Thursday, April 15, 2010

Cooking to Save the Planet: Pasta with Zucchini Sauce

I offer these culinary suggestions with some trepidation on a day when the members of this household have roiling stomachs--but, I suspect, due to the breakfast we ate a hygiene-compromised restaurant this morning, and not to last night's pasta.

This pasta sauce is one I cook frequently in summer, when tender, fresh squash is in season.  It's quickly made and, we think, healthy and tasty.  Zucchini and summer squash aren't yet in season locally here, but stores are now getting shipments that appear to be from someplace south, perhaps southern California or Texas, or Florida.  Though I'd prefer locally grown squash, when a new crop arrives from a distance, I'm still happy to buy the produce--except that I loathe the greasy substance with which either growers or handlers increasingly coat fresh produce shipped from afar.  I find that the only way to remove it is to wash the vegetables under very hot water and scrub them with a bamboo brush I keep just for cleaning fruit and vegetables.

For this pasta sauce, you'll need about three medium, tender zucchini, a medium onion, four or five cloves of garlic, a bell pepper, parsley, bay leaves, oregano, salt, pepper, and olive oil.  And cooked pasta ready, too, of course, along with grated parmesan cheese.  

Slice the zucchini into a saucepan and add the onion, minced, with all but one of the garlic cloves, also minced.  Add a bay leaf or two, some chopped parsley, and oregano, salt, and pepper to taste. 

Put just enough water into the saucepan to assure that the vegetables won't stick as they cook, cover the pot, and after having brought it to a boil, turn it down and let it simmer until the vegetables are tender, shaking the pot and adding water occasionally to keep things from sticking.

Meanwhile, pour a goodly bit of olive oil into a skillet, slice the bell pepper into thin strips, and then halve these across, so that you have strips of pepper about an inch or two long.  Put these into the oil and fry them over medium heat until they're done.

When the zucchini and other vegetables are tender, remove the bay leaves and quickly puree the contents of the pot with a mouli or in a blender (or with a hand-held blender).  I like to puree the sauce until it has just thickened and become liquid--not until it's completely smooth.

Pour the puree into the skillet with the oil and peppers, slowly heat, and, just before serving the sauce with your cooked pasta, add a bit more fresh chopped parsley and the remaining clove of garlic, crushed.  Taste the sauce and adjust seasonings as you see fit.  Serve with parmesan on top, and that's it.  Along with a salad and some fresh fruit, you have the makings of a quick, simple summer meal that tastes good and is good for you.