Tag Archives: parmesan

Mom was very, very right.

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Zucchini Pappardelle Pasta

Photography by Sam Armocido

When Mom said we were having a vegetable for dinner – say zucchini or green beans – it was, typically, just that. They were steamed, seasoned with salt and pepper, and possibly tossed with fresh herbs, usually parsley or basil from the garden. If Mom felt the rest of the meal was sufficiently healthy, she would add a small pat of butter. This, it turns out, is a fabulous way to serve almost any vegetable.

We should have been less surprised then, I suppose, by the overwhelming success of a recent attempt at zucchini pasta. I think it was the “pasta” that misled us. I mean, I have trouble thinking that sautéed strips of squash are in any way going to deliver the deep satisfaction of semolina spaghetti. I was wrong. (And, because I would never hear the end of it from my husband, let’s keep that little admission just between us.)

The long strips we quickly shaved with a vegetable peeler resembled wide pappardelle noodles. Cooked over low heat to keep the flavor light, we tossed in garlic and a splash of lemon juice, fresh basil and a grating of Parmesan cheese. We then made another batch, arguing that we should probably try adding fresh tomato.

Our third panful confirmed it was actually fine without the tomato, and the fourth we needed for a photograph. We are currently planning future batches to serve under chicken piccata and shrimp scampi.

You know, just to be on the safe side, I going to retract any admission that I was wrong. Let’s simply say my Mom was very, very right.

Zucchini Pappardelle Pasta

Serves 4-6 as a side dish

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs olive oil – the good stuff!*
  • 2 small zucchini, sliced into thin ribbons
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbs chopped parsley
  • 1 tbs chopped basil
  • 1-2 tbs lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

*We use Sapore’s Frantoio, a light, buttery Italian oil. (Which you can order online.)

Directions:

  • Warm 1 tbs olive oil over medium heat in a 12” skillet. Add zucchini and sauté, turning often with tongs, until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes.
  • Add garlic and cook until zucchini is softened, about 3 minutes longer.
  • In skillet, toss in parsley, basil, lemon juice and remaining 1 tbs olive oil.
  • Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper and serve topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
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Toasted Walnut Arugula Pesto The Movie.

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When summer’s pesto runs out from the freezer I turn to arugula, which may farmers grow right through the winter in cold frames. I first posted the recipe here.

“Tomatoes and zucchini again?!”

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Boredom is an occupational hazard of seasonal cooking. By the end of July you have served summer squash and tomatoes exactly 47 1/2 times and the season is just approaching its peak. This week when I mentioned tomatoes and summer squash to Nancy, a weekly attendee at my Eastern Market demos, she asked pointedly, “how are you going to make it different from the other tomato and zucchini recipes you’ve made over the past 8 weeks?”

She had me. I had combined tomatoes and squash in meatloaf and goulash. Sautéing them and tossing them together with fresh herbs is a treat in early summer, but it doesn’t cut it as we head into August. Somewhere between fried zucchini and a cherry tomato sauce Nancy said, “This sounds like Zucchini Parmesan.” And so it is. Stovetop style.

The zucchini is breaded with Panko and Herbes de Provence making it crisp and light. The fresh cherry tomato sauce gets depth from anchovy paste and brightness from a nicely acidic Late Harvest Zinfandel Vinegar. The flavor is rich like a winter braise and light like a summer sauté. It’s anything but boring and everything that summer veggies at their peak are meant to be.

Summer Squash Parmesan

I’m going to beat you to the punch. Yes, you need to fry the summer squash in plenty of olive oil. I tried going light with a tablespoon or two, there wasn’t enough depth to reach in between the Panko crumbs and make the squash really crispy. You want healthy, try this zucchini meatloaf. Otherwise, go right on ahead and indulge yourself. You deserve it!

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbs milk
  • 2 tbs Herbes de Provence
  • 2 cups Panko bread crumbs
  • 1 medium summer squash or zucchini, sliced in 1/3” inch rounds
  • 4 -6 tbs olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp anchovy paste
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 tbs Late Harvest Zinfandel Vinegar**
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

**I don’t know how Renee found a red wine vinegar that has this much acidity while still maintaining balance. It packs a punch without being overbearing. Buy some online at DC’s Sapore  or use a good red wine vinegar from your home pantry.

Directions:

  • Whisk together eggs and milk in a shallow bowl, season with salt and pepper.
  • Mix Herbes de Provence and bread crumbs in a bowl. Put half in a pie plate.
  • Dip squash in the egg wash and then in the bread crumbs. Press the crumbs onto squash. When the Panko in the plate gets wet and clumpy, discard it and add the reserved half of the mix.
  • Fry squash over medium heat in 2-3 tbs olive oil until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.
  • In a separate pan sauté garlic over medium heat for 30 seconds. Add anchovy paste and cook another 30 seconds until fragrant.
  • Add tomatoes and cook 5-6 min until softened.
  • Add the vinegar to the pan and scrape up all the tasty brown bits in the bottom. Let the vinegar reduce to coat the tomatoes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Serve the fried squash topped with the tomato sauce and sprinkled with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Reflect on how good life is.

