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Melted zucchini pasta
An ode to the sweaty season
It’s high summer in New York, when produce is abundant, covetously so. Time goes fast this time of year, and the steady cycle of plump bounty that comes and goes from the market is a bittersweet reminder that this season will too soon pass. It feels impossible to eat everything we want to eat. The stone fruit is firm and sweet, even from my local supermarket. I bought 5 ears of corn for $2 from a stall outside my favourite supersize Asian grocery store in Sunset Park recently. The strawberries were 99 cents a punnet. I love a bargain. The zucchini this time of year is juicy and sweet - I made a batch of deeply roasted zucchini and tahini dip - it’s a wonderful recipe which I’ll be sharing soon enough…but before that, there is a stunning melted zucchini pasta recipe below. For those who are cold right now, you could use cold storage supermarket zucchini to make this - it will still work and it might give you a dose of sunshine during the darker months. You could also use cauliflower because that ‘melts’ in a similar way (you might have to adjust cooking time).
New recipes this month…there are many. I’m very excited about this cheesy kimchi noodles which I wrote for my ABC Everyday column - a big fave of my kids (for obvious reasons). Over at NYT Cooking, I have this tasty vegan tofu braise - it’s a less saucy version of what you might order at a Chinese restaurant. Often people expect a lot of sauce with their Chinese recipes because this is what they are used to when dining out, but homestyle Chinese food is much less saucy - this is one of the nuances I’m trying to educate my community of home cooks about. I also LOVE this corn, celery and pine nut stir-fry, a great use of excess fresh corn, but still make-able with frozen corn kernels. It’s sweet and fresh, with lots of texture and the pine nuts add a creamy nuttiness; I'll easily devour the whole bowl on its own but serve with rice to make it a heartier meal. And two not-new recipes which I’ve been making on repeat - cold silken tofu with spicy soy sauce and crispy gnocchi with tomatoes and red onion (tastes like panzanella but with gnocchi in place of stale bread!).
NEXT MONTH…In my August newsletter, there will be a major announcement. Stay tuned. It’s big and exciting.
THIS MONTH’S NEW RECIPE
Melted zucchini pasta with lemon and ricotta
Zucchini is over 90% water which explains its mellow flavour. In this recipe, the water is drawn out of the zucchini first and then cooked until it evaporates, leaving us with a sweet, earthy, slightly-floral zucchini jam. When combined with the starchy pasta cooking water, it combines to become a silky, lightly creamy sauce.
This dish is endlessly adaptable. Zucchini needs acid to bring out its earthy essence, but you also substitute with red wine vinegar for a similarly fresh but more tart finish, with an extra hint of sweetness. The ricotta adds a vital creaminess which balances the earthy tones of the zucchini, but it is interchangeable with mascarpone or tangy crème fraiche. For a sharper finish, opt for grated parmesan or pecorino in place of the creamy soft cheese. For vegans, substitute with cashew cream or your favourite non-dairy ricotta.
This dish can be enjoyed either warm or at room temperature, making this a perfect prep-ahead dish for entertaining or a great transportable meal to enjoy outdoors during the final days of summer.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
4-5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large eschalot or small brown onion, finely diced
6 medium zucchini (about 1.2kg), trimmed and chopped into 1cm dice
8 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
sea salt and black pepper
500g (about 1 pound) short pasta such as large spirals, shells or rigatoni
¼ cup lemon juice (from 1 large lemon), plus more to serve
1 teaspoon red chilli flakes, plus more to serve
250g (1 cup) whole milk ricotta cheese
Zest of 1 large lemon
2-3 tablespoon toasted pine nuts
handful of basil leaves, torn
Place a large pot or dutch oven on medium-high flame and heat until it is hot, about 1 minute. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, along with the eschalot or onion and stir for 1 minute until fragrant and starting to soften. Toss in the zucchini and garlic and season with about 2 teaspoons of sea salt and a big pinch of black pepper. Cook for 12-15 minutes, stirring often, until zucchini has broken down.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and add the pasta. Cook for 3 minutes less than package instructions - for example, my pasta package instructions said to cook 9-11 minutes and I cooked for 6 minutes – until the pasta is softened but not quite al dente.
After 12-15 minutes, the zucchini the flesh will have mostly ‘melted’. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for another 5 minutes, until thick and jammy.
When the pasta is ready, using a slotted spoon or spider ladle, drag the pasta into the pot with the zucchini, add 2 cups of the pasta cooking water, lemon juice, chilli flakes and season with another 1 teaspoon of sea salt. Toss for 2-3 minutes, until the pasta is coated with the jammy zucchini sauce. Add half the ricotta, lemon zest and another 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil, and toss again to distribute evenly. Taste to make sure you are happy with the flavour – add more sea salt and black pepper, if needed.
To serve, top with remaining ricotta, pine nuts and basil leaves and squeeze over more lemon juice. Serve warm or at room temperature.
P.S. I LOVE YOU
Mochi waffles + durian ice cream from Bạn Bè Bakery
My friend Doris Hồ-Kane has THIS WEEK finally opened her bakery Bạn Bè as a limited hours window, while she bakes her way to raise enough funds to open as a seated cafe. On her launch menu, she is serving unique, unforgettable items like mochi waffles Bánh kẹp (mochi waffles) made using lá dứa (pandan leaf) and lá cẩm (magenta leaf—grown by her aunt) for a beautiful wash of color. Delightfully chewy and subtly sweet. The durian ice cream is creamy and tropical, and probably my fave ice cream I’ve had this summer. Keep an eye out for her incredible vegetarian banh mi, which features homemade marinated seitan - it is seriously one of the best things I’ve eaten. Bạn Bè window is located in my old neighborhood of Carroll Gardens/Cobble Hill and is currently open 3 days/week: 𝗧𝘂𝗲𝘀𝗱𝗮𝘆 𝟵𝗮𝗺–𝗻𝗼𝗼𝗻, 𝗧𝗵𝘂𝗿𝘀𝗱𝗮𝘆 𝗻𝗼𝗼𝗻–𝟯𝗽𝗺, 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗦𝘂𝗻𝗱𝗮𝘆 𝟰𝗽𝗺–𝟳𝗽𝗺. Follow their instagram for updates on opening hours and menu. Also Doris is on the cover of the new Peddler.
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