Spiralized Zucchini (aka Zoodles) with Marinara Sauce

The garden tomato, cucumber, and zucchini glut is upon us, and I am driven to distraction figuring out ways to keep up with the produce as it comes in.

My favorite way to prepare the tomatoes is to make a batch of marinara sauce using this recipe from my blog. This is a quick sauce that can be made in the time it takes to boil a pot of water and cook a pound of pasta. The sauce freezes well and is a delight to eat in the middle of winter.

For the cukes, I’ve been making refrigerator pickles. My family adores them. They are especially delicious served over BBQ or hamburgers.

For the abundance of zucchini and summer squash, I’ve been experimenting with a Kitchen Aid spiralizer, and by experimenting, I mean having fun making oodles of zoodles at warp speed.  I spiralized all these varieties of squash in a few minutes

into this:

I’ve spiralized beautiful red and gold beets to add to salads.

I’ve spiralized apples for apple pie.

I’ve spiralized zucchini to make lasagna-sized noodles.

Even at The Nashville Food Project, where I am a volunteer chef, the prep team now spiralizes much of the thousands of pounds of donated zucchini to make fantastic meals like this one.

Spiralizers:

My first spiralizer was this simple-to-use handheld OXO device.

Later, I advanced to this deluxe Kitchen Aid attachment.

 

Ingredients:
1 batch of Fresh Marinara Sauce
3 pounds of zucchini (or summer squash)
Reggiano Parmesan cheese

Instructions:
Prepare the marinara sauce as described in the blog post.

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Wash zucchini or squash and cut off blossom tip and stem. Use a spiralizer to create noodles.

Add spiralized noodles to hot marinara sauce in increments. Stir in more noodles as the each batch softens and collapses into the sauce.

Cook zoodles for about 5 minutes.

Sprinkle with Reggiano Parmesan cheese and serve.

Other Recipes Using Summer Vegetables and Fruit:
Roasted Ratatouille
Roasted Roma Tomatoes
Roasted Beet Salad
String Bean Salad
Amazingly Delicious Sautéed Carrots
Fresh Marinara Sauce with Pasta
Rachelle’s Italian Sausage, Onions, and Peppers
Yummy Shepherd’s Pie
50 Ways to Make a Frittata
Ellen’s Most Moist Zucchini Bread
How to Make Grape Jelly (and grow the grapes)
Very Berry Clafoutis

LET’S STAY CONNECTED!

Follow my photos of vegetables growing, backyard chickens hanging out, and dinner preparations on Instagram at JudysChickens.

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© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.

DIY Yogurt and Yogurt Cheese (aka Labneh)

I recently stopped by my daughter-in-law’s house to visit her mother, Viji, and her grandmother, Hema. Knowing how much I love her cooking, Viji, whose kindness and generosity know no bounds, asked if I was hungry and offered to prepare a bowl of biryani and rice for me. I gratefully accepted.

Usually, when Viji makes biryani, she serves it with a bowl of raita, a refreshing yogurt-based condiment that tempers the spices in biryani. This time, Viji offered a bowl of plain yogurt (known as perugu in Telugu) which she often serves over rice and curries. I scooped up a few spoonfuls and poured them over the biryani. As I licked the spoon, I was struck by how sweet, tangy, and light her batch of yogurt tasted. It was unlike any yogurt I had had before. I asked Viji what brand it was and she told me she made it herself. As soon as she said the yogurt was homemade, my hand was already searching the depths of my purse for a pen and a piece of paper. I had to learn how to do this.

Viji explained how making yogurt was something she and her family have been doing almost daily their entire lives, both in India and in the United States. In describing how she made it, she didn’t use off-putting words like “live cultures,” “starter,” or “fermentation.” Instead, she told me simply to heat milk in a microwave until just before it starts to boil, allow it to cool until you could comfortably stick your finger in it (not scalding and not lukewarm — somewhere in between). When it got to that temperature, I was to add a spoonful of yogurt from the last yogurt batch, stir it, cover it with plastic wrap, and put it in the warmed microwave to set undisturbed overnight; it would be yogurt in the morning.

She sent me home me with a small jar of yogurt for “starter” and an encouraging smile. Here is a photo of Viji and our daughter, Meera, from a cooking class they taught to Meera’s friends a few years ago.

I made my first batch that same evening. When I checked the microwave the following morning, the preparation had thickened. I had made yogurt! I felt so accomplished. Surprisingly, it tasted exactly like Viji’s batch: sweet, light and tangy. Delicious in its plainness. Out of sheer delight in creating something as universally known as yogurt,  I proceeded to share a few spoonfuls with everyone who walked in the door for the next few weeks.

