I love zucchini and had some hanging around in the fridge asking to be used differently from the usual pan searing and anchovy pasta combination. Coupled with some old and on the verge of moldering potato and carrot, I flipped through my recipe books and found Antonio Carluccio‘s recipe for parmagiana. Since I had a bit of time, this was it!
You can use any sliceable vegetable for this, just make sure that they are well dried using paper towel before preparing them for the dish. For the cheese, I didn’t have any mozzarella, taleggio or the eponymous parmesan, so I settled with the cheddar I had. It’s a good melting cheese with very nice flavour, so it worked too. For the tomato sauce, I had a jar of pasta sauce from a while back that I again hadn’t got round to using. Be warned that the quality of the tomato sauce is very important. Some of them can be quite tart, so you’ll have to taste and moderate if necessary by perhaps adding a little sugar, or plain using a decent brand of sauce! I also had some aglio olio spice powder consisting of garlic, chilli and random herbs, so some of that went into the dish too. It all worked out to be a happy use of leftovers to make a yummy, satisfying dish.
2 large zucchini
2 medium carrots
2 large potatoes
1 jar tomato pasta sauce
4 rashers bacon, diced
plenty of olive oil
flour for dredging, about 4 heaped tbsp
3 eggs, beaten
150g cheese, thinly sliced or grated
Slice the vegetables into long slices, as far lengthwise as you can. You’re looking for long, fairly thin slices of vegetables, about 5mm thickness for the root vegetables. For the zucchini, it can go a bit thicker depending on whether you like to bite into mushy zucchini goodness or prefer less of the mushy burst. Pack the slices into paper towels and leave to dry for about an hour or until you get back round to them.
Meanwhile, get out a big casserole dish that looks like it could fit all the vegetable slices and more. Spoon out a thin layer of pasta sauce and coat the bottom of the dish.
In a sturdy frying pan, saute the bacon dice in a little olive oil till brown. Sprinkle on top of the pasta sauce layer.
Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
Add some salt and pepper to the flour and mix well. Standby the beaten eggs.
In the same frying pan, add plenty of olive oil till the bottom of the pan is coated. Get ready to fry over medium heat.
Dredge each vegetable slice in the seasoned flour, then coat with egg. Let drip till most of the egg has dripped off, then fry, turning each piece as it turns golden brown.
When golden brown on both sides, transfer each piece to the casserole dish.
When a layer of vegetables has completely covered the pasta sauce, spoon over more sauce for the next layer and also sandwich in a few slices of cheese.
Proceed till you’ve exhausted all the vegetables and cover with a final layer of pasta sauce, topping generously with cheese.
Bake for 30 minutes, turning down the temperature slightly if the cheese starts to burn.
After removing from the oven, let rest for a few minutes before slicing and serving.
It was time we started eating slightly less fattening food. I attempted to go vegetarian(ish) for a meal or two. A trip to the supermarket got me lovely large king mushrooms, a courgette, mesclun salad and some herbs. The mushrooms ended up under the grill together with a miso-garlic marinade. The courgettes were caramelised and tossed with anchovies and mustard. Substitute capers for the anchovies if you’re going fully vegetarian, I just didn’t have capers in the house. For the couscous, make up some instant stuff with vegetable stock and stir in some chopped herbs. Here I use curly parsley (far cheaper than the Italian flat leaf type and much stronger, go easy). For the salad, I bought some mesclun and mixed in some organic tang oh (chrysanthemum leaves), then cracked in some pistachio (DC’s idea) and tossed in truffled olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It all came together to form a satisfying almost vegetarian dinner.
Garlic-Miso King Mushrooms
2 king mushrooms
1 tbsp miso paste (I use red miso with konbu here)
1 tbsp dry vermouth (sherry or sake is good too)
2 cloves garlic, minced
Slice the king mushrooms lengthwise.
Blend the miso, vermouth and garlic till you get a spreadable paste, smear lovingly over the mushroom portions.
Place under a hot grill for about 10 minutes on each side or until the miso paste just about chars. Serve.
Just before eating, scrape off the excess miso because it gets quite salty.
Some nights I crave something very strong-tasting and assertive, food for non-date nights and when you really don’t care how many vampires or other nasties you scare away with your repellent breath. On nights like these, I cook something starting off rather innocuous: pasta with grilled courgettes and mozzarella. Things go up a notch with the addition of sharp rocket, but we’re hardly anywhere near the pongy breath zone. Slip in mustard to dress the pasta and the arrow of the pong-o-meter barely registers a tick upwards. Now add in the garlic and copious amounts of anchovies and we’re talking (with hand firmly over mouth)! Try it at your own risk, remembering that you have to like the ingredients before using them (silly!) and that you can always dial down the intensity by either using less of the ingredient or in the case of garlic, sauteeing it gently in olive oil before throwing it into the dressing. Are you game?
½ courgette, sliced into thick diagonals
2 anchovy fillets
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tsps prepared mustard
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp peppery extra virgin olive oil
1 generous handful rocket leaves
¼ ball of mozzarella, torn into rough strips
Heat a grill pan over the stove and grill the courgette slices on both sides till you get black bars on each side. Set aside and wrap in a piece of aluminium foil to keep warm.
Cook the linguine till al dente in unsalted water.
Get on with making the pasta dressing. In a mortar and pestle, grind the anchovy fillets and garlic to a paste, then stir in the mustard and combine well. Add a touch of balsamic vinegar, then a couple of good glugs of good olive oil. Taste and adjust the seasoning either with more mustard or more vinegar.
By now your pasta should be about done. Drain and toss in the dressing till well coated.
Assemble your dish. First the rocket leaves, then quickly flip over the noodles so that the rocket wilts slightly in the heat. Then the grilled courgette on top, followed by torn bits of mozzarella. Finish with a sprinkle of olive oil and the leftover dressing. (Go easy with the dressing, it’s very very salty). Devour.