risotto with butternut squash and basil

October 21, 2013 § 52 Comments

Autumn is here and what a perfect evening for a steamy bowl of butternut squash risotto and a glass (or two) of Sauvignon Blanc.

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I n g r e d i e n t s

  • 1 medium large butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 large purple onion
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 2 quarts of stock (chicken or vegetable)
  • 3/4 cup of Grana Padano cheese, grated
  • 3/4 cup of fresh basil, chopped

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M e t h o d

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in large pot over medium-high heat.  Add squash and sauté until beginning to soften and brown around edges, about 15 minutes. Transfer squash to medium bowl and set aside.  Reduce heat to medium and add remaining tablespoon of oil, purple onion and thyme.  Stir until tender but not brown, about 5 minutes.   Add risotto and stir to coat for one minute.   Add 1 large ladle of  broth and simmer until absorbed, stirring frequently, 3 to 4 minutes.  Continue adding remaining broth by ladle, allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding next, stirring often, about 15 minutes.  Return butternut squash to the pot.  Continue to cook until rice is just tender but still very creamy, stirring gently and often, about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Stir in basil and 3/4 cup freshly grated Grana Padano or Parmesan cheese.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to large bowl and serve with additional Grana Padano cheese.

Serves 4.

homemade tomato soup

October 14, 2013 § 53 Comments

For this particular recipe a medley of tomatoes straight from the vine went into this garden tomato soup.  A very sweet and firm fleshed tomato called “Plum Lemon”, which is a russian yellow tomato that looks like a lemon!  An heirloom striped tomato which looks like a bell pepper and also harvested were several plum tomatoes to add to the mix.  Straight from the vine and into the soup pot.

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The yellow ones are not lemons…they are yellow plum tomatoes!

This soup had a slight tanginess to it as well as an herbal infused flavor which came from sprigs of fresh cut greek basil and thyme.  I chose to keep the sprigs whole and remove at the end in order to keep the soup texture silky smooth.   Both the thyme and greek basil seem to have a toughness about the leaves and I was looking for a nice smooth finish.

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I n g r e d i e n t s

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 pounds tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • a few fresh thyme sprigs
  • a few basil sprigs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • sprinkling of pepper
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • a pinch of sugar (optional)

M e t h o d

Place the oil and butter in a large heavy bottomed pot and heat until butter melts.  Add the onion and sauté over medium heat until soft, about 8-10 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, thyme, basil, salt and pepper and stir to mix.  Bring to a boil and cook over medium heat until the tomatoes have collapsed, 6 – 8 minutes.

While the tomatoes cook, heat the stock until beginning to boil.  Using 1/2 cup stock in a cup, whisk the flour to make a smooth paste.  Add the flour paste and the remaining broth to the pot and bring to a boil.  Simmer for several minutes on very low heat, stirring frequently.  Turn off heat and cool enough to handle.

Using a hand blender (or blender) purée the soup until well mixed.   On several occasions I have read by adding a pinch of sugar to tomatoes rather it be a sauce or soup, helps to soften the acidity of the fruit and boost the tomato flavor.  I did add a pinch of sugar and I can not say if this had an effect on the soup or not.  It was so delicious and it seems using fresh tomatoes right off the vine you can not go wrong.

At this point I passed the soup through a sieve to catch the skins and bits to achieve a silky smooth texture.  I think this step is optional, it was wonderful even left a bit rustic and chunky.

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Topped with oven toasted croutons, fresh grated pecorino cheese and a few greek basil leaves.

Serves 4.

roasted tomatoes and herbs

October 2, 2013 § 54 Comments

We are finally enjoying red, ripe and juicy roma tomatoes from the garden.  I am still so puzzled as to why my tomatoes have taken so long when friends of mine living in the same city are at least 30 days on the other side of their harvest.  All I can say is I am happy to have them!

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And still more to come!

I have been wanting to slow roast tomatoes for weeks and after bringing in a dozen or so roma’s I knew exactly what I was going to do.  No doubt these were going to be good, however, after the first bite I was completely smitten.  I had to stop myself because I was going to finish off the whole lot and never mention a word to my family I had roasted them.  The aroma in the house was a dead give away and coming to my senses I knew I had to share.

