversion later on. The rest of the peaches will probably end up in smoothies and homemade ice-cream.

I am so excited about grilled flatbread right now. A friend made it for us over the 4th of July weekend and I saw how easy it was to make and grill. The taste is amazing. We ate the flatbread with bruschetta and olive tapenade from Trader Joe’s. But, it’s easy to just turn it into a pizza by spreading foil on the grill after you’ve cooked the flatbread, placing the flatbread on top of the foil and then layering on your pizza toppings. Here’s Bobby Flay’s pizza dough recipe that was used.

As we all know, it’s zucchini season. The recipe I always fall back on is the one I’ve been eating since I was a child. We saute zucchini (and sometimes onions too) in some olive oil. About half way through we throw in some fresh, chopped tomatoes and cook until all is tender. Sprinkle on some basil, oregano and garlic powder and then a good handful or two of shredded cheddar cheese. Good. Good. Good.

One of the delights of zucchini season is fresh fried squash blossoms. Oh yum! I’m eyeing my plants right now, checking to see how many blossoms I have and how many I can sacrifice. Any day now I’m going to make them….

Market Fresh: Zucchini and Summer Squash

Zucchini and Summer Squash season are here! I hope you’re not sick of them yet. I resisted nearly every¬†urge to buy them throughout the winter so I’ve been eagerly awaiting their arrival. And now my fridge and counters are groaning under their weight.

Every year people come up with more uses for these easy-to-grow vegetables. There are saute, stir-fries, breads, quiches, casseroles, tians, pastas, soups, salads, and more that can be made with them.

One afternoon we tried grilled squash kabobs. We used both zucchini and summer squash and added red onions. We brushed them with olive oil and sprinkled them with salt, pepper, and fresh thyme. Not only were they beautiful, they were also delicious served alongside our grilled chicken.

This pasta is so good that I can’t wait to have it again. The recipe originally called for just summer squash, but I threw in zucchini too. Either or both would taste fine in this dish.

CREAMY FUSILLI WITH YELLOW SQUASH AND BACON
(Everyday Food Magazine)
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coarse salt and ground pepper
8 ounces fusilli
4 slices bacon, sliced crosswise into 1/2-inch strips
4 medium yellow squash (8 ounces each), quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
2 garlic cloves, thinly slices
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup grated Asiago (or Parmesan) cheese, plus more for serving

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta, and cook until al dente, according to package instructions. Reserve 1 cup pasta water; drain pasta and return to pot.

While pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet over medium. Add bacon, and cook until browned and crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain (leave bacon fat in skillet).

Place skillet over medium-high. Add squash and garlic to fat in skillet; season with salt and pepper, and toss well. Cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until squash begins to soften, 5 to 7 minutes. Uncover, and continue to cook until liquid is evaporated and squash is tender, 2 to 3 minutes more.

Add cream and cooked pasta to skillet; toss well, and cook until cream begins to thicken, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in Asiago, and add enough reserved pasta water to create a sauce that coats pasta. Serve topped with reserved bacon and more cheese.

Serves 4.

This salad may look too simple to be good, but don’t be deceived. We loved this salad and thought it was perfect for a summer evening. You must try it!

QUICK-MARINATED YELLOW SQUASH SALAD
(Everyday Food Magazine)
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3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
3 Tbsp. olive oil (or mix with canola oil if your olive oil is very strong)
coarse salt and ground pepper
2 medium yellow squash (8 ounces each), halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
1 shallot, thinly sliced crosswise (or use green onion or finely chopped red onion)
1 to 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

In a medium bowl, whisk together lemon juice and oil. Season with salt and pepper. Add squash, shallot, and thyme. Toss to combine. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Serves 4.

Note: Try this again with zucchini instead.

Zucchini bread always brings me back to my childhood when we would make 6 loaves at a time in a desperate attempt to use up all of the huge (almost baseball sized) zucchini that grew in our backyard garden. I don’t think we knew about picking them young and tender.

This is the very recipe we used when I was a child.

ZUCCHINI BREAD
(More-With-Less Cookbook)
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3 eggs
¬ĺ c. sugar
1 c. oil
2 c. raw, grated zucchini
1 Tbsp. vanilla
3 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
3 tsp. cinnamon
1 c. nuts (optional)

Combine eggs, sugar, oil, grated zucchini and vanilla in a bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon.

Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and mix just until combined.  Stir in nuts if using. Pour into two greased loaf pans. Bake at 350 for 1 hour or until done.

Makes 2 loaves.

Off The Shelf: July Magazines

Here it is time for another edition of monthly cooking magazines! We hope you enjoy!

Cooking Light (Heather) – this is a big, beautiful summer issue but I found it sad that the only thing that really grabbed me, after several perusals, was the Greek Yogurt Parfaits. There is an attractive article on main dish salads, but they all seemed exotic except for the Southwestern Cobb Salad. I did find the melon and ketchup articles helpful but found many of the other summer recipes to be things I may never attempt (filet mignon, striped bass, shrimp salad).

I will say that the article on fruit cobblers looked amazing! Blueberry-Peach Cobbler, Plum Cobbler, and Blackberry Cobbler sound like perfect desserts for summer evenings.

If you are interested in alternative burgers you will love their Lamb Burger, Poblano Beef Burger, Salmon Burger, Turkey Burger, and Brisket Burger. There are also articles on a Sydney Beach BBQ and Food in Singapore.

My take: If you are into gourmet grilling and lots of seafood this is a great issue for you.

We tried the Greek Yogurt Parfaits with wheat berries and the result was a lovely, nutritious (and festive) breakfast.

GREEK YOGURT PARFAITS
(Cooking Light, July 2010)
Print this recipe

1 cup uncooked grano (or wheat berries, brown rice or barley)
12 cups water, divided
1/4 cup orange blossom honey (I used local honey)
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
4 cups plain 2% Greek-style yogurt (I strained 6 cups plain yogurt through cheesecloth for an hour or so to thicken it)
2 cups fresh berries (such as blackberries, blueberries, or sliced strawberries)

Soak grano in 6 cups water overnight. Drain. Place in a medium saucepan with remaining 6 cups water over medium-high heat; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until grano is just tender. Drain well. Stir in honey and salt.

Spoon 1/4 cup yogurt into each of 8 parfait glasses. Top yogurt with 3 Tbsp. grano and 2 Tbsp. berries. Repeat layers with the remaining ingredients.

Serves 8.

Everyday Food (Heather) — This issue is a devoted to summer fun and food and I found it very inspiring. You will find an article on wax beans, recipes for potato salad, picnic sides, beautiful summer drinks, summer roll how-to’s, main dish salads, grilled pizzas (my new fascination), an amazing array of burgers, dinners on the grill (complete with desserts), uses for tomatoes and cucumbers, and cool fruit desserts.

I’ll be keeping this issue close by for future summer inspiration.

At first glance I thought the Antipasti Sandwich was too complicated for my budget, but when I realized I could create a cheap date for my husband and I by making this, I didn’t have to think twice. It was so delicious! Of course a big part of making a good sandwich is finding good bread and I just happened to luck out on that one. So, if you try this sandwich, be sure to look for a loaf that will do the recipe justice.

ANTIPASTI SANDWICH
(Everyday Food, July/August 2010)
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coarse salt and pepper
1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise
1 red bell pepper
1 loaf crusty bread (about 1 pound), sliced in half lengthwise
1 can (15.5 ounces) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained (or garbanzo)
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 pound mortadella, prosciutto, or thinly sliced deli ham
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
1 cup marinated artichoke hearts, drained and quartered or sliced
1/2 cup shaved Parmesan (1 ounce)
1/2 cup pepperoncini, drained and halved if large

Sprinkle a double layer of paper towels with salt and place zucchini on top. Sprinkle with salt and roll up like a newspaper. Let sit 10 minutes to draw out excess liquid.

Over a low gas flame or under the broiler, roast bell pepper until skin is charred, 10 minutes, turning frequently. Place in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let sit 10 minutes. Rub bell pepper with a paper towel to remove skin, then core, discard seeds, and slice fresh into strips.

Pull out about 2 cups bread from inside loaf halves. In a food processor, combine beans, garlic, lemon juice, and oil and puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Completely cover inside of both bread halves with an even layer of bean puree.

