My original intention with this post was to talk about the Spaghetti with Peas and Zucchini Ribbons that I made for our dinner guests on Friday night. I’m pretty sure I mentioned it in my last CSA post as a possibility for my weekly menu, and had the best of intentions for photographing and posting about the results. The thing is, by the time I finished the shopping, house cleaning, food prep, and getting Eleanor to sleep (while Tim entertained our guests) it was 8:00 and dinner still needed to be put together. So all I managed was a shot of the sliced squash and zucchini. In my opinion, on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best), this dish was a ‘7’. I love the combination of the peas and zucchini. I love the simplicity (and the taste) of the yogurt dressing; it’s wonderfully light. What I didn’t love was the basil I used. Since we didn’t get any in the CSA box this week, I picked up a large bunch while buying pasta at Trader Joe’s (which is, hands down, the cheapest place to buy organic whole wheat pasta anywhere around here. I stock up every time I go. The cashier wondered if I was an out-of-town guest I was buying so much of it.) Anyway, the basil we’ve been getting at the Farmers’ Market (and from Farmer Ken [as he’s known around our house] in our weekly box) has wonderfully tender leaves and an aroma that fills the house. This basil seemed like it had been given steriods (it probably had) and roughed up in the field by the older (wiser) basil plants in preparation for it’s long journey to my closest TJ’s location. It had the strangest taste- bitter and overpowering- and, for me, kind of ruined the dish. Usually when it comes to basil my motto is usually “the more, the merrier”. In this dish, though, I regretting putting in the full 1 1/2 cups. I did use some of the basil for our appetizer (a bruschetta of sorts) and thought that it was okay. So maybe TJ’s basil should only be consumed in small doses.
I also finally got around to making zucchini bread this weekend. Eleanor was up at 5:30 Saturday morning coughing. Of course, by the time I got her back to sleep I was not longer tired, so I took advantage of the quiet, wee hours of the morning for baking. Normally I would vet a recipe for something like this, but this time I went straight to 101 Cookbooks (Heidi rarely let’s me down), downloaded hers, and made it- no questions asked. Leaving out the options (I never have liked walnuts in my baked goods) and dialing back the sugar a little (mostly because we didn’t have brown sugar in the house), I otherwise followed the recipe to a T. And it was fabulous; moist and subtly spicy. It even baked well in the mini loaf pans I used (Tim and a friend are hiking for a few days and these mini loaves are the perfect size for a backpack).
Spaghetti with Peas and Zucchini Ribbons
A few notes: I decided against whole-milk yogurt in favor of low-fat or non-fat Greek-style plain yogurt. I don’t think the lack of whole-fat yogurt changed the flavor at all, but the Greek-style yogurt was a little too thick, and I will probably not use it next time around. Also, I think a little lemon zest would have perked up the flavor nicely, so try zesting the lemon as well as adding the lemon juice.
|Prep Time: 20 minutes|
|Total Time: 35 minutes|
|– Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper|
|– 1 1/2 c shelled fresh English peas (about 1 1/2 pounds unshelled) or thawed frozen petite peas|
|– 8 oz baby zucchini (about 12), trimmed and cut lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick slices with a mandoline or a knife|
|– 1 1/2 c plain whole-milk yogurt (note:|
|– 1 1/2 c loosely packed fresh basil leaves, very thinly sliced|
|– 1 pound spaghetti|
|– Juice of one lemon|
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add 1 teaspoon salt. Add peas, and cook until tender, 3 to 4 minutes for fresh peas and 1 minute for frozen. Using a slotted spoon, transfer peas to a medium bowl; set aside. Add zucchini to pot, and cook 30 seconds; using a slotted spoon, transfer to bowl with peas. (Note: I simply put them all in the pot together…I’m not entirely sure why they have to be cooked separately, especially since they are all being put in the same pot post-cooking! Save yourself the trouble of having to fish those suckers out of the boiling water bath.)
- Put yogurt and basil into a large, heatproof bowl; season with salt and pepper. Set bowl over the boiling water, and whisk until mixture is warm, about 1 minute. Remove from heat. Add lemon juice, peas and zucchini to bowl; set aside.
- Cook pasta in salted boiling water until al dente; drain. Add pasta to vegetables and sauce, and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Serve topped with cheese. (Yes, it’s that simple)
Heidi’s Special Zucchini Bread Recipe
A time-saving tip: if you have a food processor with the grating attachment, use it to shred the zucchini. It will perfectly shred three zucchini in about five seconds.
A few notes: On the flour front, this recipe calls for whole wheat pastry flour, it lends a nice, tender crumb to the zucchini bread – feel free to swap in unbleached all-purpose flour if it is more convenient or happens to be your flour of choice. Also, this recipe calls for curry powder as optional. I know you might be hesitant, but personally, I would not leave it out. It’s wonderful. Finally, since I did not use any of the optional additions (walnuts, poppy seeds, or ginger) I did have a sprinkle on top for texture. If you chose not to use these optional ingredients either, but still want a little crunch, try sprinkling the top with some granular (turbinado) sugar.
|1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts, plus a few to sprinkle on top (optional)|
|1/3 cup poppy seeds (optional)|
|zest of two lemons (optional)|
|1/2 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped (optional)|
|1/2 cup unsalted butter|
|1 cup sugar|
|1/2 cup fine grain natural cane sugar or brown sugar, lightly packed|
|3 large eggs|
|2 teaspoons vanilla extract|
|3 cups grated zucchini (about 3 medium), skins on, squeeze some of the moisture out and then fluff it up again before using|
|3 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose flour)|
|1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda|
|1/2 teaspoon baking powder|
|1 teaspoon salt|
|1 teaspoon cinnamon|
|1 tablespoon curry powder (optional)|
|Special equipment: two 1 pound loaf pans (5 x 9 inches)|
- Preheat your oven to 350°F. Butter the two loaf pans, dust them with a bit of flour and set aside. Alternately, you can line the pans with a sheet of parchment. If you leave a couple inches hanging over the pan, it makes for easy removal after baking. Just grab the parchment “handles” and lift the zucchini bread right out.
- In a small bowl combine the walnuts, poppy seeds, lemon zest, and ginger. Set aside.
- In a mixer, beat the butter until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat again until mixture comes together and is no longer crumbly. Add the eggs one at a time mixing well and scraping down the sides of the bowl between each addition. Stir in the vanilla and then the zucchini (low speed if you are using a mixer).
- In a separate bowl, combine the whole wheat pastry flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and curry powder. Add these dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in two batches, stirring between each addition.
- By hand, fold in the walnut, poppy seed, lemon zest, and crystalized ginger mixture. Save a bit of this to sprinkle on the tops of the zucchini loaves before baking for a bit of texture. Avoid over mixing the batter, it should be thick and moist, not unlike a butter cream frosting.
- Divide the batter equally between the two loaf pans. Make sure it is level in the pans, by running a spatula over the top of each loaf. Bake for about 40-45 minutes on a middle oven rack. I like to under bake my zucchini bread ever so slightly to ensure it stays moist. Keep in mind it will continue to cook even after it is removed from the oven as it is cooling. Remove from the oven and cool the zucchini bread in pan for about ten minutes. Turn out onto wire racks to finish cooling – if you leave them in their pans, they will get sweaty and moist (not in a good way) as they cool.
Makes 2 loaves.