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Crispy sage is such a lovely delicacy.  I added several large sage leaves to the roasting pan, along with thyme, greek basil and thinly sliced garlic.  We enjoyed the tomatoes alone as a side, however,  I can imagine how perfect they would be tossed in spaghetti.  Of course I thought that, how many pasta recipes can one blog have?  I’m up to 18 and I have only had this blog for 7 months!

I n g r e d i e n t s

  • 6 or 7 tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • several whole sage leaves
  • 4 or 5 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • large sprig of basil, chopped
  • 3 or 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • sea salt

M e t h o d

Preheat oven 325°F.  Drizzle olive oil onto parchment lined baking sheet.  Sprinkle the herbs about and toss around with a spatula.  Add the sliced tomatoes and garlic and continue to toss around until well coated.  Evenly space the tomatoes about the pan, cut side down, sprinkle with salt and roast for one hour.

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minestrone con il pesto

September 30, 2013 § 43 Comments

This is a perfect soup for day three of a constant downpour here in Seattle.  Years ago I was skimming through a friend’s cookbook and found this recipe.   I asked her for a scratch piece of paper and all she could find was a sticky pad.   Using a red ink pen, I proceeded to handwrite  the recipe in the tiniest penmanship I could in order to fit it on the two sides of the 2×4 sticky paper.   Here we are nearly thirteen years later and I finally made the soup!

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The flavor base of this soup is exceptional.  You first make a buttuto, which is a combination of onion, celery, garlic, carrot and pancetta (or bacon).  The name buttuto (italian) means to strike or, in this case, chop.   Once you have chopped your buttuto it becomes a soffritto, which simply means to sauté over high heat until lightly colored.   Chop and sauté.  So simple, flavorful and a beautiful foundation for this comforting soup.

I n g r e d i e n t s

Pesto

  • 4 cups packed basil
  • 1 cup parmesan,  grated
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • a little salt
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 plum tomato, seeds removed

Soup

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 ounces pancetta or 6 slices bacon, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, finely chopped
  • 1 medium size yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 1/4 head Savoy cabbage, cored and thinly shredded
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 7 whole, peeled canned tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup broken dried spaghetti
  • 1 – 15 oz. can cannelini beans
  • salt and pepper to taste

M e t h o d

Make the pesto.  Place all the pesto ingredients in a food processor and whizz until finely chopped. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Heat oil in a heavy bottom pot over medium-high heat.  Add pancetta and cook, stirring often, until fat has rendered, about 2 minutes.  Add garlic, carrots, celery, and onions and reduce heat to medium.  Cover and cook stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, 12–15 minutes.  Add zucchini and cabbage.  Cover and cook until wilted, 3–5 minutes.  Add stock and tomatoes and bring to a boil.  Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes.  Drain and rinse the cannelini beans.  Mash half the beans with a fork and add to the soup along with whole beans—cook until warmed through.  Season with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowls and serve with pesto dolloped on top.

Serves 4.

strozzapreti carbonara with charred brussels sprouts

September 23, 2013 § 54 Comments

Spaghetti carbonara is one of my favorite pasta dishes.  I love the flavors of bacon, egg and grana padano cheese combined with a good quality spaghetti.  Also, having “breakfast for dinner” in spaghetti form is always a pleasure.  This is a nice spin on the basic carbonara.  The brussels sprout leaves are cooked until crispy and charred before tossing in the pasta.

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This recipe was featured in the latest issue of Bon Appétit.  It was stated “the key to this dish is getting a good char on the brussels sprouts, which helps balance the richness of the porky, eggy sauce.  Salt draws moisture out of the leaves, which might make them soggy, so do not season them” (while charring in the skillet).

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I found by removing the outer leaves first then carving out the core a little I was able to easily separate most of the leaves from each sprout.

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Using a good quality pasta will made a difference in the outcome of your recipe.

