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Posts Tagged zucchini

4 Years of … Blogging?

Zucchini Noodles with Turkey & Beef Ricotta Meatballs | Gorging George

It’s anniversary day folks. And when I look back on the past year I have tons of fond memories; we’ve been busy, we’ve done tons, we have clearly cooked and eaten in that time and … I’ve posted once. Trust me, I wasn’t ignoring the blog on purpose. I thought about it nearly every time I entered the kitchen or became inspired by something food-related that I read. But I’m not going to make excuses. The past year has been amazing for me and my family in spite of the lack of blogging. Hopefully I can sometimes still make room for a post every once in a while.

Zucchini Noodles with Turkey & Beef Ricotta Meatballs | Gorging George

Zucchini Noodles with Turkey & Beef Ricotta Meatballs | Gorging George

Zucchini Noodles with Turkey & Beef Ricotta Meatballs | Gorging George

If I did have to give one reason for the slow down in recipe sharing, I would say it’s that food has become simplified in the house. There’s not much time for leisurely cooking, we can’t wait to eat until 8 or 9 like we used to when I was testing new recipes. There’s a tiny person that demands food. And she demands food that tastes good … so there’s also not a lot of room for error. So honestly, I’ve stuck to cooking staple recipes the past year. Ones we can get on the table fast and that will be slurped down without any complaints. We still try new recipes, but they are typically ones other people have written and shared.

Zucchini Noodles with Turkey & Beef Ricotta Meatballs | Gorging George

Zucchini Noodles with Turkey & Beef Ricotta Meatballs | Gorging George

However, I got one of those fancy looking spiralizers from my mother-in-law for my birthday last year. And now we can’t get enough of zucchini noodles. I just thought it was a weird fad that was sweeping Pinterest, so I ignored these long green zoodles for a while. But when I got my gift I tried it out right away. And holy crap guys: zucchini noodles are amazing. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade good pasta for anything. But we aren’t eating zucchini noodles as a substitute, we’re eating them because they taste great. Once I paired them with these moist, flavourful meatballs; now we rarely eat zucchini noodles with anything else.

Zucchini Noodles with Turkey & Beef Ricotta Meatballs | Gorging George

Zucchini Noodles with Turkey & Beef Ricotta Meatballs

Don’t have a spiralizer? Just serve the meatballs with your favourite long pasta. Shred some zucchini into the sauce if it makes you feel better. 

Meatballs

8 oz lean ground beef

8 oz ground turkey

2/3 cup ricotta cheese

1 cup panko bread crumbs

1/2 cup pecorino romano cheese, grated

1 egg

1 Tbsp sundried tomatoes in oil, drained & chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1/8 tsp pepper

4 cups of your favourite marinara sauce

 

Zucchini Noodles

3-4 zucchini (I would use 1/person; not kidding)

olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

kosher salt

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Prepare a sheet pan by spraying with olive oil (or you can cover with tin foil). Place all of the meatball ingredients into a large bowl. Mix gently to combine. Don’t overmix, or you’ll end up with tough meatballs. Form into approximately 32 meatballs, placing them on the sheet pan as you go. Bake the meatballs for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, spiralize that zucchini.

Heat the 4 cups of marina in a large sauce pan. Once the meatballs are cooked, gently dump them into the marina sauce. Simmer the meatballs and sauce together for an additional 10-15 minutes or until your ready to eat.

While your meatballs enjoy their tomato bath, heat a large, non-stick saute pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add a scant Tbsp of olive oil to the pan, followed by the garlic. Let the garlic simmer for about 30 seconds, then add he zucchini noodles. Season generously with the salt (start with at least a tsp. You can add more if needed). Cook the noodles to your desired degree of doneness. I’m not going to tell you how to eat your noodles. Maybe you just want them warm with nearly all their crunch. Maybe you want those things so cooked you could slurp them down without chewing. I’m not here to judge. Important step learned after eating wet noodles: drain those zucchini noodles when they are cooked to your liking. Add them back to the pan or plate them.

Top bowl-fulls of zucchini noodles with meatballs and marinara. Sprinkle with more pecorino if you like. Or just devour.

Serves 4.