Arrange zucchini on bottom half of bread. Top with meat, parsley, roasted pepper, artichokes, Parmesan, and pepperoncini. Sandwich with top half of bread and wrap tightly in plastic. Place on a baking sheet in refrigerator. Place another baking sheet on top and weight with several heavy cans. Let sit at least 3 hours (or up to overnight). To serve, unwrap and cut into wedges with a serrated knife.

Serves 6 to 8. (My sandwich served almost 3)

Bon Appetit (Alaina) РWhat a wonderful issue filled with delicious looking photos and recipes. There were many dishes that are perfect for summer entertaining and grilling Рthere is a whole grilling section! There are a few versatile sauce recipes which looked so good. There is also a fantastic drink and dessert sections Рthe dishes look absolutely wonderful.

After perusing the issue and looking at the lovely pictures, I decided to make the grilled corn. It was excellent except for the fact that the corn¬†I purchased was rather disappointing. I have yet to enjoy a truly excellent ear of corn this summer and to be fair, it’s a bit early for it. But the butter on this was simple to make and the flavor was delightful!

GRILLED CORN with HONEY-ANCHO CHILE BUTTER
(Bon Appetit, July 2010)
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8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic or garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
8 ears of corn, husked

Ingredient Tip: Ancho chile powder is available in the spice section of many supermarkets and at Latin markets.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in small skillet over medium-low heat. Add chile powder and cumin; stir 10 seconds. Transfer to medium bowl; stir in honey and cool.

Add oregano, coarse salt, granulated garlic, onion powder, and 6 tablespoons butter to butter mixture. Mix until smooth. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover; chill. Bring to room temperature.

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Grill corn until charred in spots, turning often, about 13 minutes. Transfer corn to platter. Serve with honey-ancho butter.

Food Network Magazine (Alaina) – Well, I already gave you a coleslaw recipe yesterday from this inspiring issue. The pull-out was for different kabobs and they have great ideas! I’m looking forward to using a couple of the kabob recipes for a family dinner later this month. The magazine features many summer drinks, great grilling and cook-out recipes, a variety of side dishes, and a delightful collection of desserts.

¬†One section was especially intriguing – 30 ideas for serving hotdogs. And so, the recipe I chose came from there. I was so¬†surprised at how truly wonderful this recipe came out – the tomato and basil with the hotdogs provided an excellent flavor combination. And I’m excited to try some the other great ideas!¬†[On a side note, I purchase hotdogs at Costco that are nitrite/nitrate-free, msg free, and are¬†all beef hotdogs. They are very good, fairly affordable, and I feel¬†okay about serving them to my family! ]

BRUSCHETTA HOTDOGS
(Food Network Magazine July/August 2010)
Print This Recipe

Toss 2 diced tomatoes with 1 chopped garlic clove, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons olive oil, some torn basil and salt. Serve grilled hot dogs on toasted Italian buns; top with the tomato mixture and drizzle with olive oil.

Off The Shelf: The Cook and the Gardener

The Cook and the Gardener: A Year of Recipes and Writings from the French Countryside by Amanda Hesser is part memoir, part cookbook. The book is designed around the seasons, beginning in January and going through to December. Hesser tells the story of her life in a chateau kitchen in Burgundy and how it intertwines with the chateau’s garden and its keeper, the elderly Monsieur Milbert.

Each month of the year receives its own chapter with a description of what is going on in the garden at that time of year and what gets cooked in the kitchen. The rest of the chapter is devoted to seasonal recipes using the garden produce.

If you are an avid gardener, or, are seriously interested in eating seasonally, you will enjoy this book. I did find that many of the recipes seemed very “French” (of course this is a book about living in France!) and thus perhaps too involved, or too “out there” for my taste. But, the book as a whole is very inspiring, and filled with ideas on what to grow, how to grow it, and how to cook with it. The author gives very clear, detailed instructions, so you are sure to be able to make the recipes she gives you.

I tried two recipes from this book: a soup and a salad. Both turned out very well. I loved the presentation of the egg salad and found that I could make the salad with whatever greens and herbs I had around, improvising on the recipe while keeping to the main idea. And the soup was delicious! I was skeptical at first, but upon tasting it felt like it was worthy of a fancy restaurant. I’ll be making it again, and perhaps taking up the author’s idea of freezing it in large batches when zucchini is abundant.

