Monday, July 15, 2013

Zucchini Pasta with Basil + Preserving Greens

During the height of summer, I often find myself with a surplus of chard and kale from my garden. Last year, I was keen on adding greens to smoothies to help reduce my bounty. This season, I seem to have a consistent amount of leftover greens each week from my CSA share. Even after daily salads, I still seem to end up with extra greens at the end of the week. It is a hefty amount of greens for one person, but I can manage for the most part with a few tricks here and there. Since I am a little tired of green smoothies, I thought I'd try preserving the extras. 

Preserving greens can be an easy way to pare down your vegetables in the summer. I find that blanching the greens and freezing them is the best way to do so. Not only does blanching thoroughly clean the greens, but it also helps retain flavor. The frozen greens can be quickly thawed and used for winter gratins or in soups and stews. 

Tamar Adler's book has inspired me to try to use my cooking water more than once. So, in the spirit of reducing, I thought I'd make a pasta dish as well, reusing the blanching water to cook the pasta.

I love orecchiette. Its bowl-like shape is perfect for holding pools of delicious pasta sauce. I find it a very satisfying pasta style, particularly with pesto. However, it can sometimes be difficult to find, so penne or rotini will also work well.

In this week's CSA share, we have more zucchini and basil. I decided to use the basil to make a simple, "broken-down" pesto. I made a paste with the oil, garlic and basil which mixed in very nicely with the pasta and fried zucchini. A little bit of lemon juice brightens the fried zucchini and the fresh mozzarella is a nice salty addition. 

Preserved Greens

any amount of chard, kale, or spinach with larger stems removed
a large bowl of ice water

Boil a large pot of water. Add about 2 handfuls of greens.  Do not overcrowd. Blanch greens for about 4 minutes. With tongs or a small metal sieve, transfer greens to an ice water bowl. Let sit for about 2 minutes. Drain in a colander and squeeze out excess liquid. Repeat until all greens are blanched and cooled.  

Place cooked greens in a freezable plastic bag, label, and freeze for many, many months. Thaw on the counter or in the fridge. Use for gratins, smoothies, soups, or stews.

*Reuse the cooking water for pasta or for boiling more vegetables.

Zucchini and Basil Pasta
adapted from The NY Times

makes 3 to 4 servings

I tried eating this pasta cold and it was not as bright and flavorful. I definitely recommend eating it warm. Also, some toasted pine nuts would be killer in this dish.

6 oz of short pasta such as orecchiette, or roughly a scant 2 cups uncooked
2 oz fresh basil or about 2 cups, loosely packed
2 cloves garlic, peeled
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 medium zucchini or other summer squash, halved and sliced in 1/4-inch pieces
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp lemon juice, or to taste
salt and pepper
4 oz of fresh mozzarella, or roughly 1 cup cubed or torn

Boil a large pot of salted water. Add pasta and cook to al dente, or according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.

In a small food processor, blender or with an immersion blender, puree basil, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, and a big pinch of salt to form a thick paste. Set aside.

In a large frying pan, heat the tablespoon of vegetable oil on medium heat until hot. Add zucchini slices and a big pinch of salt and black pepper. Cook, stirring just occasionally, until browned and translucent, about 10 minutes. Remove to a medium-sized heatproof bowl. Sprinkle with lemon juice.

Toss the basil paste and mozzarella pieces with the cooked zucchini. Add salt and pepper to taste. Eat warm or cold. 

1 comment: