Sunday, July 20, 2008

From the Farm: Zucchini

After a few weeks of going to the Greenfield Hill Farmers Market to pick up my CSA share, I finally understand the drill. The Gazy Brothers Farm table is usually the most popular at the market, so asking lots of questions (as I'm prone to do) isn't always possible. For someone new to the whole CSA concept, it can be a little confusing. This week, a fellow CSA shareholder explained how to choose the goodies for my share: each vegetable share you purchased receives about six "items". For example, 3-4 tomatoes counts as one "item", 2 zucchini would be a second "item" and so on. Up to this point, I've just let one of the women behind the table fill up my bag. Armed with this new information, I'm excited to go back next week and have a little more control over what goes in my bag (not that I've been disappointed so far!).

In this week's bag I got fresh basil, cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes, broccoli, and a few giant zucchini. The first several items were just what I needed for a cooking class this week, where I'll be teaching "Do-Ahead Summer Dishes", so those were spoken for. But the zucchini free and clear, so I created two really delicious recipes to feature them.

The first recipe is a wonderfully light summer pasta dish. I've been making a variation on this dish for more than fifteen years, dating back to my grad school days. I often boiled a pot of salted water for pasta, then tossed in zucchini and/or broccoli during the last few minutes of cooking time, drained it off, then hit it with some olive oil, freshly cracked pepper, and lots of Parmesan. Pasta simply dressed with black pepper and grated cheese is a classic Italian combination called Caccio e Pepe, but for my recipe, I wanted to liven it up a little. I decided to use a vegetable peeler to create long, pretty ribbons of zucchini, and paired it with lemon-pepper papparadelle pasta I found at Trader Joe's. The result was not only beautiful, but absolutely fresh and delicious!

The next day I grated up the remaining zucchini to make zucchini bread. Whenever I have lots of something good (like zucchini, blueberries, over-ripe bananas, etc), I love to make mini loaves of quick bread to store in my freezer. They are the perfect size to pull out if a friend pops over for coffee, or you just want a little something special for breakfast or a snack. This recipe is based on one I found ages ago, but unfortunately didn't copy down the source. However, over the years I've made enough changes and modifications that it really is something entirely different. The biggest change is that I don't use any fat in this recipe. I also use white whole wheat flour, which at the very least, makes me feel a little less guilty about indulging in an extra slice!
It's a good thing to find yourself with lots of zucchini!

Lemon-Pepper Papparadelle with Zucchini Ribbons
Serves 2
1 large zucchini, cut lengthwise into ribbons (using a vegetable peeler)
8 oz lemon-pepper papparadelle pasta
extra virgin olive oil
freshly cracked pepper
Pecorino Romano cheese, grated

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions.
About two minutes before the pasta is done (and "al dente" in texture), add the zucchini ribbons to the pot.
Drain the pasta/zucchini thoroughly, and place in a large bowl.
Dress pasta with a good splash of olive oil, plenty of freshly cracked black pepper, and about three (or more!) tablespoons of grated cheese.
Mix to combine and serve hot.

Zucchini Quick Bread
Makes 5 mini loaves
2 cups sugar
2/3 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup applesauce
3 eggs
3 cups flour (I used white whole wheat)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons cinnamon
3 cups shredded zucchini
Non-stick cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray 5 mini loaf pans with non-stick cooking spray.
Combine the sugar, brown sugar, applesauce, and eggs in a medium bowl. Mix to combine.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Mix to combine.
Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, mixing until just incorporated.
Add the shredded zucchini and fold in.
Evenly divide the batter between loaf pans.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.
Cool pans on a rack for 5 minutes, then un-mold and continue to cool completely on rack.
Store on counter top that day, or wrap tightly in foil and place in freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months.

No comments: