zucchini fritti, lemon and parmesan salad

zucchini fritti salad with lemon, italian parsley,parmesan and pine nuts

This past week in the month of March has been eventful; what with the Ides of March, Saint Patrick’s Day and the Feast of San Giuseppe going on, you can’t help but notice there’s transition in the air. One foot in front of the other, steadfastly marching toward — Spring.

It’s going to be a few more weeks (at least where I live) before true, seasonal produce will start to influence the next half year of my cooking; garden seeds are starting to sprout and trees are budding somewhere with the promise of summer fruit.

Although I think of them as a full-blown summer kind of thing, at this time of year I’m not ashamed to take advantage of cute little zucchini grown in far more southern climates than the one I live in, to help bridge the gap between darkness and light; brown root vegetables and green, leafy plants.

I’ve been getting itty-bitty zucchini at my local Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods markets over the past few months and this salad has become a major craving. It’s a personal preference, but I like small zucchini best, for this recipe and in general; I find as they mature and swell to a diameter larger than about an inch and a half, the flesh will likely have more seeds and become waterlogged and soggy when cooked.

zucchini fritti salad with lemon and parmesan

It could be the inclusion of lemon that gives this combination of ingredients a spirit of freshness, making me think of impromptu, warm weather eating, something I’m looking forward to.

My appetite was sparked a while back by a recipe from Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop, a blog I am both inspired by and admire from afar. I appreciate Gwyneth’s obvious passion for  food. And while I can relate to her clean, modern, yet down-to-earth style aesthetic I have to leave the $150 sweat pants in a neatly folded pile at her web store. Food I will indulge in; my fashion budget is far less opulent.

Shopping aside, Gwyneth has great taste – zucchini fritti are delicious and dare I say healthy (…yes, I did). I took her idea and ran with it. A light coating of rice flour and a little hot olive oil transforms the neutral nature of zucchini and makes me think of tempura.  You could easily eat fritti all on their own as a crunchy snack, but making a salad with the hot, crisp zucchini turns this into a simple meal.

zucchini fritti salad with lemon, parsley and parmesan

zucchini fritti salad with lemon, parsley and parmesan

Serving Size: serves 2 - 4

Ingredients

  1. ¾ pound baby or small zucchini, between ½ - 1 inch in diameter
  2. ½ small red onion, thinly sliced
  3. 2 – 3 tablespoons brown or white rice flour
  4. 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  5. ½ lemon, cut into wedges
  6. Salt
  7. ¼ cup pine nuts, roughly chopped
  8. ½ cup picked Italian parsley leaves
  9. Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese, for shaving

Instructions

  1. Slice the zucchini into coins about 1/2-inch wide; put them in a bowl with the onion and toss with enough rice flour to coat evenly.
  2. Heat a 12-inch (preferably non-stick) skillet over medium high heat until hot. Pour in the olive oil and heat until it just begins to shimmer.
  3. Put the zucchini-onion mixture and lemon slices into the pan, cut side down. Season with a generous pinch of salt and cook undisturbed for 2 or 3 minutes, until the zucchini turns dark golden brown on one side.
  4. Flip the zucchini over, either by shaking the pan or with a wooden spatula, to cook the other side. Add the pine nuts to the pan and sprinkle with a little more salt.
  5. Remove from the heat; stir in the parsley. Squeeze the juice from the fried lemons over the salad and serve right away topped with shaved cheese.
http://familystylefood.com/2013/03/zucchini-fritti-lemon-and-parmesan-salad/

roasted vegetables and spelt spaghetti

roasted vegetables, spelt spaghetti, ricotta salada

I was inspired to make myself a bowl of pasta after I had lunch at a local restaurant and it left me feeling — disappointed.

The menu at this charming place offered the sort of casual, Italian-style fare everyone seems to like – wood-fired pizzas, homemade pasta, and salads made with locally grown produce.

I ordered the pasta special of the day, described as handmade whole wheat fettuccine with wood oven-roasted vegetables. Great!

I was hungry, and happily anticipated my lunch, thinking about homemade noodles with the rustic bite of whole grain and especially, the promise of a colorful assortment of vegetables kissed with some smoky char from the oven.

What arrived at my table was not at all like the picture I’d formed in my head. Turns out there was definitely a disconnect between what had been described and what was right there on the plate in front of me.

The “oven-roasted” vegetables were a small distribution of diced carrots that were a little on the crunchy side, and zucchini that was cooked to the point of army-green softness. They were embedded in a thick tomato sauce that covered the pasta so completely that I couldn’t tell if it was fresh whole wheat fettuccine or not. It tasted pretty good; homey and satisfying, Just not what I thought it would be.

