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Wednesday, 07 August 2013 14:24

Season to taste and to serve

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Carrots. Beets. Broccoli. Salt. Pepper. Butter. Summer.
I’ve been trying all week to think up a recipe that uses any one of the in-season veggies that keep coming to our door as part of a weekly produce plan (aka: Thursday Veggie Box).

We could make soup. Borscht, even. A casserole. Veggie lasagna. Fresh salad. Cooked salad. Some kind of buttery sauce in which to smother the vegetables themselves.
I simply can’t do it, though. These veggies, cooked until just tender, then dotted with butter and seasoned with nothing but flaked kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to bring out their natural, from-the-garden, qualities, is the beginning of so much glory that while we wait for a pair of chicken breasts to finish their last seconds of grilling (free-range chicken, also needing nothing but the slightest nudge towards perfection), I stand in front of the stove, plucking buttered carrots from the pot and stuffing them into my mouth until Chefhusband reminds me that I’m getting close to stealing from his share.
Protesting, but really just making yummy sounds, I lift the lid on another pot, this one filled with smashed baby potatoes (I forgot about the potatoes!), and am soon wrapped up in a momentary pocket of garden-season nirvana. The kind that only comes around when the produce we’ve just bought is so fresh, local and in season that I could stuff myself silly with them and never wonder whether we bothered to think of a main course.
Which leaves me back where I started. Needing a recipe, and thinking “season to taste” isn’t really something other cooks will think is worth clipping. Anyone can season to taste. Right?
I pause, think fondly of a few friends who would surely ask me to explain what, exactly, I mean by season to taste, then keep thinking.
Finally, it comes to me. A memory I can’t quite put my taste buds on.
It’s from two summers ago, while on a rare and much-needed long weekend break spent roaming through our favourite places in Vancouver’s English Bay.
It involves pasta. And when I close my eyes and roll the thought around on my tongue, I taste spaghetti, twirled on a fork. There’s fresh ricotta. And ... meatballs.
I shake my head. It’s the right memory, but not the way I want it to go. Not even the way it should have gone back then.
And so, looking into our weekly “fresh box” to see what’s left, the perfect huddle of baby zucchini are practically offering themselves up.
From there, it doesn’t take much. Just a quick stop in the dairy aisle for a bit of ricotta.
And then, a pound of the best possible spaghetti gets tossed into a pot of salted water. The little zucchini are sliced into coins. And in just a little more time than it takes to cook noodles, we have dinner, and I have my recipe. A take on pasta primavera that’s so fresh, so seasonal, so simple, that even those who usually read-but-don’t-cook may want to clip this page, or grab a pen and recipe card.
I’m know going to. This is something I already don’t want to forget.

Spaghetti with Baby Zucchini and Ricotta

1 pound good quality spaghetti (such as Barilla)
7 baby zucchini, sliced into coins
1/2 bunch parsley, stems removed, finely chopped
1/2 bunch chives, finely sliced
2 cups ricotta cheese
canola oil to sauté zucchini
flaked kosher salt/freshly ground pepper

In a large pot of boiling, well salted water, cook pasta to al dente.
Meanwhile, prepare zucchini by heating a small amount of canola oil over medium-high heat. Add zucchini and sauté for about 2 minutes, turning over, and seasoning a little with salt and pepper.
When pasta is ready, drain and transfer back to pot. Stir in ricotta and herbs, then toss in zucchini. Adjust seasoning. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve immediately.

Read 2555 times Last modified on Wednesday, 07 August 2013 14:26