Wednesday, December 01, 2004
SPAGHETTI WITH ZUCCHINI AND BASIL
I’m afraid it’s been a few weeks since I posted a recipe. For some of that time, I was preparing to travel, and then I was traveling, and then I was recovering from traveling, so I ate out a lot. But rest assured, I’ve still been cooking off and on—it’s just that the recipes were all repeats, either because they were favorites or because they were reliable and easy to make amid all the hubbub. But this week I’m back in the saddle; stay tuned for three, count ’em, three new recipes (and probably more to come in the future, since I’ve discovered three new Jack Bishop cookbooks and put them all on hold at the library). Stand back!
This recipe is an oldie—it’s the one that made me decide to like zucchini (and perhaps the first time I’d prepared zucchini, or eaten it in any noticeable quantity. The zucchini gets all tender and sweet and absorbs the flavor of the garlic, the half-and-half cuts the zucchininess a little without being too rich, and the cheese is just the right amount of sharp and salty. There’s something soft and comforting about this dish. And it’s simple, so I was able to make it on Monday night even though I was close to collapse, having flown in from D.C. the night before, gotten only four hours of sleep, worked a full day, and then gone grocery shopping before settling down to cook dinner. After six days of eating on the go, settling for whatever was available at the time, whether good (a delicious handmade tagliatelle with wild mushrooms in a light sage-cream sauce, or fresh and authentic pub fish and chips) or bad ($9 chicken fingers and fries at a basketball game, or blah pizza at a Smithsonian cafeteria), I wanted to cook for myself, dammit. And I wanted something green. This recipe had few ingredients, was forgiving enough for the occasional lapse in concentration, and was just what I was craving.
1½ pounds small or medium zucchini
1/3 cup olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste
½ cup half-and-half
1 pound spaghetti
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
handful of basil leaves, torn into small pieces
1. Trim the ends off the zucchini, quarter the zucchini lengthwise, and cut the quarters into ½-inch chunks.
2. Warm the garlic in the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. While it's heating, put a large pot of salted water on the stove over high heat for cooking the pasta.
3. When the oil is warm, add the zucchini and season generously with salt and pepper. Cook gently, stirring every so often, until the squash is soft and browned in places, about 20 minutes.
4. When the pasta water boils, add the spaghetti and cook it until al dente.
5. When the zucchini is done, add the half-and-half and cook for 10 minutes more, stirring more frequently (I usually turn the heat down to medium-low so the half-and-half doesn’t cook away). When the pasta is done, add it to the skillet, along with the cheese and basil. Toss everything well, season with salt and pepper, gorge self, pass out in food coma.
Time: 40 minutes