I’m not in the business of reviewing restaurants, nor do I ever want to be – it makes me uncomfortable to be critical of another cook’s food. Cooking is all about feeding people, but it’s also a personal expression. One girl’s vegetable is another boy’s garnish.

For me, vegetables are the focal point of whatever I set out to eat or cook; the elements of the plate that give a cook the chance to use a beautiful variety of colors and textures; like an edible palette.

When I decided to recreate my version of that lunch, I set out for the produce section of my grocery store – there’s no farmer’s market at this point in a Midwestern winter.

spelt spaghetti with roasted vegetables

But I found a rainbow of vegetables there; sweet bell peppers in three different colors, red grape tomatoes and bright green zucchini.

I roasted the vegetables to pair with spelt spaghetti, a whole grain pasta that has a more delicate, nutty taste than some of the other whole grain kinds I’ve tried. Ricotta Salata cheese adds a creamy, slightly salty hit to the top of this spaghetti. Now, that’s what I’m talking about!

roasted vegetables with spelt spaghetti and ricotta salata

Yield: 2 - 4 servings

Ingredients

  1. 1 each – red, yellow and orange bell pepper
  2. 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  3. 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  4. Kosher salt
  5. 2 small zucchini, diced
  6. 1/2 cup Peppadew peppers, sliced in half
  7. ¼ cup Peppadew liquid
  8. Freshly ground black pepper
  9. 10 ounces spelt spaghetti
  10. ¼ cup chopped Italian parsley
  11. 1/3 cup crumbled Ricotta Salata cheese

Instructions

  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Cut the peppers into roughly 1 ½ - inch pieces. Toss the peppers on a large rimmed baking sheet along with the tomatoes, olive oil and ½ teaspoon salt.
  3. Roast until the edges of the peppers are deep golden brown, about 20 minutes. Stir them around, then add the zucchini to the peppers and roast 5 more minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve ¼ cup of the cooking water.
  5. When the vegetables are done, add the Peppadews, liquid and reserved pasta water and scrape everything around in the pan; season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Transfer the spaghetti to a serving bowl and top with the vegetables, parsley and cheese.
http://familystylefood.com/2013/03/roasted-vegetables-and-spelt-spaghetti/

Roasted Vegetables and Parmesan Polenta

Roasted Vegetables and Parmesan Polenta

I’m always amazed that my appetites change right along with the seasons. It’s clockwork; the last days of summer are turning to fall and I feel it from my first step outside in the morning, when there’s a chill in the air that wasn’t the day before.

Dinner starts to require something more than just a salad + something off the grill, and I’ll be thinking about what to cook at 4 o’clock rather than the relaxed summer schedule that sometimes doesn’t start until after 6…or whenever.

Polenta is often what I make when that fall feeling hits. I’m generous with butter and Parmesan cheese because they are made for each other (face it, polenta would be bland without it), tempered by a happy amount of roasted vegetables. It’s all good.

Roasted Vegetables and Parmesan Polenta

Ingredients

  1. 1 each red, yellow and orange bell peppers, seeded and diced
  2. 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  3. ½ red onion, thinly sliced
  4. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  5. Salt and pepper
  6. 3 small or 2 medium-sized zucchini, cut into 1-inch chunks
  7. 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  8. 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  9. 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  10. 1 cup polenta or coarse cornmeal
  11. 1 – 2 teaspoons salt
  12. ½ cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  13. 3 tablespoons butter

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Combine the peppers, tomatoes, onion, olive oil and ½ teaspoon salt and pepper on a large rimmed baking sheet. Roast until beginning to soften and turn brown, 15-20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, add the zucchini, garlic, thyme and balsamic vinegar. Return the pan to the oven and continue roasting 10 more minutes, or until the zucchini is bright green and slightly tender (not mushy).
  3. Meanwhile, bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a heavy saucepan. Gradually pour the polenta into the water while whisking at the same time. Add 1 teaspoon salt. Lower the heat to a slow simmer and continue to cook the polenta about 20 minutes or until it thickens and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan, stirring frequently so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Stir in the cheese and butter and add additional salt to taste if needed.
  4. Serve the polenta in bowls with the roasted vegetables and their juices over the top; sprinkle with additional cheese if you like.
http://familystylefood.com/2012/09/roasted-vegetables-and-parmesan-polenta/