Zucchini and Fettuccine Alfredo

The other day two of my favorite things combined in a glorious moment of food zen. Zucchini and smoked gouda cheese. Wait, you haven’t had smoked gouda cheese, you say? Get thee to the store and a wedge as quick as you can. I find it at Whole Foods in the giant cheese section. This cheese is awesome. It’s like Parmesan but with a nuttier flavor and a dark orange color. It’s fairly stinky with lots of good sharpness on your tongue. I like to enjoy it on crackers. Or plain. Oh, and melted into a creamy alfredo sauce.

I realized as I went through my blog archives the other day that I have posted a lot of recipes revolving around zucchini. I can’t say that I’m sorry about the saturation of zucchini-related posts….it’s an awesome summer time veggie that everyone loves. I hope. It’s also incredibly versatile. You can make it into breads and muffins or you can grill and saute it. Just tonight I shredded it and used it in a ground meat mixture for stuffed peppers.

But enough about that. Let’s talk about alfredo. I think alfredo sauce is one of those things that people often fear because of its creamy nature. Cream sauce requires some nuance to get the thickness without scalding or burning. Let me tell you. It’s not that hard. As long as you use the right ingredients, you can do it without much difficulty. Heavy cream, real milk (not skim) and cheese are all required ingredients. It’s just not something you can make ‘light’ without sacrificing the taste or texture. So, compromise. Use whole wheat noodles and bulk up the dish with shredded zucchini. Yes, I might be a genius.

Also, this is possibly the fastest recipe ever. You might need 15 minutes to get this one ready. If you boil the noodles while preparing the sauce, it should all be ready at the same time. Again, genius. You’re welcome.

Zucchini and Fettuccine Alfredo
serves two

4 ounces whole wheat (or brown rice) fettuccine noodles

2 cups shredded zucchini

Several sprigs of fresh basil

for the sauce

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup water

1 cup milk

3 ounces smoked gouda

1-2 teaspoons flour

black pepper, garlic and salt to taste.

In a large sauce pan, bring the noodles to a boil. Cook until tender. Remove the noodles from the water, reserving the hot water. Drain the noodles.

Place the shredded zucchini in a small metal colander or a steaming basket over the reserved noodle water. Steam the zucchini until just tender. Toss with the noodles, lightly season with salt and pepper. Toss several sprigs of fresh basil in with the noodles and zucchini.

In a small sauce pan, combine all sauce ingredients over medium heat. Stir every thirty seconds with a spatula to keep the sauce from sticking. Once the sauce begins boiling, whisk gently to incorporate all the ingredients. Let the sauce simmer to thicken for 5-7 minutes. The sauce will also thicken upon standing. If you’re having a hard time getting the sauce to thicken, sprinkle a small amount of flour into the pan and whisk to combine.

Pour the sauce over the zucchini and noodle mixture. Garnish with fresh ground black pepper and light sprinkle of shredded smoked gouda and some extra basil. Serve immediately.


Carrot and Zucchini Tart

I made a trip to our garden plot earlier this week. I think most of the other gardeners have given up for the season. I was happy to find a ton of stuff growing, even though we really haven’t been very diligent in our care and watering regimen. I took home around 100 bright red cherry tomatoes, one large green tomato, and an armful of heirloom carrots.

The garden is by no means done, a new head of broccoli has sprouted and we have several small peppers and tomatoes that will hopefully keep going. The basil is flourishing too.

I could have left the carrots but I had plans for them. This spring we ate some carrots that we’d missed the previous fall. Apparently they are Minnesota-winter hearty. Most things are not so that’s impressive.

With my arms full of purple heirloom carrots I headed home to try out a new recipe. One that Senor and I both loved. Senor so much that he said, ‘See, we could be vegetarians if we wanted to.’ This recipe was really an excuse to use my tart pan. Its been sitting in my cupboard since June.

I thought about simply roasting the carrots. I’ve been on a roasting kick lately. They would have been delicious, I’m sure. But my carrots were all different sizes. Plus, I wanted to incorporate zucchini into the meal. I figured zucchini and carrots baked into a pie crust couldn’t be gross. I was right. It was delish.

Carrots, zucchini and leeks were all finely chopped and sauteed until the leeks were transparent. Baked in a pie crust and topped with crumbled goat cheese, this dish offers sweet, savory and pie crust all in one. Yes, pie crust is one of the major food groups. Clearly.

Carrot and Zucchini Tart

for pie crust

1 1/4 cups flour

1/2 cup lard

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons cold water

for filling

4 medium carrots

2 medium zucchini

1 leek

1 egg

3/4 milk

1 tablespoon butter, melted

2 ounces crumbled goat cheese

Mix the flour, lard, salt and water in a bowl with a pastry cutter or fork. Form together with your fingers until the crust is a dense ball of dough. Roll out the dough and place in a greased tart pan. *You can use butter or shortening in place of lard if desired. Lard lends to a flakier crust than the others. Unless you’re vegan, please don’t use vegetable shortening.

Bake at 375º for 15 minutes with pie weights, dried beans, or rice in the shell to keep from puffing. Remove after 15 minutes.

For the filling:

Chop one zucchini and two carrots into small cubes. Slice the leek into thin pieces. Add a tablespoon of butter to a skillet and saute the veggies over medium heat until the leeks are translucent and the carrots are just starting to soften.

Place cooked vegetables in pre-cooked pie crust. Top with crumbled goat cheese.

Whisk egg and milk together in a separate bowl. Gently pour egg and milk mixture over the vegetables.

Top the tart with thinly sliced rounds of zucchini and carrot. Spray lightly with olive oil and season with a sprinkle of garlic.

