spaghetti con zucchine di villa maria

Hey, it’s me again, brian, not kathy. Its been over 2 years since my first (and only) post to the blog. Well… I’m back! Now some of you may be thinking, “What happened to Kathy?” She’s still around, and I’m sure we will continue to hear from her (It is her blog and all), but work has been chaos and I’m going to take over some of the cooking[ref]One night a week, although I consider any night we go out my night too.[/ref], which I guess means some of the blogging too. So, without further ado, onto the food.

A while back[ref]May 31, 2010[/ref] Food Network began a new TV channel entitled Cooking Channel. This “hipper” alternative food station premiered with new chefs and shows we in the US had never heard of: Chuck HughesRoger Mooking and Food Jammers. This wasn’t the prim and proper food of Ina Garten, or the butter laden dishes of Paula Deen. It was more exotic, grittier and possibly more authentic, and it was here that we first encountered the italian cooking of David Rocco.Again, this wasn’t the prissy, baby talk italian food of Giada. It was simple, rustic and friendly. When we saw his bolognese sauce for the first time, we decided we needed to make it right away, and we did[ref]Our recipe for bolognese.[/ref], to delighted food coma bliss. We have since purchased one of his cookbooks, Made in Italy, and it was from this that I decided to make dinner.

Spaghetti con Zucchine di Villa Maria, or for those of you like me who don’t speak italian, Villa Maria’s Spaghetti and Zucchini.  The recipe seemed easy, the picture looked delicious and the ingredients called for flavors I’ve never had in a pasta dish as well as the lack of the classic[ref]what we think of as classic: parmesan, red chilies, tomato sauce, basil[/ref] flavors. It called for zucchini, fresh mint, capers and red wine vinegar. Not your usual pasta dish, but I’m up for trying anything[ref]almost[/ref].

My first problem occurred with frying the zucchini, our stove is a glasstop and can’t maintain a constant temperature. It gets scaldingly hot, then shuts off and cools down so low the oil isn’t hot enough to fry, then repeats, ad infinitum. You can use cast iron, or very heavy pots to help maintain a temperature, but you shouldn’t use cast iron on a glasstop. Its annoying. We either end up with burnt uncooked zucchini or limp cooked zucchini, the second being the case for tonight.

The second issue ensued when I was done frying the zucchini. The recipe said to remove the zucchini, turn the pan to low and add the capers and mint. Wait a minute… What do I do with all the oil used to fry the zucchini? Do I just add everything to the oil, or drain off the excess, or dump it and use some new (unburnt) oil. What a conundrum. I opted for the second, dumping the excess oil and leaving enough for tossing the mint and capers in. We will never know if this was the right call, or if I was supposed to end up with noodles swimming in oil.

Thirty minutes later and the dish was finished. It looked pretty good.Not exactly like the picture in the book, but they never do. “How was it?” you ask. Well, it was different. Not bad different, but not the normal american flavor profile for pasta. When you ate all the ingredients together it tasted pretty good, the capers added that nice salty touch. But if any of the ingredients were missing from a forkful, it was a little bland. Kathy commented that she thought it was similar to buttered noodles, but I had to heartily disagree. It was missing any hint of butter and parmesan, and had the added flavor of fresh mint. It definitely wasn’t  buttered noodles. In the end we both ate our plate full of noodles, conveniently decided there wouldn’t be any leftovers for work lunch the next day and that we probably wouldn’t make the dish again in the future.


stuffed zucchini

went over to Freshfields for our produce shopping and saw some fairly good sized zucchini.  Z suggested we take them home and stuff them.  I had no idea what he was talking about but figured I could find something online.  I found a recipe at for sausage stuffed zucchini.
I more or less followed the recipe but made some subtle changes which are here.

  • 3 med. zucchini (2 lbs.)
  • 3 links hot turkey sausage opened up and casing discarded
  • healthy sprinkle of red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 diced med sweet onion
  • 4 oz reduced fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (8 3/4 oz.) kernel corn, drained
  • 1/2 c. shredded Cheddar (2 oz.)

Cut ends off each zucchini; halve zucchini lengthwise. In covered skillet cook zucchini, cut side down, in a small amount of water for 5 minutes. Drain. Scoop out pulp leaving 1/4″ shell. Discard watery guts.
In skillet cook sausage and onion until meat is brown and onion is tender. Drain fat. Sprinkle in red pepper flakes.   Add cream cheese; cook and stir until cream cheese is melted. Stir in corn. Sprinkle with Cheddar cheese. Place the zucchini halves in 13x9x2 inch baking dish. Fill each zucchini with some sausage mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.
4-6 servings

belated valentine treat

we didn’t manage to get this one made for Valentine’s Day although that had been the original plan.  It is a riff on the dessert we had from Cafe TuTuTango a week or so earlier.  I picked up Na’an bread and some bananas.  I preheated the oven to about 425 degrees and quickly doused the bread under the running faucet.  I tossed the bread on the rack for 3 minutes and then pulled it out.  I placed it on a cookie sheet for the remaining cooktime.  I sliced a banana on top and sprinkled some large grain sugar crystals on top.  Then I broke out my kitchen torch and bruleed the sugar and then sprinkled with cinnamon.  I put the whole thing back in the oven for 4 more minutes.  After I pulled it out I liberally swirled on Stonewall Kitchens Maple Honey Caramel and dolloped on some  whipped cream.  It was a perfect treat to share.  Happy Valentines Day!