Friday, March 25, 2011

Zucchini, Zucchini, Zucchini!

I’ve recently learned that one of the easiest ways to diminish grocery costs while maintaining nutritional variety in my daily life is to buy staple produce, such a few seasonal vegetables at a time, that can be simply altered the meet the demands of my college lifestyle. This idea may at first appear riddled with contradiction– how can I produce such a range of meals while limiting myself to such few main ingredients? Yet, if creative enough, this method proves to be very cost efficient and still creates the necessary variation needed in a diet.

This week I bought a three-pack of ripe zucchinis from Trader Joe’s for a mere $2.99. At first it seemed that the zucchini was a very limiting produce incapable of producing the range of meals I necessitate in my daily diet. However, after some browsing through some of my favorite online food blogs and periodicals I was inspired. The following three recipes illustrate the sheer multiplicity of recipes I was able to come up with using zucchinis as a base.

Whole-wheat pasta with zucchini tomato sauce, brown lentils and feta cheese
(serves 1)

·  1 tablespoon of olive oil
·  ½ zucchini, sliced
·  ½ onion, diced
·  1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
·  ½ can of tomato sauce
·  ¼ cup of dried brown lentils, rinsed (canned lentils may be used instead)
·  ½ cup of water (unnecessary if using canned lentils)
·  1 ½ teaspoons of ground cumin
·  2 tablespoons feta cheese, crumbled
·  1 cup of cooked whole-wheat spaghetti

1. Place lentil and water in a small pot and bring to a boil. Boil the lentil for roughly 2 – 3 minutes before bringing the pot to a simmer. Cook lentil until soft and tender, approximately 45 minutes. (Hint: keep a watchful eye on the lentils and make sure to add more water if necessary).
2. Meanwhile, sauté the onions, garlic and zucchinis, and oil in a medium saucepan. Once the onions are translucent and the zucchinis soft, add the tomato sauce (Hint: I typically use plain tomato sauce, but flavored pasta sauce works as well). Add the cumin and simmer. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Meanwhile cook the spaghetti in boiling water.
4. Combine the cooked lentils and pasta sauce and simmer for a couple minutes or until the pasta is ready.
5. Drain the spaghetti and toss with the lentils and sauce mixture. Serve immediately and with sprinkled feta cheese.

Zucchini Enchiladas
(serves 1)

·  ½ zucchini, grated
·  1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
·  1 tablespoon of olive oil
·  2 whole-wheat tortillas
·  1 small can of tomato sauce
·  ½ teaspoon cumin
·  ½ teaspoon spicy chili powder
·  ½ teaspoon dried oregano
·  ½ cup of Mexican cheese, shredded

1. Preheat the over to 400° F.
2. Simmer the tomato sauce, cumin, chili powder and oregano in a pan until aromatic. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
3. Meanwhile, sauté the garlic and zucchini in a medium pan. Season with salt and pepper. Mix ½ the Mexican cheese with the sautéed zucchini mixture and set aside.
4. Divide the zucchini filling between the two tortillas and roll into enchilada shapes. Place the rolled tortillas in a small baking dish. Spoon enchilada sauce on top of tortillas, sprinkle with Mexican cheese, and bake for 25 minutes. Remove enchiladas from the over and serve immediately (Hint: enchiladas can be served with a dollop of sour cream or some chopped cilantro).

Charred vegetable, goat cheese and balsamic sandwich
(serves 1)

·  ½ zucchini, sliced
·  ½ red bell pepper
·  ½ tomato, sliced
·  ½ teaspoon of olive oil
·  1 tablespoon goat cheese, crumbled
·  1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
·  2 slices of fresh bread

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. In a small frying pan, char the bell pepper and zucchinis with the olive oil over high heat (Hint: I like to use a spoon to press the vegetables into the pan in order to achieved the best results). Cook until the bell pepper and zucchini are slightly blackened on the outside. Remove the vegetables from the heat.
3. Meanwhile lightly toast the bread in the oven.
4. While the bread is toasting, sprinkle the crumbled goat cheese on either side and continue baking until the goat cheese is slightly softened (Hint: goat cheese does not melt like other cheeses).
5. Remove bread slices from the oven. Arrange charred vegetables and sliced tomatoes on one of the slices of bread. Drizzle balsamic vinegar over the vegetables and place the second slice of bread on top. Serve.

Charred vegetable, goat cheese and balsamic sandwich

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