This is what you taught me Mom.

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If I were forced to identify only one dish that summed up my Mom’s cooking, one dish that burned bright in my memory and lingered on my palate years later, it would be – no, not apple pie, meatloaf or lasagna – zucchini pancakes. Amidst her Dilly Beans and mac and cheese, the Christmas Eve cheesecake and barbecued spareribs with artichokes, zucchini pancakes are the quintessential summation of Mom’s work in the kitchen.

They were born out of both creativity and desperation. They appeared late each summer when zucchini exhaustion set in and the dark green squashes grew larger and larger. With the din of dinner complaints rising, Mom found an exciting new way to put zucchini on the table. And could a recipe be any cooler? As anyone who has eaten zucchini bread knows, it is equally comfortable being both sweet and savory. We would joyfully sit down to a plateful, dripping in real maple syrup. They were practical, delicious, inventive and comforting. Stepping way out of the late 70’s comfort zone she created a family classic. That’s what you taught me in the kitchen Mom. That’s what I carry with me today.

I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit over the years. Bisquick gave way to potato starch whose flavor sits happily in the background. Fresh basil – and tarragon, when I have it – replace parsley. The ratio of zucchini to batter  is much higher. Less like breakfast cakes, the ones I make today are cooked over medium low heat, getting brown and crisp on the outside while remaining wet and gooey inside. These days I usually serve them with a yogurt sauce, bright and fresh with mint and paprika or cayenne. But I have to admit, maple syrup is still my favorite.

Mom’s Zucchini Pancakes

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups grated zucchini, about 2 medium
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tbs fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 1/4 tsp Spanish Paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup potato starch
  • Cream, as needed

For sauce:

  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 2 tbs chopped mint
  • Paprika or cayenne

Directions:

  • Place grated zucchini in colander, sprinkle with 1 tsp salt and leave for 15-20 minutes.
  • Squeeze water from zucchini with your hands and place in large bowl with egg, basil, garlic, parmesan, paprika, pepper and potato starch. Mix. If the batter is too dry, stir for a minute and then add a tablespoon or two of cream as needed. This is pretty thick batter.
  • Mix together the yogurt, mint and paprika or cayenne to taste.
  • Cook one small pancake to check seasoning and adjust with additional salt and pepper, fresh basil and cheese, as needed.
  • Cook over medium-low heat in 2-3 tbs pancakes, turning once. The low heat allows the outsides to get crispy and brown, while the centers remain creamy.
  • Serve pancakes with a dollop of the yogurt sauce.

Without exception.

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Absolutes are rare in cooking. Once you learn the basics of technique and flavor you can experiment freely – recognizing you’re going to bomb every once in a while and that every truly great dish has been practiced and refined over time. While researching broccoli rabe last week, I discovered an exception to this rule. Every single recipe I read began with blanching and included garlic and red pepper flakes.

Now, I’m sure there’s an exception out there somewhere, but once I spent some time getting to know broccoli rabe, it all made sense. Though it looks like broccoli, broccoli rate is closer in relation to the turnip, another member of the brassica family, which includes cauliflower, cabbage, mustard and kale. It has a sharp bitterness to it which is abated by blanching. The heat of the pepper flakes and richness of lightly browned garlic reveal subtler flavors in the rabe.

While there is no sauce in this pasta, I used a common Italian technique of adding the pasta cooking liquid to the sauté pan, along with slightly undercooked pasta, and letting the dish come together while the liquid is absorbed or evaporates. This leaves the pasta almost as flavorful as the greens.

Broccoli Rabe with Pasta

Ingredients:

  • 2 bunches broccoli rabe, stems cleaned and peeled, and damaged leaves removed*
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbs red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbs chopped oregano
  • More olive oil – the good stuff!
  • 1 pound dried penne or farfalle
  • Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
*Chop off the bottom 1/2″ of the stems, then peel them. If your rabe is very leafy, remove the leaves, blanch them separately, and add them about 2 minutes after adding the stems so that they do not become over-cooked.

Directions:

  • Blanch broccoli rabe for 1 minute in salted, boiling water and remove to ice bath. When cool, drain.
  • Chop broccoli rabe into 1” pieces.
  • Boil water and start cooking pasta.
  • Heat oil in large sauté pan over medium low heat. Add garlic and cook until starting to light brown. Be careful not to burn.
  • Add pepper flakes, cook for 30 sec.
  • Add broccoli rabe and cook 2-3 minutes until crisp tender.
  • When pasta is almost ready, drain, reserving two cups of liquid.
  • Add pasta and liquid to broccoli rabe. Cook until liquid reduces to coat pasta.
  • Toss with oregano, additional olive oil, cheese, pepper and salt.

A weekend in the country.

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I don’t remember what cookbook this was inspired by, but it remains one of the bright moments in a wonderful weekend six years ago. It had been a long winter at work and I needed to recharge. My friend Cliff and I jumped in the car and headed to his home near the coast in Delaware for a weekend of cooking.

Friday night after leaving the city, we grabbed dinner on the road, and arrived for an evening spent pouring through cook books over several bottles of wine. With our menu planned – a random collection of things that sounded delicious and fun – we went to bed.