I n g r e d i e n t s

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 pound brussels sprouts, trimmed, leaves separated
  • 12 ounces good quality strozzapreti or small pasta
  • 2 ounces of guanicale (salt-cured pork jowl) or pancetta, finely chopped
  • pinch of pepper
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/3 cup Pecorino, plus more for serving
  • 2 large egg yolks, beaten to blend

M e t h o d

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over high heat.  Working in batches , add brussels sprout leaves and cook, tossing occasionally, until charred in spots and crisp tender, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Cook pasta in a large pot until al dente.  Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the same skillet over medium heat.  Add guanciale or pancetta and cook, stirring often, until slightly crisp, about 4 minutes.  Add pepper and cook, stirring until fragrant.  Immediately add 1/2 cup pasta water, reduce heat to low and gradually add butter, swirling skillet and adding more pasta water as needed, until a tick glossy sauce forms.

Add pasta to skillet and toss to coat.  Add Pecorino, toss to combine.  Remove from heat, mix in egg yolks.  Add brussels sprouts leaves and toss.  You may need to add a little more pasta water to thin sauce.  Serve pasta with more Pecorino.

Serves 4.

spicy sausage, yam and spinach soup

September 16, 2013 § 62 Comments

This is a recipe I haven’t prepared for over 10 years.  I came across this long lost recipe tucked away inside a cookbook I have not lifted off the shelf for ages.  Right away I added the ingredients to my next shopping list.

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I can not even remember where the recipe came from, but, it is hand written by me in a very short, almost undecipherable manner.  I set out to make sense out of it and it all started coming back to me as I was cooking and it took me back 10 or 12 years.   The smell, the taste, the preparation all represents a time when my son was a toddler and life seemed so simple.  I revisited this soup over and over back then, and I can not imagine how I lost track of it for all these years.

I used a very spicy sausage this time and it was delicious.  You may tone it down a bit if your palate doesn’t handle spicy too well.   I couldn’t remember if I made it with sweet potatoes or yams, so I chose the latter, however, I think sweet potatoes would be a nice offset to the spicy sausage.   Knowing a roux is always made with butter, I decided to try to achieve the same results using olive oil, and it worked!    If you would like to use butter instead of olive oil, omit the olive oil and use a 1/2 cup (full stick) of butter.  Final note,  the  recipe calls for cream and  I substituted whole milk and it was perfect.  This is a one pot dinner.

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I n g r e d i e n t s

  • 4 smoked sausages, I used chicken – julienned
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3/4 cup celery, chopped
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 quarts stock
  • 2 yams or sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 4 cups fresh spinach leaves, chopped
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup of milk
  • handful of chives, sliced
  • handful of parsley, chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste

M e t h o d

Heat olive oil over medium high heat and add sausage, onions, celery and garlic.  Sauté for 5 minutes until well combined.  Sprinkle in the flour, a little at a time stirring constantly until a blonde roux forms.  Add stock one large ladle at a time while stirring until soup consistency is achieved.  Add sweet potatoes or yams.   Bring to a rolling boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  Additional stock may be added to retain proper consistency.   Add milk, chives and parsley.  Season to taste using salt and pepper.  Once potatoes are tender, serve in individual bowls.  Put a handful of spinach in the bowl, then ladle the soup on top, garnish with additional chives and parsley.

risotto with sun gold tomato sauce

September 11, 2013 § 65 Comments

We are experiencing an interesting tomato season here in Seattle.  I planted five varietals late June (once our temperatures stayed above 50°F overnight) and we are just now reaping the rewards of our harvest.  Four months!  Is that normal?  All the saplings I put into the ground were approximately 12″ in height.  The Sun Gold continued to grow until it reached at least 8 feet tall!  I was staking, tying and propping every other day.  The Sweet 100’s did not get quite as tall, however it’s circumference is at least 4 feet.    I also planted 3 heirloom varietals and they seem to be a bit more “normal” and are presently crowded with green tomatoes (and they are not a green varietal).  We are suppose to have temperatures in the low 90’s this week so hopefully we’ll get some color tomatoes.

I brought in a fair amount of Sun Gold’s and a few Sweet 100’s today and decided to make a risotto for dinner.  This was sensational.  The tomatoes along with the red wine vinegar gave the dish a subtle tang and the Grana Padano cheese was a perfect match for bringing out the flavor and adding a bit of creaminess to it’s texture.  A very lovely Tuesday night dinner.

