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Sunday, September 27, 2009

"Around the World in 30 Weekends"-Weekend 2=Italy

Dish Name: Spaghetti with Zucchini strands

Amongst the cuisines which I have tasted and liked after coming to USA,I would rate 'Italian' amongst the top.Over the years,I have developed taste for Italian food and also gotten comfortable cooking it myself. First thing which comes to your mind when you hear Italian food is Pizza and Pasta.For my 'Around the world series' I decided to make Spaghetti with Zucchini strands.Spaghetti is a long, thin, cylindrical pasta of Italian origin. A variety of pasta dishes are based on it, from spaghetti with cheese and pepper or garlic and oil to a spaghetti with tomato, meat, and other sauces. Spaghetti is made of semolina or flour and water.
I had read this recipe by Chef Michael Chiarello(From Food Network) in Readers digest.It's pretty simple,attractive and very 'apt' for taking me on a 'Virtual Culinary tour' to Italy!

I had the spaghetti in the pantry, a Zucchini squash from 'E's school garden and fresh basil from my own garden.So with all the ingredients on hand....I was set to make the pasta.....the Michael Chiarello way...
3/4 lb. dried spaghettini (I used 1& 1/2 fist full)
3/4 lb. zucchini (I used 1 whole zucchini)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbs. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
3 tbs. coarsely chopped fresh basil
2 tbs. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup plus 2 tbs. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1. Bring large pot of water to boil; add salt. Add pasta. Cook until al dente, about 10 minutes.
2. While pasta cooks, cut zucchini by hand into longest, finest julienne you can manage. Season with salt and pepper.
3. If zucchini is very finely cut, it does not need to be cooked. Otherwise, steam until still slightly crunchy, about 2 minutes.
4. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in small skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add garlic. Sauté briefly, until light brown. Turn on exhaust fan, and add red pepper flakes. Quickly add basil and parsley; mix well. Remove from heat.
5. When pasta is done, drain, reserving about 1/2 cup cooking water. Pour pasta into warm serving bowl, add zucchini, remaining 1/4 cup oil, garlic mixture, and 1/2 cup cheese. Toss well, adding cooking water as needed to make smooth sauce. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tbs. cheese and serve at once.

My variations:
I took a 'general' idea from Michael Chiarello's recipe and modified it a little bit to suite our taste.
1) Cut the Zucchini strands length wise little thicker than julienne, otherwise they get too flimsy in the sauce.
2)Used 2tbsp 'Crushed tomatoes' in the sauce to make garlic-tomato sauce
3)Used only 1tbsp olive oil instead of 1/2 cup
4)Added 1/2tsp 'Italian seasoning' to the sauce
5)Used about 1tbsp Parmesan cheese in the sauce and some more to sprinkle on top while serving.
5)Added a 1/4tsp Ajwain/owa seeds.

About the picture:
The yellow flower in the picture is a squash flower.It is supposed to be edible ,but never tried it myself.The green leaves are fresh basil from our garden.

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