Bake for 35 minutes at 350, or until the carrots are tender and the edges are slightly blackened. Serve with raw carrot shavings.

Zucchini Bread

The first time I ever made zucchini bread I was living in an apartment, freshly graduated from college with very few kitchen utensils. I had bought a 5-in-one cheese device at a garage sale for a quarter. It was a knife, shredder/grater, slicer, poker and also, a bottle opener. Not sure how that works in with the cheese but I needed something and it was only a quarter. The holes for shredding were five across and four deep. That’s right. A postage-stamp-sized area for shredding. Still I could shred.

So when the urge to make zucchini bread hit me I realized I could shred the zucchini on my tiny little cheese grater! It took me almost an hour to finely grate two medium sized zucchini. After that day I told myself never again would I use such an inadequate tool for my beloved zucchini bread.

Senor often wonders and grumbles at my insistence of keeping my kitchen stocked, overflowing even, with gadgets, tools and cookware. It’s because of memories like this one, after which I vowed to myself to keep my kitchen fully stocked. I once made chocolate chip cookies using tea cups because I had no measuring cups. I’ve frosted cupcakes with ziploc bags. Frosted cakes with a butter knife. And you know, every time I get the proper implement, my life changes dramatically. A bit over zealous? Yes, of course. That’s how I roll. But you will never catch me trying to puree soup sans immersion blender, knead bread dough without my Kitchenaid, make bean dip without my Cuisinart, or make zucchini bread without a proper cheese grater. The big box kind with four options is best. Unless you have a food processor, you would be better off buying pre-grated zucchini for this recipe. You have been warned.

I’ve always loved zucchini. When I was a kid I would find the biggest, most giant ones in my mom’s garden and would cradle them like a baby. Yes, it was love. They’re delicious, who wouldn’t love them? At our house we devour them this time of year when they are plentiful. The only reason I even made this bread was because I had bought so many zucchinis that when I roasted them, I had a few too many. If you find yourself in the same predicament, please make this bread. It’s so easy. It’s so dang delicious. And the longer you let it sit on your counter, the more delicious it gets. Amazing right? Do it right away, you won’t be sorry. And if you have more patience than me and can wait until it’s slightly cool to cut it.

Zucchini Bread

3 eggs

1 cup oil

2 cups shredded zucchini

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons vanilla

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 cups flour

Shred 1-2 medium size zucchinis. You want at least 2 cups of shredded zucchini, although the measurement does not have to be exact. Once shredded, place the zucchini in a mesh strainer. Using paper towels on the top, push the water out of the zucchini. This is the most important step of this process. Try to get as much water out of the zucchini as possible.

Using a whisk, mix together the oil, sugar eggs and vanilla.

Switch to a wooden spoon and add the zucchini and stir.

Add the salt, soda, powder, cinnamon and flour. Stir until well incorporated.

Pour the batter into a well-greased bread loaf pan. 9×3 works best. Bake at 350º for 60-75 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center of the bread should come out clean.

Stuffed Zucchini

Mom, make this for dinner. You will like this one, I promise.

Summer and even early fall are a time for eating ripe tomatoes straight out of your garden. If we’re very, very lucky, we have so many tomatoes that we honestly don’t know what to do with them all. Last week I made salsa. This week I made stuffed zucchini. I’ve made this dish twice now and I think it has earned a place on the permanent rotation. It’s easy, cheap, and screams summer. As I sit worrying about frost and gardening death it puts a smile on my face, just knowing that the heart of this dinner was fresh out of my garden. All of the tomatoes came from my own garden. The zucchini came from Mom and Dad’s garden.

One of my most beloved summer lunches/snacks/meals is toasted tomato/cheese sandwiches. This dinner is a nod to the glorious nature that is the perfecting blending of melted cheese and fresh, juicy tomatoes. Stuffing the whole shebang into a zucchini is a great way to use cherry tomatoes when you have an over-abundance. The pictures you see here use whole-wheat bread crumbs which are okay, but not my favorite for this. They tend to resist the juices and don’t get soft enough. If you use whole wheat, add a 1/4 cup of water to the stuffing mixture. You want the stuffing to be soft and squishy before you bake it, not dry and crumbly. You can use any cheese you want.

The pictures make it look like it’s going to taste a bit like pizza but it doesn’t. It’s that fresh tomato taste that stars in this show. No zesty pizza herbs and spices necessary. Save those for winter when you’ll have to get your tomatoes out of a can.

Stuffed Zucchini

1 medium-large zucchini

30-50 small cherry tomatoes, halved

3/4 cup shredded cheese

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

1 small can of very low sodium tuna (optional)

Heat the oven to 400º. Slice the zucchini in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, scrape out the seed of the zucchini like you would a pumpkin. Use the spoon to scrap the zucchini into a ‘boat’. Discard the seeds and scrapings, or if you’re crafty, save them for something else.

Place the zucchini face down on the oven rack for 20 minutes. While it cooks, prepare the filling.

In a large bowl combine the tomatoes, breadcrumbs, and 1/3 of the cheese. Stir together until well mixed. If you want, add the tuna now as well. The tuna isn’t really necessary, but is nice if you’re looking to add some protein. It balances well with the tomatoes and doesn’t overwhelm the flavor at all.

If the mixture is looking a bit dry, add a few tablespoons of water. It should easily form a ball in your hand.

Remove the zucchini from the oven using tongs. Place them right-side-up in a 9×13 baking dish. Spoon the mixture into the boats, pressing it into place and creating a flat top.

Top each stuffed zucchini half with the remaining shredded cheese. Bake for 15 minutes until the cheese is melted and the mixture is hot throughout.

Serve with chopped pineapple and relish the last few days of summer.