How does milk become yogurt?

Milk is made of water, fat, proteins, minerals, and a milk sugar known as lactose. When the milk is heated, its native bacteria are killed. As the milk cools and the new, live bacteria in the starter culture are introduced, the new bacteria feed on the milk’s lactose (sugar) and turn it into lactic acid. As it does this, the milk is transformed, or ferments, into a soft curd — yogurt.

It is a very simple and time-honored process. People have been making yogurt, kefir, and cheese from milk, using bacteria, yeast, or fungi, for thousands of years to preserve milk’s shelf life. It is only in the last one hundred plus years, with the advent of refrigeration, that people have been able to store milk in liquid form in their homes.

The Starter Culture
You can make your own yogurt using a starter culture that has been given to you, as I did, or you can buy commercially prepared yogurt with “live” or “active” cultures from the grocery store. To make this recipe replicable for readers,  I purchased four different commercial brands of plain, unsweetened yogurt to test the process and each brand worked. As long as the container of yogurt has these two live bacterial strains listed, you will be able to make yogurt: Lactobacillus bulgaricus ( L. bulgaricus) and Streptococcus thermophilus (S. thermophilus). Other strands of bacteria are often added by manufacturers to create the unique taste and texture of each brand.

This label is from a container of Trader Joe’s plain yogurt.

This label is from a container of Desi, a nice plain yogurt I bought at Patel Brothers, a fabulous Indian grocery store on Nolensville Road in Nashville.

All four brands of yogurt produced a semi-solid yogurt that tasted identical to the batch from which the starter came. Words to the wise: be sure you like the taste of the plain yogurt you choose because that is how your homemade batch will taste.

The Milk
Any whole or reduced-fat milk will do. You could also use soy or coconut milk, although I have not tried these.

Ingredients:

4 cups milk
1 tablespoon plain yogurt with live cultures

Instructions:
Pour milk into a tempered glass bowl suitable for heating.

Heat milk uncovered in the microwave, or on the stovetop, until it reaches 180º. In my microwave, this takes nine minutes. If you do not have a digital thermometer, heat milk until it just begins to boil. Do not let it boil over.

Remove hot milk from the microwave to a padded surface and allow it to cool to 115º.

Add a spoonful of yogurt starter and stir. I add one tablespoonful of starter when using four cups of milk and a heaping teaspoon when using two cups. Cover mixture with plastic wrap and let rest, undisturbed, for 8-10 hours in a warm, dark place like a microwave, an oven, or on a shelf in a kitchen cabinet.

If it doesn’t set, let it sit a little while longer. For some reason, it took twelve hours for one of the brands to form a curd. I am not sure why, but it did eventually set. Once set, refrigerate the yogurt. Be sure to set aside a small amount to use as starter for the next batch!

Yogurt Cheese (aka Labneh and Greek-Style Yogurt)

Since making that first batch, I’ve started draining yogurt to make “cheese yogurt.” This process of draining yogurt to separate out the whey is also how Greek yogurt and labneh, a Lebanese cream cheese, are made.

The resulting soft cheese is delicious spread on bread and topped with honey or preserves.

Or, it can be served as a savory dish and spread on pita or toast and topped with olive oil, freshly chopped herbs, slivers of green onion, sea salt, and freshly cracked pepper. The flavor is amazing!

To make yogurt cheese, I place a cheesecloth over a fat-separator which has a built-in colander. You could also line a regular colander with cheesecloth.

Allow yogurt to drain for a few hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

This method produced two cups of whey and two cups of yogurt cheese from a four-cup batch of yogurt.

I’ve been making two batches of this yogurt cheese, which is rich in protein and calcium, every week for the last month. Our family cannot get enough of it. The good news is if you don’t feel like making your own yogurt, you could buy commercially prepared yogurt and drain it.

Toast and yogurt cheese are delicious served with one of these preserves, too:
Roasted Strawberry with Rosemary Preserves
Crabapple Jelly
Grape Jelly

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Follow my photos of vegetables growing, backyard chickens hanging out, and dinner preparations on Instagram at JudysChickens.

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© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.

Fettuccini with Rapini (aka Broccoli Rabe) and Garlic

I love this dish! There is something about taking a bite of mildly bitter sautéed leafy greens, that at first taste says, Not sure about this, and then quickly turns to, Got to have another bite. The bitterness is surprisingly addictive.