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Lemongrass Pork Vietnamese Noodle Bowls

These days eating gluten free at home has become second nature. The only remaining trace of gluten in our home is the loaf of bread Kyle has for his morning toast or sandwiches; not that he wouldn’t eat my delicious loaf of gluten-free bread, but I’m cheap…and gluten-free bread from the store is not; therefore, Kyle is forced to continue eating his bread. I don’t think he minds. The only times I really become cognizant of not being able to eat gluten is when we go out to eat. Restaurants around the world are becoming more aware of gluten allergies, however, in my small city, I’m still not sure if they really understand the complexity of gluten allergies. I know it may seem narrow-minded of me to think that small-town staff wouldn’t be educated in the ins-and-outs of gluten; but my trust in the restaurant crew wanes when I get a quizzical look from a server or host after I ask about what I can eat when I have a gluten sensitivity. If I have to explain gluten in detail to you, I’m not going to feel confident when you tell me that dish “x” is safe and I could probably eat dish “y.” No thanks, I’ll just have the salad – dressing on the side. I detest the feeling that the staff thinks I’m just being picky; not knowing that I will get sick if I eat even a smidgen of gluten.

It’s after these outings that I long to move to a bigger city – where there are gluten-free restaurants! Or ones that offer vast sections on their menu that state “gluten free.” Places where I know they will take the matter of cross-contamination seriously. Although, I suppose we don’t eat out very often, so I can just look forward to venturing out to these gluten-allergy-friendly joints on trips out of town. In the meantime, I have gotten busy in the kitchen preparing the meals I am craving, but can no longer order when we go out.

I really miss Asian food. Overall the dishes appear to be gluten-free, with the rice & rice noodles, fresh vegetables, and juicy & chewy meats. But it’s the soy sauce that is the main offender (which ends up in many oyster & hoisin sauces). There are lots of gluten-free soy sauces, but as much as I ask the serving staff, I’ve never received a clear answer about what kind of soy sauce is used in their dishes. I suppose tasty recipes have to be kept secret to continue to bring in customers. One dish I was recently craving was a Vietnamese noodle bowl with charred lemongrass pork. I missed the saltiness of the pork and nuoc cham. So I developed this gluten-free recipe and shared it with some friends. I even added some grilled vegetables for added sustenance, and of course served it with my favourite sauce: Prik Nam Pla. This was a hit, and I’ve made it a few times since. The ingredient list may seem daunting – but that’s just because of all the “toppings” to sprinkle over your plain rice noodles – omit and add what you desire. There is not a right way to eat this when you’re catering to your taste buds.

Vietnamese Noodle Bowls with Lemongrass Pork & Grilled Vegetables

The lemongrass pork recipe can somewhat be attributed to Naomi Duguid’s & Jeffrey Alford’s book Hot Sour Salty Sweet. Although there isn’t a recipe that seemed to mirror that charred pork served in Vietnamese restaurants – mainly there was no soy sauce, and most of the pork & lemongrass recipes involved minced meat. So here is my approximation, it may not be authentic, but it’s good. For the pork loin, it is much easier to purchase a pork loin roast – which typically comes in 2-3 lbs. Cut off what you think looks like 1 pound; then freeze the remainder for another use (or for the next time you want to make this dish). Don’t forget to factor in time to marinate this dish – at least 1 hour. To ensure you are not running around trying to get everything prepared at the last minute, cut up all your accompaniments before you start grilling the pork and vegetables. 

For the pork:
1 lb pork loin
1 stalk lemongrass, dry outer leaves removed and tender part finely chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp fish sauce – make sure it’s gluten free (beware, some manufacturers add wheat)
2 Tbsp gluten free soy sauce
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 tsp pepper

For the grilled vegetables:
1 Japanese eggplant
1 zucchini
1 bunch broccolini
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp pepper
1-2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp sesame oil

For the noodle bowls:
rice noodles
cooked pork & veggies
nuoc cham (recipe below or search the internet) – this is the typical sauce served with noodle bowls
Suggested Accompaniments – all optional
carrot, julienne/matchstick cut
2″ piece of cucumber, seeds removed, julienne/matchstick cut
iceberg lettuce, shredded
green onions, sliced
roasted peanuts, chopped
cilantro, chopped
mint, chopped
basil, chopped
Sriracha
Sambal Oelek
Prik Nam Pla

For the lemongrass pork: Cut the pork loin into 1/4″ – 1/2″ slices across the grain. Working with 1 piece of pork at a time, place the pork between 2 sheets of plastic wrap, then pound to about 1/8″ thick – for this you can use a meat mallet, rolling pin, or even a large can of beans/soup. Combine remaining ingredients for pork (lemongrass through pepper) into a large zip-top bag or large dish. Add the pork to the marinade and allow to marinate in the fridge for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours. Pull pork out of fridge at least 1/2 hour before you are going to grill in order for it to come up to room temperature.

