Guaranteed to please meat lovers, Italians, and veggie-heads alike!
Lasagna-style zucchini noodles with fire roasted tomato sauce, meaty eggplant, fresh ricotta, and crispy mushrooms
Guaranteed to please meat lovers, Italians, and veggie-heads alike!
If you're a gardener or you know a gardener, you've probably found yourself with an abundance of overgrown zucchinis. I do a little harvest from the garden every couple of days and even though I swear I've picked all the zucchini there are to be picked, somehow there's always a gigantic one hiding out that I missed last time around. These massive zucchinis start to pile up in the fridge as I silently protest baking them into something. Don't get me wrong, I love baked goods, but I don't need to make dozen muffins each week for a household of two. And a dozen muffins doesn't even make a dent in the rapidly mounding pile of zucchini giants. Because, don't forget, I still have plenty of young zucchini, lovely and soft, ripe for the eating! So the giants sit and wait to be loved while I think desperately about ways to love them that don't involve sugar and flour. Such problems I have, huh? Well, fear not dear readers, for I have found a solution. A few weeks ago I made a pasta dish with zucchini noodles (a delicious little work in progress that I intend to post soon), and it got me thinking about the great potential these subtle little veggies have. I like the zucchini noodle concept, but I have a few qualms with the common zucchini noodle, the foremost of which is moisture. Pasta noodles, not watery. Zucchini noodles, way too watery. But not these zucchini noodles. No, no. These zucchini noodle are salted, squeezed, and baked until they retain just the right amount of moisture. And magnificent as they are, there is A LOT more to love of this lasagna. This is one of the best lasagnas I've ever eaten, and I say this as someone who grew up eating lasagna every other week from skilled Italian mamas and aunties and nanas.
Easy peasy zucchini popovers drizzled with lemon glaze and thyme
Last month I introduced a new post series, the "About" series, which spotlights a particular fruit, vegetable, or grain for botanical and culinary celebration. This month we're shining the spotlight on zucchini. The glorious zucchini. I've been bringing in armloads of zucchini this season and the constant supply has forced me to stretch the bounds of how I think about and cook with it. One can only have so much zucchini bread or ratatouille. I can assure you that the recipes featured this week will be the start of many more zucchini-based recipes to come, because these babies are prolific and I am determined to use them in new and interesting ways. I love zucchini and it's got a lot of potential, but it can be really underwhelming. I say this as a former vegan who's eaten my share of squeaky, flavorless zucchini stir fries and mushy veggie burritos. Zucchini isn't a particularly flavorful vegetable and the texture can be wonderful, but it's touchy. You've got to treat her right. The zucchini's culinary strength lies in it's versatility. It can easily sneak into sweets, adding a subtle note of savoriness (as in today's recipe). It can be consumed raw- crunchy and fresh. I can be tossed into a quiche, sauteed, or grilled. And if you take the time to remove a little moisture from it, it soaks up flavors miraculously well, making it an excellent choice for sauce-y dishes. You can also eat zucchini flowers, which have a similarly delicate flavor and really unique, almost creamy, texture. They're often served stuffed with some sort of cheese and herb mixture, lightly battered, and fried in a way that feels utterly luxurious.
Korean warn rice salad with bulgolgi-style tofu, raw and pickled vegetables, and a fried egg
I hold this dish near and dear to my heart. It has traveled with me through many years and places and grown and changed in that time. My first encounters with it were at Blue Cactus in Columbia, South Carolina. I was maybe 20 then and had never been exposed to Korean food in my life. In fact, I'm sure at the time I'd never eaten any authentic Asian cuisine of any kind. I was intimidated. I didn't know what to think of this strange bowl of hot rice, cold lettuce, and unidentifiable pickled things with a big old runny egg yolk sitting on top. What the heck is this thing? Who eats like this? It turns out, I do. Of course, you all probably know that by now, but I didn't know it then. This was totally uncharted food territory for me. The only pickled thing I'd ever eaten was pickled cucumber. This dish was one of the many that began opening doors for me- showing me new parts of food, new ingredients, new techniques. And it certainly didn't hurt that it was served at one of the best restaurants in town. A little hole in the wall place. The food takes forever and it's bring your own beer- but that's part of what made it great. We'd go and spend hours there, drinking some wine and waiting anxiously for our mouth-watering dishes to emerge from the kitchen. If you're ever in Columbia and have a few hours to spare, I highly recommend a visit. And I highly recommend the bibimbap.
Crispy tortillas stuffed with beans and cheese and topped with salsa and vegetables
Two weeks ago I was in Mexico. More specifically, in the Yucatan Peninsula- in and around Meirda. I went with a team of professors to host a soils workshop at the Autonomous University of the Yucatan (UADY) and to visit some sites for a new research project. I spent an entire day touring agroforestry systems, milpas, and Mayan home gardens. It was lovely. There was a gorgeous variety of fruits available and a host of native spices. Yucatecan cuisine is quite unique- punchy and flavorful, acidic, easy on the heat in the dish, heavy on the heat in the salsa. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was not like Meixcan food I've had before, yet reminiscent of it. This garden tortilla pizza is also reminiscent of Mexican food you've likely enjoyed before. And it too, calls upon a few native Mexican ingredients. However, unlike Yucatecan food, this dish could not be farther from traditional.
Bright & tangy, cabbage wraps loaded with carrots, zucchini, tofu, and sprouts
I've made cabbage wraps probably a half a dozen times, and up until recently I have found myself more or less bored by them. I always want to love them- wrapping vegetables in other vegetables is such an ingenious way to construct a healthy meal- but my early attempts to make them fell short. The cabbage was too rough and bitter and the fillings were mostly indistinguishable. Lack-luster to say the least. But a month or two ago, I made a good one. It was mostly on a whim. We had left over cabbage and odds and ends hanging around and Chris and I decided to give it another go. The first thing I did was to soak the cabbage in water and vinegar while we prepped the other veggies, and this, my friends, was key. It softened both the texture and flavor of the cabbage, making it much more palatable and less pungent, which allows the flavors of the fillings to really come through. I also removed the ribs from the cabbage leaves since they're quite tough and essentially flavorless. Following this success, I decided to make a more concerted effort at a stellar cabbage wrap recipe. And, not to toot my own horn here, by I banged this one out of the park. Chris and I DEVOURED these. Only guttural exclamations of "yum" escaped between crunchy mouthfuls. I only wish that I had made more. The honey ginger vegetables have just the right balance of punch and sweetness and the soy-lime tofu brings a perfect compliment of saltiness and brightness to the table. Alas, I've gushed enough. Try them out and see for yourselves. Satisfaction guaranteed.
Hi there! I'm Cara- plant ecologist, gardening addict, and whole foods enthusiast. My whole life revolves around plants, including my kitchen. Join me here at LWM each week as I post local, seasonal, plant-based recipes and write about my never ending quest to find balance and tranquility in this crazy little world.