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Such is the case when rapini, also known as broccoli rabe, is sautéed with green onions, garlic and crushed red pepper flakes in olive oil and then tossed with fettuccini, lemon juice, and parmesan.

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Rapini is a bitter leafy green found in most grocery stores in the produce section where other greens like escarole and curly endive are found. The leaves, stalks, and florets are all edible and have identical taste levels. When purchasing, look for bright green perky leaves, and florets that haven’t blossomed.

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I like to use freshly made fettuccini noodles with this dish when I can find them. Otherwise, these dried noodles work nicely.

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Yield: 4 Servings

Ingredients:
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
4 large cloves garlic, smashed and sliced
1 bunch green onions, trimmed and sliced
1 pound bunch of rapini (broccoli rabe), trimmed, peeled, and chopped into 2-inch sections
½ -1 teaspoon sea salt (to taste)
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
juice of one lemon, squeezed over cooked rapini
½-¾ pound package of fettucini noodles
grated Reggiano Parmesan cheese

Mise en Place:
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To prep garlic, flatten cloves with the flat side of a knife and slice into pieces. Do not mince, as garlic is easy to burn when chopped too finely.

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Prep the green onion by trimming the roots. Use a scissor to snip off shriveled or flat leaves as these will likely burn while sautéing.

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To prep rapini, wash the leaves under cool running water. Place stalks on a large cloth towel and pat dry.

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Trim base of stems. Use a pairing knife to peel the stringy, tough skin off of each stem, just as you would for broccoli spears. This will help the stalks cook as quickly as the florets tend to do when placed in a pot of boiling water.

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Next, take a stack of 3 or 4 trimmed rapini stems and chop them into 2-inch segments as shown in the picture below. Continue in this way until all the stems are chopped. If peeling the thin stems is going to be a deal breaker for making this dish, leave the skin on and cut the stems into smaller pieces so they will cook faster when blanched in the pot of boiling water.

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Instructions: 
To cook the rapini and pasta: Bring a pot of water with ½ tablespoon of salt to a boil. We’ll use the same pot of water to cook both the rapini and the pasta.

While waiting for the water to come to a boil, warm olive oil in a large six-quart heavy bottomed sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté gently for about 4-5 minutes. Do not allow garlic to brown as browning will cause it to become bitter. Watch carefully and stir frequently. Stir in red pepper flakes and ½ teaspoon of salt. Set aside.

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When the water in the pot comes to a boil, blanch the rapini. To do this, add the rapini and stir. The pile of leaves will quickly collapse into the water as you stir them down.

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As soon as the water returns to a boil, set a timer for one minute and allow the rapini to simmer. After one minute, use a serrated spoon to immediately remove the leaves from the hot water and place in a small bowl. This is called blanching. You do not want to overcook the leaves and florets. We are trying to keep the florets intact and the leaves bright green. Also, save the pot of water to use to cook the fettuccini.

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Use tongs to lift the rapini out of the small amount of water that has collected in the bottom of the bowl, and add it to the onions and garlic in the sauté pan. Cook over low heat, stirring gently, for about one minute, to meld the flavors of the vegetables.

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Bring the pot of water (now full of rapini “liquor”) back to a boil and use it to cook the fettucini. It typically takes only about three minutes to cook the noodles. Read the directions on the package. There is nothing worse in Italian cooking than overcooked, waterlogged pasta. Drain noodles in a colander.

Mix the pasta and vegetables and squeeze the juice of one lemon over all of it. Stir gently.

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Sprinkle fettuccini with lots of Reggiano parmesan before serving.

Technique Tip:

Two things to know about grating cheese: let the cheese come to room temperature before grating, and never hold the cheese with your bare hands because in doing so you might encourage mold to grow on the cheese. Save the cheese rinds in the freezer for soups.

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If you would like to turn this into a more filling meal, add cannellini beans and grilled Italian sausage or roasted chicken to this dish.

PS: Rapini seeds planted today.

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Related Posts:
Fresh Marinara Sauce with Pasta and Mozzarella
Rachelle’s Italian Sausage, Onions, and Peppers
Italian Pasta and Bean Soup, aka Pasta e Fagioli
Roasted Ratatouille

LET’S STAY CONNECTED!

Follow my photos of vegetables growing, backyard chickens hanging out, and dinner preparations on Instagram at JudysChickens.

Never miss a post: sign up to become a follower of the Blog.

© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.