Where do you find inspiration in the kitchen? It's a question I've been asking myself lately, in an effort to become more creative with my meals in the weeks ahead.
We're heading into one of the most ho-hum times of the year for cooking. From about September to December, we're in holiday cooking mode. Even though we don't get seasonally appropriate temperatures in Florida, things feel cozier, more festive. January and February bring challenges of trying to eat healthier and cook meals that can help counteract the gluttony of the previous months. March and April offer a bit of spring.
But May through August generally feel like one thick, muggy cloud of meh. It's hard for me to want to do anything in 95-degree heat, and turning on my oven or spending an hour in the kitchen is right up near the top of that sweat-induced list.
I think it's also a time of year when we generally don't want to eat heavy foods, what with the inevitable parties at which bathing suits are part of the dress code.
So, something light. Something that doesn't require a ton of cook time. Something delicious. I think I found a new go-to.
The inspiration for it came from one of my relatively new kitchen appliances (wedding shower gift, this is why you register): a spiralizer attachment for my KitchenAid mixer that turns all manner of vegetables into gorgeous fettuccinelike strands and other shapes.
I know, I know. Not everyone has (or wants) an admittedly intense contraption. One of those handheld spiralizers works just as well, and in a pinch I am a big fan of using a vegetable peeler to get thick peels.
The real goal here is to turn a whole zucchini, a light vegetable just bland enough to work with whatever it is paired with, into a smaller cut that makes it more exciting to eat. You could even julienne it, cutting it into small matchsticks.
I used my spiralizer to turn the zucchini into thick noodles, spiralizing about three times more than I needed for this recipe so that I could more easily make it again. The veggie noodles kept perfectly in my fridge for about five days, during which I made this recipe four more times, the mark of a solid creation.
After I had a base, I went all in on the experimenting, turning to my favorite kitchen staples (onions, garlic and lemon) to create a refreshingly simple dish that delivers on flavor. The onion proved to be a little too oniony, so I switched to shallot instead. And, after making the recipe twice, I decided it was missing what most recipes are: two kinds of cheese.
Dinner inspiration accomplished.
Zucchini with Hazelnuts and Goat Cheese
- 2 medium zucchini
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/3 cup raw, skin-on hazelnuts
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 shallot
- Red pepper flakes
- 2 ounces goat cheese
- 1 lemon
- Handful fresh parsley
- Parmesan cheese, for serving
Put zucchini through a spiralizer, or use a vegetable peeler to turn it into long, thick strips. Set aside on a paper towel and let it rest for a few minutes; the paper towels will absorb excess moisture.
Set a medium skillet over medium heat and add olive oil.
Roughly chop hazelnuts and add to skillet when oil is hot. Mince garlic and shallot and add to skillet. Season with salt and pepper. Stir mixture, then let cook, frying a bit in the oil, for about 3 minutes, until shallot and garlic are softened. Make sure your hazelnuts aren't burning; feel free to turn down the heat if you're worried.
Add zucchini to skillet and stir to incorporate. Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Let cook for about 2 to 3 minutes, until the zucchini is lightly browned but not super soft. You want it to have some bite.
Add goat cheese to skillet and stir for about a minute, until cheese coats zucchini.
Remove from heat and zest the lemon over the skillet. Roughly chop fresh parsley and sprinkle over everything in the skillet. Stir once, then divide between two plates. Top with grated Parmesan cheese, to taste. Season with more salt and pepper if desired. Serves 2.
Source: Michelle Stark, Tampa Bay Times