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I n g r e d i e n t s

For the sauce:

  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 6 cups Sun Gold or Cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 2 basil sprigs (I used Greek basil) + a little extra for garnish
  • 1 thyme sprigs
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

For the risotto:

  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups risotto
  • 6 cups of vegetable or chicken stock, on a steady simmer
  • 1/4 cup Grana Padano cheese or Parmesan,  freshly grated

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M e t h o d

The sauce.  Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add onion, stirring often, until soft and translucent, 6-8 minutes.  Add garlic, basil and thyme sprigs and cook stirring often, until fragrant.  Add tomatoes and vinegar.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes release their juices and a sauce forms, approximately 15 minutes.  Discard the basil and thyme sprigs.  Add a sprinkling of salt to taste (and do taste it) set aside.

The risotto.  Heat oil in a heavy bottom pot over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic and cook for two minutes until soft.  Add the risotto and stir for one minute making sure all of the grains are well coated.  Begin to add the hot stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently.  Wait until each addition of stock is almost absorbed before adding the next 1/2 cup, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.  Reserve 1/4 cup of stock to add at the end.  After approximately 25-30 minutes, when the risotto is tender but not soft, add the reserved stock, tomato sauce and Grana Padano.   Serve right away with an additional sprinkling of Grana Padano and basil.

Serves 4.

spiced chicken thighs with garlicky rice

September 9, 2013 § 57 Comments

Surprisingly, this went together not only with ease, but rather swiftly, which was especially nice after working two 12 hours days in a row!  I didn’t think I had it in me to put together a sit down dinner, however, it had been a few days since the three of us shared a meal at the table.

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Broiling chicken in the oven is a rarity for me although after preparing this I realize how suitable the broiler is for a busy day, not to mention the chicken turning out to be succulent and flavorful.  I found the recipe in a Cooking Light magazine and followed it exactly how it was written.  The garlic rice was wonderful, something we will be making often.

I n g r e d i e n t s 

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 1 cup basmatic rice
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • sprinkling black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 8 bone-in chicken thighs

M e t h o d

For the rice…melt the butter in a saucepan over medium high heat.  Add garlic and sauté until aromatic.  Add rice coat well with garlic and oil.  Add 1 1/2 cups water and a pinch of salt.  Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer 12 minutes or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed. Let stand for 5 minutes, then remove the lid and fluff the rice.  Stir in the parsley and black pepper.

For the chicken…Preheat broiler to high.  Combine sugar, chili powder, paprika, cumin, ground pepper and a pinch of salt.  Sprinkle half of spice mixture over chicken.  Place chicken on a parchment (or foil) lined baking sheet.  Broil 6-8 minutes.  turn chicken over and sprinkle with remaining spice mixture.  Broil another 6-8 minutes or until done.  Remove chicken and reserve the pan drippings.  Let chicken stand 5 minutes.  Spoon dripping over chicken and serve with garlicky rice.

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Serves 4.

whole roasted cauliflower with whipped goat cheese

August 26, 2013 § 69 Comments

Several months ago while skimming through an issue of Bon Appétit I came across this impressive whole roasted cauliflower recipe.  I knew I had to cook it and two days later while visiting our family in Idaho, we had a whole cauliflower roasting in the oven as well as goat cheese, cream cheese and feta whirling in the food processor.  I have made this wonderful roasted cauliflower twice since then and my family loves it.  It is so tender and somewhat “nutty” in flavor.

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Precooking the cauliflower in seasoned broth infuses it with flavor and roasting it creates a nice crispy edge.  This roasted cauliflower is so fork-tender and the whipped goat cheese was astounding.  Astoundingly so that I have prepared it as a dip (adding caramelized onions) for our chips, vegetables or anything else you can find to scoop it up!

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You may want to trim your cauliflower of it’s bottom leaves in order for it to sit flat in your roasting pan.  I keep them on because we enjoy eating them as well.  The recipe may seem a bit elaborate for roasting a vegetable, but it is well worth the effort and time.

EDIT: (After doing a search on the web for this recipe I have found every site “featuring” this recipe, as well as Bon Appétit Magazine, calling for 1/4 cup salt in the cooking liquid.   You may want to adjust the salt to your discretion, however, we did not find the cauliflower to be too salty using the recipe as it is listed below)  I found the cooking liquid is quite pungent and cabbage like after the cauliflower has cooked therefore, in my opinion,  it may not be suitable to save as a broth for future cooking.

