Tag Archive | Zucchini

Summer Zucchini Stew

 

Zucchini Stew

For those of you who have been wondering where I have been or what happened to me, well, summer happened. Though my least favourite of seasons, it does bring a lot of goodies for us foodies keeping us extremely busy throughout the summer. In fact, some summers, it’s hard to keep up with the rotation of seasonal vegetables.

Visited Toronto last weekend and came home with 7.5 lbs of my mother’s Italian flat string beans, 10 lbs of her san marzano tomatoes, an extra large bag of zucchini blossoms, and 2-8 lb Italian zucchini! It took me all night, but I used all of the tomatoes to make a pomodoro sauce, which was destined for an Italian string bean and pasta dish. With this round of zucchini blossoms, I made a risotto. With the first oversized zucchini, I made: zucchini pizza, zucchini soup (which I froze for a quick weeknight meal), zucchini loaf, and this week’s recipe, zucchini stew.

This dish brings me back to my childhood. My mother loves this dish and the ample supply of zucchini in her vegetable garden ensured this dish was on the menu often throughout the summer, especially during tomato season. I know I talk about the simplicity of Italian cooking often, but I don’t think there’s a dish that exemplifies this more than my mother’s Summer Italian Zucchini Stew.

I know what you’re thinking. Who eats stews in the summer? This is not your typical, heavy, winter stew. In fact, it’s light, sweet, and aromatic. With only a handful of ingredients, all available at this time of year, it’s a sweet celebration of seasonal and local cooking. Though the zucchini are the star attraction, they are stewed in an equally important backdrop of sweet summer tomatoes that are enveloped in olive oil and aromatized with sweet basil. The potatoes provide substance as do the sweet fava beans. Sweet zucchini, sweet tomatoes, sweet basil, sweet fava beans… How can you resist? All that’s missing is a crusty, Italian loaf to scoop up all that summer goodness.

Not quite sure how I’ll use the other monstrous zucchini. I’m thinking zucchini fritters, another zucchini loaf (for the freezer), and maybe some zucchini sticks. Ideas anyone?

All zucchini-ed out? Not a chance. If you haven’t tried Italian zucchini, this is your chance – tender and oh so sweet, especially at this time of year.

Serves 5

Ingredients:

 Olive oil  3/4 cup + more for drizzling
 Zucchini, Italian, seeds removed, cut into 1.5-2-inch pieces  3.5 lbs
 Potatoes, peeled, quartered  2 lbs
 Fava beans, shells removed  2 cups
 Tomatoes, ripe, cut into quarters, seeds removed  4.5 lbs
 Salt  2 tsp
 Black pepper
 Basil, leaves, fresh  8
  1. Remove fava beans from pods and blanch for 1 minute. Remove casing and set aside.
  2. In a large pot, heat olive oil.
  3. Add tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes until tomatoes begin to break down.
  4. Add potatoes and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add zucchini and salt and simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. Add fava beans and simmer for 10 more minutes.
  7. Remove from heat and stir in basil.
  8. Plate and drizzle with a little olive oil.

 

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

While other Canadian families were enjoying pot roasts for Sunday dinners, our Sunday treat was homemade lasagna, including fresh pasta made from scratch and we didn’t have it for dinner. On Sundays, we enjoyed a late lunch around two pm and then everyone fended for themselves for a light dinner, late snack.

Oh, how I looked forward to Sunday lasagna and we never tired of it. How could we? Pasta is the ultimate comfort food, and lasagna, well, it’s the ultimate comfort dish. More often than not, the lasagna was made in its simplest form: pasta sheets, tomato sauce, Parmesan, and mozzarella cheese. Every once and a while,  my mom would mix it up and add ground veal, miniature meatballs, hard boiled eggs, etc., but everyone’s favourite was the classic style, so delicious for no reason other than it was uncomplicated. Italian cooking at its best. Few ingredients, so fresh, that’s all you need.

We don’t buy store bought tomato sauce, which is why I don’t offer a recipe for it. Ours comes from mason jars and contains homemade, jarred sauce that’s made and preserved annually in the month of August, the height of tomato season. I’ll feature a recipe this year to be made with seasonal ripe tomatoes, so that you can have a taste.

The grilled/roasted veggies is my addition. My way of adding substance and heartiness (and of course, veggies). Taking the time to place only one type of vegetable per layer ensures the ultimate bite. This way, every bite contains: zucchini, peppers, mushrooms, and eggplant.

The drizzled, beaten egg is the addition of my genius mother. I like hard boiled eggs, but have never enjoyed them in lasagna and my husband absolutely hates them. Reluctant to eliminate them from her recipe, she started adding beaten eggs. She’s been doing it for years and none of us knew. You can’t detect them, but they definitely add something plus make the dish heartier. Now that the cat’s out of the bag, I’m going to hear it from the Mister, I’m sure.

One last thing, you’ll notice that though the mozzarella is ample in this dish, it’s not overloaded. Italians don’t layer their lasagna with mounds of cheese. It’s an important feature, but not the only one. Remember, it’s about balancing a handful of your freshest ingredients and allowing them to come together as one, not drowning the dish by overdosing on cheese.

When I take the time to make this dish, I double it up. Can’t tell you how nice it is to enjoy this on a week night. I made these lasagne sheets with my mom – the gift that keeps on giving. Thanks mom!

My favourite Italian dish is pizza, but this is without a doubt a close second. With the veggies, it’s a lighter alternative that has substance and the grilled/roasted aspect add a flare for the gourmet. As my mother says (my husband knows it well), “mangia!”