For the grilled vegetables: Cut the eggplant and zucchini into 4 vertical slices. Trim the broccolini if necessary. Place in a large bowl and combine the remaining ingredients (garlic through sesame oil) over the vegetables just prior to grilling.

Preheat grill to medium-high. This is a good time to bring the water for your noodles to boil. Place all the pork and vegetables on the grill. Grill the pork and vegetables for about 3-5 minutes per side, or until cooked through. Pull of any vegetables as they are cooked. Meanwhile, cook your rice noodles according to package directions. When vegetables and meat are cooked, transfer to a cutting board and cut into bite-sized pieces (be careful, everything will be hot) – I don’t bother chopping the broccolini, it’s fun to eat whole.

To serve: place approximately 1 cup of cooked rice noodles in a bowl. Top with pork and vegetables and any accompaniments you desire. You can either dish up everyone’s bowls and serve restuarant-style, or place all the toppings on the table and place out bowls of rice noodles and serve family-style, letting everyone top their own dishes.

Serves 4-6.

Nuoc Cham

Adapted from Hot Sour Salty Sweet by Jeffery Alford and Naomi Duguid

juice from 1 juicy lime
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup water
2 tsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp sugar
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 thai bird chile, minced (optional)
shreds of carrot (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, stirring to dissolve the sugar. You can either split this up into individual condiments bowls for each person, or alternatively, place a spoon in the bowl and everyone can spoon over their desired amount. Keeps in the fridge for up to 3 days.

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Spring Vegetable Risotto

I am not a picky eater. If you present me with fresh food (not processed stuff), there isn’t much I won’t eat. Which makes me forget at times that not everyone has the same taste buds as I. Last night I was reminded of this when I introduced a friend to swiss chard. I had (somewhat) grown up eating this deep green and ruby red leafy veg; as my aunt grew tons of it in the summer, and my grandmother would cook it from time-to-time when her grandchildren were visiting. Maybe because it wasn’t always on the table in my own childhood home, I grew to associate it with being something special (like how my dad used to cook my brother and I chicken livers when my mom would go out of town – and for that reason we thought it was a “treat” and now love all offal). I enjoy eating chard once it starts popping up fresh in the summer. However, I discovered last night that not everyone has eaten swiss chard; and not everyone likes it. Luckily my friend is one who will at least try anything – but she’s also honest; so she wasn’t shy to admit that she couldn’t eat any more after the first bite. Thanks for trying though friend! We’ll find more veggies that you’re bound to love.

Which brings me to the dish in today’s post. I whipped up this risotto while my mother-in-law was visiting recently. I was having a typical risotto craving last week; and when trying to decide how to make it, I figured I would take advantage of all the wonderful vegetables that start popping out around springtime. Asparagus (of course), zucchini, fennel, vidalia onions, and radishes would all tuck themselves in between the starchy grains of arborio rice. Nearly all of the veggies were cooed into a softened submission by gently sauteing them in the pan before adding the rice. All except the radishes. These were sliced thin and kept to the side; then, when the rice was nearly al dente, they were cooked in a salted butter bath to adorn the springy risotto dish with their tender pinkiness.

I realized, when I was nearly done cooking, that perhaps my mother-and sister-in-law did not like radishes – I forgot that some folks find them too peppery. They didn’t respond with either joy or disgust at the mention of radishes, but did state they had never had them cooked. Upon tasting the buttered red gems they both proclaimed that radishes cooked in butter were very tasty, and they would definitely be cooking them up in the future. But then again, who doesn’t love anything cooked in butter?

Spring Vegetable Risotto

6 cups vegetable stock
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 vidalia onion, diced (1/2 cup)
1 small fennel bulb, diced (1/2 cup)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup asparagus, cut into 1″ pieces
1 cup summer squash/zucchini, diced (I used a combination of green and yellow)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 Tbsp butter
3 radishes, sliced thinly
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1-2 Tbsp basil, chopped

Heat the vegetable stock in a saucepan over medium heat.