Recipe exactly how it appears in Bon Appétit Magazine…

I n g r e d i e n t s

  • 2 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 head of cauliflower, leaves removed

Whipped goat cheese

  • 4 ounces fresh goat cheese
  • 3 ounces cream cheese
  • 3 ounces feta
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream (I used half and half)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil plus more for serving
  • Coarse sea salt (for serving)

M e t h o d

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.  Bring wine, oil, kosher salt, juice, butter, red pepper flakes, sugar, bay leaf, and 8 cups water to a boil in a large pot.  Add cauliflower, reduce heat, and simmer, turning occasionally, until a knife easily inserts into center, 15-20 minutes.

Using tongs transfer cauliflower to a rimmed baking sheet, draining well.  Roast, rotating sheet halfway through, until brown all over, about 40 minutes.  Check at 30 minutes and continue to check every 5 minutes until brown as you like.

While cauliflower is roasting, blend goat cheese, cream cheese, feta, cream and 2 tablespoons oil in a food processor until smooth,  season with sea salt.  Transfer whipped goat cheese to a serving bowl and drizzle with oil.

Transfer cauliflower to a plate.  Drizzle with oil, sprinkle with sea salt.  Serve with whipped goat cheese.

Whipped goat cheese can be made 1 day ahead and covered and chilled.

Recipe courtesy of Bon Appétit.

Serves 3 as a side dish.

grilled radicchio treviso and zucchini ribbon salad

August 23, 2013 § 33 Comments

We are seeing signs of Fall here in Seattle and here are two wonderful “late” summer vegetable recipes for you to try.   On my last visit to the farmer’s market I picked up a nice large head of Radicchio Treviso and an even larger sized Italian Striped Zucchini.

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Radicchio Treviso is a leaf chicory.  It is grown as a leaf vegetable and  has long delicate green and magenta leaves, creamy white veins and a crinkled texture. The flavor is bitter which mellows a bit when grilled, braised or baked.

I n g r e d i e n t s

  • 1 head of Radicchio Treviso
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • small wedge of grana padano or parmesan cheese, shredded

Preheat the grill or grill pan. Cut radicchio in half lengthwise and rub or brush both entire halves with oil.  Set radicchio cut-side down on the grill. Cook until edges are well browned, about 4 minutes.  Sprinkle with salt, turn and cook until radicchio is nicely browned and wilted, about 4 more minutes.

Remove radicchio from grill and drizzle with balsamic vinegar and shaved cheese of choice . Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.
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I purchased the Italian Striped Zucchini with a raw ribbon salad in mind.  I have been seeing so many recipes for “zucchini pasta” on blogs lately and in my usual way of shopping…, purchase now, research later, then cook, I picked out the biggest one I could find.
Arriving home from the farmer’s market I set out to find my recipe.  After a WordPress topic search for “zucchini pasta” I found not only this wonderful blog, but this incredible recipe for Fresh Zucchini Pasta.  I happen to have every ingredient on hand so we had it that same evening.  Market to table!  I used a vegetable peeler and shaved the zucchini  (I do not own a mandoline) however, I feel I would prefer the zucchini in the style of Alyssa’s recipe. The recipe listed below is directly from alyssaandcarla’s blog definitely click on their link and visit their blog!
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Alyssa and Carla’s Fresh Zucchini Pasta

Fresh Zucchini “Pasta”
serves one as a light lunch or two as a side dish

Dressing:
1 tablespoon really good extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
Pinch of salt
a few cracks of freshly ground pepper

1 medium zucchini
8 cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped

Combine all of the dressing ingredients into a jar, such as a mason jar, and shake to combine thoroughly.  Adjust to taste.

Julienne the zucchini.  I used this mandoline, which I adore (and use for many different dishes).  You can try to do it by hand, but a mandoline creates perfect strands.  I used the mandoline on each side of the zucchini until I got near the center, where the seeds made the strands too weak and they started to fall apart.

Toss the zucchini strands with the dressing.  Plate the zucchini.  Scatter the tomatoes, pine nuts and basil over the zucchini.  Garnish with a sprinkle of parmesan.

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