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna 2

Serves 6 -8

Ingredients:

 Lasagna sheets, fresh  10
 Tomato Sauce, prepared   20 oz
 Eggplant, medium – large  1
 Zucchini  3
 Mushrooms, oysters  8 oz
 Peppers, red and green, medium  2
 Parmesan, grated  1/4 cup
 Mozzarella, shredded  340 g
 Eggs, beaten  2

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. To roast the eggplant, line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Slice eggplant width-wise into quarter inch slices. Brush both sides with olive oil. Salt and pepper one side only. Place eggplant slices on baking sheet, so they don’t overlap.

For the zucchini, cut them width-wise into half inch disks. Place on a plate and drizzle lightly with olive oil, salt, and black pepper and toss. Line a smaller baking dish with zucchini ensuring all disks touch the paper and are laying flat.

Line a third, small baking pan with parchment paper. Place mushrooms on pan and drizzle them with olive oil, salt and black pepper and toss.

Place peppers whole on a small baking sheet.

Place all four pans in the oven. Bake/roast for approximately 45-60 minutes. Peppers will need rotating from time to time, so that all sides get charred. Keep an eye on them as they may be done at slightly different times. When peppers are done. Remove them from the oven and place them in a bowl covering them with plastic wrap. After they have cooled, approximately 10 minutes, they should be easier to peel.

I normally roast veggies from the day before to save on time. Alternatively, you can grill all vegetables on the barbecue.

3. Bring a medium pot filled 2/3 with water to a boil. Generously salt the water and bring to a rolling simmer. Two at a time, place lasagna sheets into pot. Move them around using a wooden spoon, so they don’t stick to each other. When the pasta sheets rise/float to the top, approximately 1-2 minutes, remove sheets from boiling water and transfer to a bowl with cold water. Continue, two at a time, until all lasagna sheets are cooked. 

4. To assemble, using a 11 by 16 baking pan, spread some tomato sauce on the bottom of the pan. Remove two sheets of lasagna, one at a time, from the bowl with water, running your hand down the sheets to remove as much of the water as possible. Lay both sheets down on the pan side by side until they touch.

Spread more tomato sauce on first layer of sheets. Follow with Parmesan cheese, egg drizzle, zucchini disks, and mozzarella cheese.

Repeat three more times, in the same order, but switching the zucchini with another vegetable in the following order: peppers, mushrooms, eggplant. I place the more watery veggies on the bottom for better cooking and to avoid a soggy lasagna. This method ensures that each of the four veggies encompasses each bite for that perfect bite!

The fifth layer, last layer, includes all the ingredients, including egg, but no veggie.

5. Cover lasagna with foil paper and bake for 20 minutes in a 375 degree oven. Remove foil paper and bake for another 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to set for 10 minutes. Serve with a side salad.

Stringy Salad with Spicy Asian Vinaigrette

 

Asian Vinaigrette

You have heard me rant about eating salads in the wintertime. This is a salad that I actually look forward to at this time of year. It’s loaded with crunchy-type vegetables whose freshness doesn’t get compromised in the winter and it’s an easy way to overload on raw vegetables at a time when you’re craving slow cooked comfort foods.

Any hard vegetables would work, but the combination that I love is: green cabbage, zucchini, radishes, shallots, and carrots. Even more exciting than the combination of veggies is the fun stringiness! There’s something thrilling about being able to twirl a salad. The stringiness also let’s me enjoy radishes, a root vegetable I consider extremely boring.

It is all tied together with a spicy Asian vinaigrette with a hint of sweetness and hit of ginger that takes this salad over the top. Finished with chopped roasted peanuts, fresh coriander, and black sesame seeds, it’s a crunchy, medley of veggie heaven. Served with a side of tofu, it’s as low carb as I get and a quick weeknight meal.

Here’s hoping to spice things up in 2015. Happy new year everyone!

Serves 4

Ingredients:

 Salad:
 Cabbage, green, shredded  4 cups
 Zucchini, large, julienned  2
 Carrots, large, spiralled  2
 Radish, large, spiralled  1 (or 3 small)
 Shallot, sliced thinly  1/4
 Coriander, fresh, chopped
 Peanuts, chopped, roasted  1/2 cup
 Sesame seeds, black
Vinaigrette:
 Sesame oil, pure  1 tbsp
 Canola oil  1 tbsp
 Lime juice  2.5 tbsp
 Hot sauce  1 tbsp
 Tamari  2 tsp
 Garlic, clove, minced  1
 Ginger, fresh, grated  2 tsp
 Maple syrup  2 tbsp
 Tofu:
 Tofu, soft  2 lbs
 Canola oil
 Tamari  2 tbsp

1. Prepare vegetables. Thinly slice the cabbage and shallot. Use spiral cutter to cut carrots and radish into long, stringy spirals. Use a julienne-type kitchen contraption to cut zucchini (not inner seedy flesh) into long, thin strips.

2. To toast the peanuts, over medium heat in a small sautee pan, heat nuts stirring often. It only takes 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and roughly chop once cooled.

3. For the vinaigrette, in a small bowl, combine vinaigrette ingredients.

4. For the tofu, slice the tofu into bite-sized cubes. Cover a large frying pan with a thin layer of canola oil. Heat pan over medium heat and add tofu cubes. Cook until golden on all sides. Remove from heat and toss in a couple tablespoons of tamari and prepared vinaigrette.

5. To assemble, place all shredded and sliced vegetables in a large bowl, mixing to ensure they are well-combined. Toss with vinaigrette (there will be vinaigrette left over so taste as you add vinaigrette). Sprinkle with chopped coriander, toasted peanuts, and black sesame seeds. Divide the salad between 4 plates and serve with 10-12 cubes of dressed tofu on the side.