EGG SALAD WITH TARRAGON, CHERVIL, AND CHIVES
(The Cook and the Gardener)
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4 eggs (not new ones — they won’t peel well)
3 Tbsp. best-quality olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. heavy cream
2 handfuls tender Bibb lettuce, trimmed and washed
2 handfuls lamb’s lettuce, trimmed and washed, or mesclun
coarse or kosher salt
1/2 Tbsp. chopped tarragon leaves (about 1-2 branches)
1/2 Tbsp. chopped chervil leaves (about 4 sprigs — if not available, increase tarragon to 6 branches)
4 blades chive, sliced thin
freshly ground black pepper

Hard boil the eggs: bring a large pot filled with water to a boil. Add the eggs and cook for 11 minutes. Plunge the eggs in cold water and peel them. Sometimes it helps to run them under cold water as you peel them. The water runs between the thin skin that covers the egg and loosens it, making peeling much easier. Use a thin knife to cut them in half lengthwise.

In a small bowl whisk 2 Tbsp. of the olive oil, the mustard, and cream until well emulsified and smooth. Dress the greens: In a large mixing bowl, combine the greens, season with salt, and pour over the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Toss well to coat all the greens.

Pile the greens on a large round plate. Set the egg halves on the greens in the center of the plate. Season them with salt and drizzle on the mustard dressing. Generously sprinkle the herbs over them and then some pepper. Serve immediately. If the eggs are slightly warm, all the better.

Serves 4.

ZUCCHINI-LEMON SOUP
(The Cook and the Gardener)
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2-3 medium or 2 large zucchini (about 2 1/2 pounds)
3 Tbsp. olive oil, plus more for sprinkling
grated zest of one lemon
1 clove garlic, sliced thin
1 shallot lobe, sliced thin lengthwise (or use white onion or green onion)
2 Tbsp. white wine
coarse or kosher salt
1 cup milk, plus more if needed
2 Tbsp. heavy cream
1/2 Tbsp. chopped wild thyme or regular French thyme (about 4 sprigs)

Peel and seed the zucchini: zucchini rarely needs much prepping, but for this dish you want a light-colored, smooth soup, so some work is required. Begin by cutting off the stem and flower ends close to the zucchini flesh. Then use a vegetable peeler to peel the skin from the zucchini. (If it bothers you to waste this, you may include it; or reserve it and saute the strips of skin in olive oil for another meal.) Cut the zucchini lengthwise in half, then in quarters. If the zucchini are older and the seeds are large, you will want to remove them by laying each quarter on its side and cutting along where the seeds and flesh meet. Discard the seeds. If the zucchini are very young, the seeds are usually insignificant and can remain a part of the soup. Now cut the quarters crosswise into even-sized cubes (about 1 inch).

In a large saute pan, warm the olive oil with half of the grated lemon zest, all of the zucchini, and the garlic, shallot, and white wine. Season lightly with salt, and lay a piece of parchment paper or a lid over the mixture to cover. Sweat over medium-low heat, stirring from time to time, for 20-30 minutes, until the zucchini is soft all the way through and there are just a few tablespoons of liquid remaining in the pan. You may have to do this in two batches if you do not have a very large pan. If so, omit the garlic and shallots from the second batch.

Puree in a food processor fitted with a steel blade or with an immersion blender directly in the pan (if it is deep enough), then pass through a sieve. Now you’re probably asking, “Why did I have to bother removing the seeds if it’s going through a sieve?” Because the seeds are just small enough to clog your sieve and make this step a slow, painful one. In a large saucepan, combine the puree with the milk, cream, and thyme. The soup should be light and creamy, so you may need to add more milk or water to attain the right consistency. (Water may be better, because you do not want the soup to taste milky.)

Heat through, adjust the seasoning, and ladle into four individual bowls. Serve warm or cool, drizzling with olive oil (or cream) and sprinkling some of the remaining grated lemon zest on top of each serving just before going to the table.

Serves 4.

Note: the author suggests doubling or tripling this recipe, omitting the cream and milk and freezing it in batches to thaw later, finishing it with milk and cream then. (What a good idea!!)