Monday, September 20, 2010

Zucchini Noodles.

For every dish I make, I have an initial inspiration. Faced with an empty fridge, I decided that I'd duck into Rewe on my way home from the bank, in order to grab something for lunch. Unlike the girl behind me in the checkout line, frozen pizza and chocolate biscuits weren't on the menu. (I can't believe how badly students seem to eat, but that's another story.) I always gravitate towards the fruit and vegetables, and really, that was all that was missing from my fridge. Fruit and veg make up most of what I eat. Because I love them. So, so much.

In keeping with my eat-local leanings, I picked up a punnet of mushrooms and a few zucchinis. They were both labelled as being grown in Germany, as opposed to the vast majority of vegetables (as especially fruit) in the supermarket. I'll also note that Rewe have taken to putting "see packaging for country of origin" on their labelling. Sneaky, Rewe! They're relying on the laziness of shoppers to ignore where their food comes from, and the sad thing is, it'll work.

So, armed with zucchini and mushrooms (and new laundry liquid, which is somewhat less interesting) I headed home. I had two tins of lentils in my pantry, and I wanted to eat something warm and filling, but still quite light on my stomach (after a weekend involving me eating copious quantities of amazing food, including Tash's fantastic vegan lemon cake). I really enjoy zucchini noodles, and I decided to keep them raw for a better texture. Sometimes I blanch them in boiling water for a few seconds (which I recommend if you make carrot noodles) but honestly, they don't need it. Simplest noodles ever, courtesy of my vegetable peeler. Use a mandolin if you like your noodles a little less, ahem, "rustic." ;)

My other zucchini was sauteed with mushrooms until browned, then became the basis of the chunky tomato sauce. The lentils that I added already had a half-dozen pieces of carrot and onion in the tins ('Suppengruen' according to the packaging - admittedly I buy them because they're more economical than the plain lentils) but it has far too little vegetable content to do anything for the flavour.

My tomato passata of choice is the sort than you make yourself, by putting your overripe tomatoes into a blender and waiting paitently, whilst quietly freaking out that your housemate's blender just doesn't sound healthy. It's quite healthy, but I just despise the sound. Add as many chillies as you dare - I found that for 10 Roma tomatoes, 2 tiny-but-brutal birds-eye chillies was perfect. It was enough to warm up my mouth while I was eating, but not enough to burn or disguise the other flavours. It really depends on the chillies that you have on hand. If they're home-grown, you probably only need half as many... my chilli bushes of old were definitely out to kill me, in the best possible way. I cooked it until the sauce was thick, and then heaped it over my zucchini noodles. What a lunch! I'm glad that I have enough leftover sauce to make another giant bowl for dinner...

Zucchini Noodles with Tomato & Lentil Sauce
3 large zucchini
300g button mushrooms, sliced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped/crushed
700ml-ish tomato passata (or 2 tins crushed tomatoes, if you like)
2 chillies (blended into your passata, or just finely chopped)
2 tbsp olive oil
800g tin brown lentils (or 2x 400g tins), drained well, or 2 cups dry brown lentils, boiled for 20 mins and drained
1/2 tsp dried oregano
salt & pepper, to taste
Using a vegetable peeler or mandolin, slice two of the zucchini into ribbons. Once you get down to the very centre, it'll be impossible to make ribbons, so just slice the remains. Slice the third zucchini into pieces of the same size.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add the garlic, and chilli if you haven't included it in the passata. Let it sautee for a moment until the garlic is transparent, then add the mushroom and zucchini pieces. Cook until all the liquid released has been evaporated, and the vegetables are lightly browned.
Add the lentils, tomato, and oregano. Simmer over a medium heat until the sauce is thick. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve generously over the zucchini ribbons. The zucchini will release liquid when it comes into contact with the hot sauce, so it's a good idea to have bread on hand, so that you can mop up all the tasty juices.

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