In a large pot, braiser, or risotto pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, fennel and garlic to the pan and saute for 5 minutes, stirring gently, until softened. Add the asparagus, zucchini, salt and pepper to the pan; saute for another 3-5 minutes, or until beginning to soften (they do not have to be cooked through, as all the vegetables will continue to cook with the rice). Stir in the rice and cook for another 2 minutes, ensuring the rice is coated with any oil in the pan. Add the wine and stir until it is fully absorbed.

Begin to add the heated stock to the pan a ladle-full at a time, stirring gently until the liquid is absorbed. Continue to do so for approximately 20-25 minutes, or until the rice is al dente (or cooked to your liking). Careful not to stray too far from the stove, as you don’t want the rice to stick. When the rice is finished cooking, remove the pan from the heat and stir-in 2 Tbsp of butter and the parmesan cheese. Have a taste to determine if the risotto requires more salt or pepper – season to taste.

Meanwhile (when the rice is nearly finished cooking), melt 1 Tbsp of butter in a small saute pan over medium heat. Add the radishes and a small pinch of salt and cook for about 3-5 minutes, or until soft.

Pour the risotto into a serving dish and top with the buttered radishes and basil.

Serves 4-6.

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Linguine with Zucchini & Tomatoes

Have you ever heard of Meatless Mondays? It’s an initiative to encourage people to go without meat on Mondays for various health and environmental reasons. You can read about it on Canada’s Meatless Monday site – basically we could all benefit from at least one day a week sans meat. Meatless Mondays are not about changing your lifestyle or preaching to folks to become vegetarians and join PETA. They are for taking advantage of the health benefits of limiting meat (reducing obesity, heart disease, diabetes…to name a few). And you have the socially accepted bonus of being an environmentalist for a day by reducing your carbon footprint (raising livestock and fishing use up a lot of water and oil). But, let’s be honest here, there are 2 other really good reasons to go without meat: 1) Your Wallet & 2) Tasty No-Meat Meals. Eating meat is expensive. Especially if it’s good meat – such as wild Chinook (King) salmon (yes…we’re calling fish “meat” here. Get over it), very young lamb, or organic free-range chicken.

I think what intensely loyal meat eaters sometimes forget (or don’t realize because they’ve never gone a meal, let alone a day without eating meat) is that meatless food can be downright delicious. Sometimes…it’s even better than food with animal proteins. I like meat just as much as the next carnivore, but I can also lose myself to a mushroom risotto or a Chana Masala. We’re already pretty omnivorous in this household – we likely eat meatless dinners about 3-4 times a week. Okay…that’s only if we’re talking meat vs fish/seafood. You caught me.

When Kyle’s not home, I find the meat dwindling down to only a couple of times a week. I think I just don’t really have the drive to eat all those meaty leftovers or find new things to do with leftover pork and chicken. There’s enough food flying around here as it. It’s hard enough getting all the contents of the fridge eaten when I’m alone – no need to throw in the time constraints of festering meat leftovers. (Confession: leftover meat dishes are suspicious to me…I rarely can stomach eating them past 2 days)

If you and your family don’t already go meatless, then I encourage you to try it one day a week. Even if it’s not a Monday. Your wallet, the planet, and your body will all thank you.

Linguine with Zucchini, Tomatoes, & Ricotta

This recipe is truly just a rough guide to having a Primavera-esque pasta dinner. Substitute or add any quick-cooking veggies you have on hand. Don’t forget to keep some of your “pasta water” and don’t overcook your pasta – you’ll finish it off in the pan with the veggies.

1 lb linguine, uncooked
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 – 1/2 tsp crushed red chili flakes
1 1/2 – 2 cups summer squash (zucchini & yellow squash), diced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
a couple handfuls of arugula
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

Boil pasta according to directions. Make sure you cook it “al dente” as your going to throw it into the pan with the veggies. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.

Meanwhile, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and chili flakes and saute for 30 seconds. Add the squash, salt & pepper to the pan and saute for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes to the pan and saute for another 2 minutes. I like to lightly squish some of the tomatoes to let out their juices into the pan. When the pasta is cooked, add it directly into the pan and mix up all the contents. Add the ricotta, parmesan, and arugula and combine everything. Add 1/4 cup of the pasta water and toss to incorporate into the pasta. If the dish seems dry, add more pasta water (a little at a time) until desired consistency. Pour the contents of the pan into a serving bowl and sprinkle with parsley and basil. Add more salt & pepper to taste.

Serves 4.

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