So I was beside myself excited for the first zucchini of the season from the CSA this last pickup, and I have been dying to make zucchini “pasta” to twirl around with the incredible basil pasta I picked up on my last trip to Italy. The color of that pasta and the color of the cooked zucchini makes it hard to tell them apart in the bowl, so its a great way to sneak veggies in to food. (even more so if you peel the zucchini first) I wanted to keep this meal as simple and fresh as possible, being that it is finally Summer, and we all start to prefer lighter foods that take less cook time.
Serves – 4
Nutrition – Okay. Gets an A+ for covering all the food groups, but eat this on a day where you haven’t had a lot of fat, as it has a high fat content. (For example, I had a fruit smoothie for breakfast and a bowl of raw veggies for lunch)
Ingredients – If there is anything I have learned in my years of cooking, its that when you are making a simple or fresh recipe, you really want to focus on making all your ingredients count, and pack as much flavor as possible. There are certain things that my kitchen ALWAYS has on hand. Several good quality and different flavored olive oils, a lot of fresh and flavored salts and peppers, whole and in grinders, quality butter, milk, and fresh herbs. (Thanks garden!) You can always put together a great meal when you have good seasoning to make a base with. And you will use almost all of them here…
1 package linguine or any long pasta, I used basil linguine.
1 massive chicken breast (you could do two if you like more protein. I am not a huge chicken fan, but it fills me up fast so I don’t load up on carbs)
1 massive zucchini* or 2 small
2 fat Roma tomatoes, diced
1 shallot, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced (add more to taste if you love garlic like me but don’t have the pleasure of owning garlic butter)
1/2 cup (approx) dry white wine
3 TB red pepper olive oil (or favorite flavored olive oil)
1/2 cup fresh purple basil, roughly chopped
1/4 cup garlic butter (herbed butter is also great here)
1 TB fresh tarragon, roughly chopped
1 TB fresh thyme
1 tsp fresh parsley, roughly chopped
a crap ton of fresh ground 4 pepper blend (red, pink, green, black)
a buncha fresh ground sea salt
optional – Parmesan cheese to top
When I am dealing with a lot of components for pasta, I like to go ahead and cook, rinse and drain my pasta and set it aside so that I have one less thing to worry about. I pride myself on being an efficient chef and I like to use as little dishes as possible, and while this is great for my dishwasher, it also lets me marry some really nice flavors sometimes. So I can cook meat, and then veggies or whatever in the leftover juices and get extra flavor. In this case, while my pasta was boiling, I used a mandolin to julienne my zucchini in to pasta like strips (you can hand cut these as well) and then I laid them across a paper towel. This is a very important step when dealing with squash or eggplant and the like. You need to salt them liberally to extract the water from the vegetable itself and then blot that off with paper towels or a clean cloth. Its actually quite fascinating to watch, and will prevent you from getting that soggy slimy texture that scares people away from liking these sorts of vegetables. When these are dry, set aside, and get out a large, non-stick skillet. Heat 1 TB of butter and 1 TB olive oil on medium heat. Add minced garlic and shallot and sautee until slightly browned, then stir in herbs and a ton of pepper, (Have I mentioned I love pepper?) and then add the white wine.
On a clean cutting board, slice one massive chicken breast in to strips (to go with the shape of the pasta) and salt and pepper it, then lay in the pan. Squeeze an entire lemon over the chicken to keep it moist and to kick up the flavor. Turn after it is completely white on the underside with pink on top, about 2 minutes. Then transfer to your pasta pot with some tongs to sit in wait!
Then add another TB of both butter and oil to the remaining liquid in your pan and toss in the zucchini strands, tossing with the tongs until cooked all the way through, but not squishy.
Now to bring it all together. Take your skillet off the heat and replace it with your pasta pot full o chicken. Add the last tablespoon of each butter and olive oil, add in the basil pasta and pour warm zucchini and the rest of the straggler shallots on top. Stir once or twice, and then add in the diced tomatoes and toss gently. Now turn off the heat, its time to serve! Feel free to add some parmesan at this stage, garnish with some pretty purple basil and bask in the awesomeness.