Saturday, March 19, 2011

Fried Zucchini & Prosciutto Spaghetti

I seem to be starting a new little monthly tradition. Each month when I receive the new Food & Wine Magazine in the mail, I go through the whole magazine with wide and eager eyes, looking through the mag like a vivid picture book. I then go through it once more, but this time with a ballpoint pen, putting stars next to recipes I want to try, and jotting notes on my own suggestions or ideas for the dish. Then, as I have for the past three months now, I pick a recipe that I must make that week. For this first recipe, I look for interesting flavours and/or execution, and I aim for something that is well suited for the workweek. It's usually that very week that the magazine arrives that I find myself bored with our usual weeknight dishes, after going through a bit of a rotation with them throughout the month, and desperate for something new!

This month the dish that caught my eye was Gwyneth Paltrow's Fried-Zucchini Spaghetti. With so much buzz about Paltrow's side project, the popular site GOOP, and her upcoming cookbook, I was curious to try out one of her recipes. Of course her Fried-Zucchini Spaghetti sounded and looked delicious with it's bright, fresh flavours, and striking green colour, but it was really her anecdote about eating fried zucchini with her family growing up that moved me to make the dish. Her story reminded me of my own childhood, sneaking fried zucchini rounds, fresh off the stove, in my Oma's old kitchen. That was it, I had found my recipe! Because I was so eager to get home the next day and make the dish, I completely forgot to hop into the market to pick up some fresh basil, an essential part of the dish considering how few ingredients there were. Instead of letting out a great big groan and start complaining about how I had ruined dinner, I looked at it in a positive light, and saw this as an opportunity to build on Paltrow's dish, adding my own flavour through the help of the notes I had jotted down next to the recipe.

With or without basil, I felt that the recipe could use another bright and fresh flavour like lemon. In my family we are really into our sauces, so in order to make my fam happy, I knew I had to develop the recipe's pasta-water "sauce" a little bit more. The addition of lemon juice and zest really woke up the dish, adding a ton of flavour and even a bit of texture. Although the crispy zucchini rounds were slightly salty, I wanted to add an additional ingredient to add a hint more saltiness to each bite. With an open package of prosciutto in the fridge, I didn't have to look any further. As I made the dish, I continued adding my own little touches here and there, amping up the seasonings and spices, until I was happy with end result. My Fried Zucchini Spaghetti was awesome! The dish was easy and actually very enjoyable to make, and all of those zesty fresh flavours, reminding me of Spring, tasted fantastic! This is definitely a dish that will be going into our monthly rotation of weeknight suppers. I can't wait to experiment with other herbs and vegetables as the seasons go on!

Note: Although I didn't have any on hand when making the spaghetti this week, cherry tomatoes are just begging to be tossed into this dish. A sweet burst of moisture is just what this dish needs to take it to the top!

1 large zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch thick disks
5-6 slices of prosciutto, torn into strips
juice from 1/2 - 3/4 of a lemon
zest from 1/2 a lemon
2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, or 2 tsp dried
about 1/4 cup flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
3/4 pound spaghetti
1 cup parmesan cheese + more for serving, shredded
salt and freshly ground pepper to season
about 3-4 tbsp olive oil + more for frying
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved (optional)
lemon wedges, for serving

1. In a medium bowl, toss the zucchini disks with the flour until coated. In a very large skillet or griddle set to high heat, add a generous layer of olive oil. When oil is heated, work in batches and add the zucchini disks, making sure not to crowd the pan. Fry, turning once, until browned and crisp on both sides. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fried zucchini to a paper towel-lined wire rack and season immediately with salt and pepper. Repeat process with remaining zucchini.

2. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in a large pot of well-salted water until al dente. Before draining pasta, reserve a few cups of the cooking water and set aside.

3. When pasta is cooked and drained, add it back to the pot and add the cheese, olive oil (enough so that the noodles are just coated), lemon juice, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, and dried basil (if using). Toss together. Add the reserved cooking water a little at a time, stirring to coat until it has reached the desired consistency. The cooking water, cheese, olive oil, and lemon juice should begin to form a very light and thin sauce.

4. Transfer the pasta to a serving dish and top with the crispy zucchini, prosciutto, fresh basil (if using), and cherry tomatoes (optional). Season with salt and pepper and top with additional shredded parmesan cheese. Serve with lemon wedges.

Listening To:
Santigold - L.E.S. Artistes

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Be sure to check out my recipe for Fried Zucchini!


Callie Grayson said...

looks really good!

Kris said...

I just read that piece on Paltrow. Nice work on this one! I'll have to try it now!

ann@Apples and Twinkies said...

Really interesting post and I love that zucchini recipe!

Ann said...

Oh it looks so delish...
and its from Goopster?
Its gotta to be healthy. ♥