Feb 23, 2010

Waiter, There are Butterflies in My Zucchini!

After Mardi Gras comes Ash Wednesday, starting the Lenten season.  Lent is all about sacrifice and moderation, which is why Mardi Gras is...well, what it is.  It's one last effort to live it up before letting go of one's vices.

During Lent we always gave up something that meant a lot to us--something that would be a sacrifice.  For my family that usually meant a favorite food like chocolate, candy, or coffee.  (My obsession with food is genetic.)

Growing up, we didn't eat meat on Ash Wednesday or on Fridays for the 40 day period before Easter.  That meant my mom had to come up with a bunch of meatless meals. 

Truthfully it wasn't that hard.  And, truthfully, it wasn't really a sacrifice for us.  Seafood is allowed and Lent meant that we were guaranteed one seafood meal a week.  That was considered a treat!

Often that meal was fried fish or fried shrimp because it was quick for my mom to prepare and pleased everyone.  She also made tuna casserole, which I despise no matter who cooks it, tuna salad sandwiches (hey, canned tuna goes on sale during Lent!), and a potato and egg scramble that I'll have to ask her about.  I remember liking it, but not how she made it.

Even my son's public school still serves a meatless meal on Fridays during Lent.

I know it's hard to believe, but I don't eat like this all the time...this being the types of recipes I have on my blog.  I do cook healthier dishes too.  Are you relieved?  If you read along every week, you probably have wondered about my health.

I try to cook a meatless meal once or twice a week, even when it isn't Lent.  It's mostly about trying to lower my grocery bill, but if it means cooking something that is better for us that's good too.

Since it's the start of Lent and many people are looking for meatless ideas, I thought I'd feature a meatless meal I like more and more every time I make it.

* This recipe for Farfalle with Zucchini and Parsley Almond Pesto comes from Food & Wine Magazine and can be seen here

* The only thing I think I do differently is that I cook the zucchini longer than 5 minutes.  The recipe says the zucchini should be brown "in spots."  I prefer the spots to be the color of the zucchini.  What I'm saying is I like the brown parts!

* I actually like this more reheated the next day.  It doesn't seem like it's one of those dishes that taste better leftover...but it is.

Mise en place: Olive oil, zucchini, garlic, Parmesan cheese, almonds, parsley, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and farfalle
(yeah, I shop at Wally World...you already know I'm cheap)

Can you do two things at one time?  How 'bout three? 
If you are awesome, start the pasta water going while making the pesto. 
If you are super awesome, start the water, make the pesto, AND heat the olive oil for the zucchini.  Juggle, juggle, juggle!

Some days I'm awesome.  Some days I'm super awesome.  A lot of days I'm neither.
Salt some water in a big ole pot and get it boiling.

While your water heats, make the pesto by adding garlic to a food processor. Pulse until thoroughly chopped then add the almonds. Pulse until they are coarse. Add olive oil and parsley and pulse until the mixture becomes paste-like.

Add Parmesan cheese and pulse to combine.  Season with salt and pepper.

This pesto is tasty and more economical than a traditional basil/pine nut pesto.

It may be about time to start cooking your pasta.  Before you drain it, swipe about a cup of cooking liquid from the pot. 
You may need it, you may not, but it's better to have it than to wish you did.
If you haven't already, heat olive oil in a skillet.  Add the zucchini and cook until it browns.  I like to go 8-10 minutes.  I like a lot of color.

Add the drained pasta to large bowl.  Toss with the pesto.

Toss in the zucchini.  I like to do the pesto first and separately to avoid mangling the zucchini.  If the pasta looks too dry, add some of the cooking liquid until it looks right (ha!).  Season with salt and pepper.

Serve topped with more Parmesan cheese.

Farfalle with Zucchini and Parsley-Almond Pesto
from Food & Wine magazine

1 pound farfalle
1 garlic clove
1/3 cup unsalted roasted almonds
1 1/2 cups flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound zucchini (2 medium), halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise 1/8 inch thick
Pinch of crushed red pepper
water from cooking pasta

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the farfalle and cook until it is al dente. Reserve about a cup of cooking liquid, then drain the pasta.

Meanwhile, in a food processor, pulse the garlic clove until it is finely chopped. Add the almonds and pulse until they are coarsely chopped. Add the parsley and 1/2 cup of the olive oil and process until the parsley is finely chopped. Add ¼ c of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and pulse just until the pesto is combined. Season with salt and pepper.

In a large skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil until shimmering. Add the zucchini and cook over moderately high heat until tender and browned in spots, about 8-10 minutes. Add the crushed red pepper and season with salt and pepper.

Combine the pasta, zucchini, and pesto. Add cooking liquid from pasta if the mixture is too dry. Season with salt and pepper. Serve and top with additional Parmigiano-Reggiano.

The pesto can be made ahead and refrigerated overnight.

1 comment:

  1. Meatless Fridays and Lent were popular in Ohio were I grew up too. There were a lot of fish frys and all that on Friday nights. Here in Kentucky NO ONE and I really mean No One plays along. I don't think we have a big Catholic population at all, which is one reason why.

    This pasta looks delicious. Zucchini is one of my favorite vegetables!


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