The rest of the weekend was pure joy and relaxation. Lazy hours combing stores for the perfect ingredients, a quick stop at a cooking store for a new tool or two, and many hours in the kitchen, prepping, peeling, chopping and cooking. We would talk through the perfect plating for each dish and eat them, one-by-one, as they were finished.

The weekend was just two days – we drove home Sunday night – but it seemed like a month. I still remember waking up to see the sun shining through the fields out back, ready for spring planting. Hot cups of coffee in the cold morning kitchen. A lot of laughter, and good food.

Shaved Fennel, Mushroom and Parmesan Salad

Get your mandoline out for this one. While you can make a perfectly serviceable salad with some deft knife work, there is a delicate texture and light balance that can only be achieved by slicing the ingredients paper thin.

Ingredients:
Two of us devoured this last Sunday night, but it would easily serve four as a side or first course.

For dressing:

  • 1 shallot, minced
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice – about 1 lemon
  • Olive oil – the good stuff!

For salad:

  • 1 fennel bulb, tops removed, greens reserved.
  • 6 large white button mushrooms
  • 2-3 ounces great quality parmesan cheese

Directions:

  • Start the dressing: mix the shallot in a bowl with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Set aside.
  • Cut the fennel bulb in half, cutting from top to bottom. Remove the tough core at the base.
  • Slice the tough bases off the mushroom stems.
  • Using your mandolin, shave the fennel and mushrooms paper thin. For the fennel, shave the bulb from top to bottom, not sideways. For the mushrooms, slice sideways, so you get cross sections of the mushrooms.
  • Using a vegetable peeler, peel the Parmesan into thin shavings.
  • Chop some of the reserved fennel fronds – the fine, green bits – and toss one tablespoonful with the fennel ,mushroom and parmesan.
  • Finish the dressing by whisking olive oil in a gentle stream. About 1/2 cup. Taste it along the way by dipping in a little fennel and mushroom. If it is too sharp, add a little more oil, if it gets too fatty, add a little more lemon juice.
  • Serve mounded on a plate, garnished with a small spring of fennel fronds.

These are not pictures of arugula walnut pesto.

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The pictures shown here are of a wonderful sage, brown butter sauce served over penne with sharp asiago and rich, earthy walnuts. However, I don’t have any pictures to go with this delicious pesto recipe so they’ll have to do. Thank you for your understanding…

Marvin Ogburn from Long Meadow Farm emailed me one Friday morning. “I have A LOT of arugula this week. What can you do with it?” We headed to the kitchen that night and worked on an arugula pesto. Out of several variations we learned that blanching the leaves first removes too much of the arugula flavor, chopping the walnuts before lightly toasting them eliminates the raws taste without burning the outsides, and salt carefully – the cheese already adds a lot. We tested the recipe over pasta, but it was wonderful the next morning, at Eastern Market, over boiled and sliced fingerling potatoes.

*Did you have a copy of Free Stuff for Kids when you were young? It was a list of free things you could send away for. Often they required so many boxtops or SASE’s that no one but a bored child would ever actually send away for them. I remember at least one or two required some small change, usually a couple quarters, to pay for printing of the edifying pamphlet describing banana spiders or the geography of Arkansas that you would receive in return. The instructions always admonished that the coins needed to be securely taped to your request letter. I assumed that not doing so would shame my elders.

While this comment seems totally random, I am going somewhere with it. I really think you should try this recipe in a mortar and pestle. It’s a little more work, but the texture and control over the final product is well worth it. As an incentive, if you give it a try, send me an email at jonathan.bardzik@gmail.com. I will send you a letter of congratulations and two quarters. I’ll make sure they are securely taped.

Arugula and Walnut Pesto

Ingredients:

  • 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
  • Salt
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 3/4 cups freshly grated parmesan cheese*
  • 2 cups arugula (not packed)
  • Black pepper
  • Olive oil – the good stuff

* Grate the parmesan on the middle side of a box grater. This gives you a nice bite of cheese and doesn’t get too gummy when pounded.

Directions:

This can be made either by hand in a mortar and pestle, or in a food processor.

By hand:

  • Add garlic and a pinch of salt to the mortar. Pound garlic into a paste.
  • Toast walnuts over low heat in a small fry pan. Watch carefully, nuts burn quickly. they are ready when golden and lightly fragrant.
  • Add walnuts to garlic paste and pound until it looks like thick, chunky peanut butter.
  • Add the parmesan cheese and pound until incorporated.
  • Add the arugula a handful at a time and pound away. Add more when you have room in your mortar.
  • Add cracked pepper to taste. Start with 5-6 grinds and go from there.
  • Add olive oil to thin and bind. Start with a table spoon. You shouldn’t need more than two.

Note: If your paste gets too thick during pounding, you can add a little olive oil to thin it out.

In a food processor:

  • Add garlic, walnuts and cheese to a food processor. Pulse until chopped together. About 4-6 times.
  • Add arugula and process until coarsely blended. Keep it rustic as opposed to pureed.
  • Remove pesto to a bowl. Stir in pepper, salt and olive oil.