Saturday, April 19, 2008

Zucchini Boats

A.k.a. Stuffed Zucchini.
These were great; egg-free, gluten-free, vegetarian side dish. (even oil free and dairy-free, if you wish) By squeezing most of the water out of the cooked zucchini pulp, and baking the empty shells beforehand, I managed to keep these from getting soggy. Cooked on the inside and crispy on the outside; bursting with garlic, Parmesan, parsley and tomato.

Makes 8 'boats'; enough to feed 2-3 people
10 + 15 + 30 minutes (about an hour total)
-large pot and mesh sieve for steaming vegetables
-medium mixing bowl
-Aluminum foil lined cookie sheet

4 thick, large zucchini
1/2 medium white onion, diced
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium tomato, peeled
handful of fresh parsley
[1 egg, slightly beaten; optional]
[1 Tbsp. olive oil; optional]
3/4 to 1 cup finely crushed Original Baked Lay's potato crisps
1/4 Parmesan cheese-- or non dairy-alternative (Galaxy Nutritional Foods has some good ones)
dash of black pepper
1 tsp. dried oregano leaves
dash of dried thyme leaves

0. Steam whole zucchini over boiling water for 5 to 7 minutes, or until soft enough to 'give' slightly when pressed (not mushy). I use a metal sieve large enough in diameter to 'sit' over the top of my pot, then covered with a lid. You might have to steam them 2 at a time.
Cool before handling. (I chilled mine overnight.)
Filling and Baking
-Preheat oven to 350 F
1. Once zucchini is cool enough to touch, cut off both ends and scoop out the inner zucchini 'meat' with a small spoon, leaving a firm shell (don't make shells too thin). Squeeze the pulp to remove excess water. Discard the water, but place the zucchini meat in a medium bowl. Don't expect lots of zucchini innards.. I barely had 2 Tbsp. total.
2. While oven is warming up, line a cookie pan with Aluminum foil. Arrange empty shells on the pan and place into the preheating oven. Let them cook for around 15 minutes. They should be dry when you pull them out.
3. Peel and dice the white onion. You need the onion pieces small. Also, remove ends, peel and mince the garlic cloves into very small pieces. Remove the tomato skin with a paring knife, then dice up the tomato, but don't turn it into mush. Wash and chop up the fresh parsley.
4. Using your hands, mix the onion, garlic, tomato and parsley in with the zucchini pulp. [If you want eggs in this, you may add in one slightly beaten large egg to the bowl at this time. Likewise, if you want to add in the oil, do so now. I didn't use either egg or oil and it tasted fine and held together okay.]
5. Crush the last 1/4th of an open bag of Baked Lay's original potato crisps until the chips are reduced to small pieces (use a hammer if you wish). Toss the chip pieces in with the veggies, adding more if the mixture still seem too moist. Add in the Parmesan cheese, oregano leaves, thyme leaves and black pepper (DON'T add in extra salt.. the chips are salty enough!). Mix evenly.
6. Fill slightly-cooked shells with mixture-- really be generous, it at first looked like I had too much filling! Top with another dusting of Parmesan cheese.
7. Bake zucchini boats in the oven for 30 minutes, uncovered. The tops should be toasted and crispy once removed; the boats should be cooked all the way through, but not mush.
Eat warm as a side dish, or serve as the main dish with enough fresh steamed white rice.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Zucchini Boy-R-De

It's been a long time since I ate pasta out of a can, but this vaguely reminded me of those spaghetti-O's-- only better, due to the fresh zucchini and garlic.
Another fast fast (although far-from-gourmet) dinner that actually tasted good!

Serves 2
25 minutes
-large pot
Quick and simple

6 oz. uncooked GF pasta spirals (I use half of a 12 oz bag of Tinkyada brown rice spirals)
2 to 3 large zucchini
1 large white onion
8 to 10 lobes of fresh garlic
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 (14 oz.) can Muir Glen Fire Roasted Crushed Tomatoes
2 Tbsp. dried (or fresh) basil leaves
1 Tbsp. dried (or fresh) oregano leaves
sea salt and pepper to taste

1. Place spirals into the large pot. Add in water until the water level rises 1/2 inch above the pasta sitting in the pot. Place over high heat and chop up the veggies while waiting on the water to boil.
2. Veggies: Wash the cut the zucchini into 1/2 inch thick slices. Don't half the circles, leave them big. Place zucchini near the range (aside from the garlic and onion). Peel and chop up the white onion. Peel, remove ends, then and dice up the garlic.
3. Once the pasta comes to a rolling boil, begin timing, stir, then reduce heat down to medium-high. Cook spirals for an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Taste a spiral, it should be very al dente (slightly soft on the outside, yet still firm and chewy on the inside). Add in the zucchini slices. Stir. Cook for another 5 minutes.
5. By this time, almost all of the water should have boiled away. Just before the pasta starts to stick on the bottom of the pot, add in the onions, garlic, olive oil and full can of Muir Glen Crushed tomatoes, liquid and all (do NOT drain tomatoes!!). Stir well to mix. Add in a fair amount of seasonings: basil, oregano, sea salt and pepper.
6. Turn the heat down to medium. Let the 'soup' simmer, uncovered, until the onions become translucent and the tomato sauce becomes thick, coating the spirals (around 3-5 minutes). The pasta and zucchini will be tender by this point.
7. Remove from the stove; let sit 5 minutes, but serve warm.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Christmas Quinoa

This was my first taste of Quinoa (keen-wah), despite the GF community raving about this wonder grain for months now. Now I understand what all the 'raving' was about. Light and textured, with a hint of chewiness-- a perfect break from rice. I'm so happy!!
Of course this dish has nothing to do with Christmas. The color scheme just reminded me of such.

Serves 1.5
25 minutes
-large saucepan
Quick and simple

3/4 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
1.5 cups water (or GF chicken broth)
5 asparagus stalks
1/2 of a head of cauliflower
1/2 of a large red bell pepper
1 medium white onion
1 to 2 Tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1. Place rinsed quinoa into the large saucepan. Cover grains with water and begin cooking over high heat. Keep an eye on the stove, but start cutting up veggies:
2. Wash and cut asparagus stalks into 1 inch pieces. Wash and cut cauliflower into bite-sized chunks. Set asparagus and cauliflower aside near range. Wash and slice red bell pepper into 1 inch pieces. Also evenly chop white onion into 1/2 inch squares.
3. Once the water reaches a rolling boil, turn heat down to medium-high and continue cooking (start timing from onset of rapid boiling). Stir occasionally.
4. At the 5 minute mark, add in the asparagus and cauliflower pieces. Stir, continue cooking.
5. At the 10 minutes mark, add in the red bell pepper and onion. Stir, then season with salt and pepper. Also stir in a bit of olive oil.
6. Continue cooking (stirring occasionally) until the outside of the quinoa grain becomes translucent and the grain itself (and accompanig veggies) are tender, but not soggy. All water should have boiled away by this point.
7. Let the veggies and cooked quinoa sit undisturbed in the pan for 2-3 minutes right before removing from the heat. This will slightly toast the bottom grains if you added enough olive oil. Serve warm.