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.
Hearty, creamy stuffed zucchini with hints of lemon and thyme
I've been living a significant distance from home for a long while. 8 years now. Suffice to say I've grown used to the physical distance between myself and my family (and many dear friends) and accustomed to being more or less "on my own". While, admittedly, my moves have been slightly random and perhaps impulsive, I know that the choices I've made have ultimately brought such amazing people, experiences, and developments into my life that I could never begin to regret them. I have also enjoyed immersing myself in different cultures, climates, and landscapes, but some days it just seems unbearably difficult to be far away. And lately those days have been coming around more frequently . Last year my oldest sister and her husband got pregnant. I missed the majority of pregnancy but flew home the moment she went into labor in February. I was fortunate enough to visit twice this spring and in early summer to throw my sister Rachel (a different sister!) her bachelorette party and bridal shower and watch her walk down the aisle. I spent over three weeks with my family in a six month period, which is probably as much or more than I've been able to do in the past couple of years. It was so wonderful. Getting to be with my sisters (there's even one more!), my parents, my perfect, amazing, wonderful nephew... it was really special. And it sparked a strength of longing for home that I haven't had in a long time. It's always hard to leave after a visit and missing my family on any given occasion is common, but this was different. When I flew back to California after Rachel's wedding, I felt like a piece of me was being taken away. And I still feel that way.
Wine poached apricot, shredded zucchini, oat, and flax seed muffins
Today I feel so satisfied. I woke up early this morning and went straight into the back yard. Chris joined me after not too long. He cleared all the dead trees and dried up leaves out of the banana tree bed while I dug out another large sunken bed in the side yard. Afterwards I got four fruit trees that desperately needed to be planted into their new homes in the yard. It was almost unbearably hot by the time I finished. I was absolutely soaked through with sweat and covered in dirt. It felt good. Of course, I was also exhausted. But then the best possible thing happened. Dark, heavy clouds started rolling in. The wind picked up. Big, heavy drops started to fall from the sky. Thunder started cracking loudly in the distance. In a matter of minutes the rain went from scattered showers to an absolute downpour. Forceful winds and rain, beating down on the ground with an intensity I have never witnessed in southern California. The electricity flickered out pretty soon after all that started up and stayed off for nearly 4 hours. Chaco waited out the storm in the garage, Sila hid under the bed, and poor Binx spent half of the storm hiding out outside before he hurried back to the house during a break in the rain. I spent the first half of the storm glued to the window (while intermittently calling out for Binx) before falling asleep to the sound of the wind and the rain. That's a sound I haven't been able to enjoy for quite some time.
Eggplant fries, sauteed zucchini, and charred baby bell peppers
Another Sunday afternoon trapped inside on a 98 degree day, looking longingly out the window. Yesterday I stayed out in the back yard until past noon pulling up weeds and raking up the dozens of plant litter piles that have accumulated around the yard. I was glad to get that all done but I was seriously overheated and worn out by the time I came in. I haven't sweat that much since El Centro... I was hoping to get some more digging done today, but when I woke up this morning the knots in my back indicated that that was not a good idea. I did collect a few barrels of compost and acquire a dragon fruit cutting as well as a pretty well-established hops plant, so at least the morning was put to good use. I know my back is grateful for the break, but I'm itching to get back out there nonetheless. This season's garden fever has begun. I've got nearly 200 little seedlings going, one of three new deep sunken beds dug out, all of the weeds and any spent summer crops pulled out of the old garden, a clean yard, and a plan. It's going to be a good fall, when it finally comes. Embarking on this new garden expansion is particularly exciting because I feel like I've finally got a good hold on things. I've gotten to know my yard, soil, pests, and predators well, and I feel armed and ready to transform this new area. There's not a time that I could go out in the garden and think, "no, there's nothing that really needs to be done around here". There's always more to do, and the more invested I get in working on this new project, the more I think of other things I want to do next.
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.