Zucchini Squash "Pasta" - Get In Mah Belly*

At this point I think everyone's heard about zucchini or squash "pasta," where you spiralize your preferred veggie(s) and pretend you're getting your carb on. As big as the hype has been, I honestly figured it was all the health kick weirdos lying about the taste to let everyone know they're eating "clean." 

Luckily, I'm your no-bullshit friend that typically eats the opposite of clean, and I'm here to tell you: I can fuck with some zucchini/squash noodles. Now I'm not working with a spiralizer, or even peeling that shit myself; I grabbed a pre-cut zucchini/squash combo at Wegman's and it was the best $4 I ever spent (for 2 servings worth). That, a jar of vodka-cream sauce and some shredded parm made one of the best dinners I've had in a long time.

So here you go friends: the ultimate fast way to indulge in cheese and sauce without missing out on flavor. Fuck yes.

Serves: 4

Total Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons basting oil, or olive oil with 1 minced clove of garlic
  • 4 large peeled or spiralized zucchini, or 1 family pack at a grocery store
  • 1 jar of tomato sauce - I went wild and bought Sugo Rosa on sale for a fancy treat
  • Sprinkle of garlic powder, red pepper flakes and basil (fresh is fine but we're not Ina Garten here so I know what you're up to)
  • Sprinkle salt and black pepper
  • 1/3 cup Shredded Parmesan cheese, and extra to taste

 

 

Instructions

  1. Set a large nonstick skillet to medium-high, with basting oil or olive oil and minced garlic
  2. Once pan is hot, add 3/4 of veggies, along with salt, pepper, garlic basil and pepper flakes. Cook for 4 minutes, moving every few minutes with a nonstick spatula.
  3. Once veggies in the pan have lost some of their crunch and start to release moisture and stick to each other, add the remaining group. I came upon this by accident not making enough since everything cooks down, but the addition of some that were only lightly cooked added awesome bite that balanced everything out. Cook for 1 more minute on medium high.
  4. Turn heat to medium-low and remove pan to a cool burner. Add sauce slowly, keeping in mind the veggies will absorb some! I did about 3 tablespoons per serving. Add in cheese and return to warm burned, stirring until well coated and slightly bubbly, about 2 minutes.
  5. Add extra cheese and dig in!

Roasted tomatoes are a great add on, so would some homemade sauce with meatballs or sausage. Enjoy cuties!

 

* - "Get In My Belly"

Change Your Life Zucchini Pizza Bites

This. Shit. Is. Gold.

Looking back, maybe not the most appetizing phrase, but it was the first thing I thought of to explain how amazing this snack is.

Now that you've had some time to perfect your tomato sauce with my previous recipe, I wanted to give you something to put it on other than gluten free pasta. Actually, you could put it on anything, or even make it a main - add a little milk and spice for tomato basil soup with grilled cheese(!) - but today, I want to go as simple as possible.

Last week I read about zucchini pizza bites - taking zucchini slices and throwing them in the oven with sauce and cheese and whatever other toppings you like. Seems too good to be true, but I wanted to make the zucchini a little more pizza-like ( crunchy) before tossing it in to cook. None of the recipes I looked at Seemed to agree, so I did a little playing around and ended up with a delicious pizza alternative. Unfortunately, I made these when no one else was home, so I had a whole zucchini's worth of pizza (read: a non-literal shitload of pizza bites). That meant that even though this was a "healthy" lunch, I still managed to feel as full and satisfied as I do after eating a whole basket of chips at a Mexican restaurant. Minus the bloated-from-salt fingers, thank god.

The final process: pan sear zucchini slices, drain excess oil, add sauce, cheese and other faves and broil. Voila! An amazing lunch/dinner/app is ready to go. And with my favorite sauce, you'll have a slightly spicy, sweet rich base that cannot be outdone.

Serves: 8-10 as app, 4 as part of a meal

Total Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 2 large zucchini, washed, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds (thick enough that they'll hold toppings, but thin enough that they'll be crunchy after searing) and patted completely dry

  • 1-1 1/2 cups tomato sauce

  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella or cheddar (I know it's not the recommended pizza cheese, but goddamn does it go well with this sauce, and Sharp cheddar gives it a nice bite with the veggies!)

Instructions

  1. Add olive oil to pan over medium-high heat. 

  2. Once pan is hot and oil is evenly distributed, add zucchini without overlapping slices. Batches are recommended, especially if you don't have a large pan or wok! Cook 2-3 minutes, or until each slice has a little brown sear, then use tongs to flip. Cook another 2 or so minutes (eyeballing is key depending on the thickness of your slices).

  3. Set oven to broil, making sure you leave the oven door slightly ajar. Drain excess oil (maybe even leave slices on paper towels for a minute) then place slices on two foil-lined cookie sheets. Use a spoon to evenly distribute sauce, then sprinkle cheese and any other toppings (some people slice tiny pepperoni slices, if I liked pepperoni I'd be all about that life so do yo thang, honey).

  4. Broil bites and watch like a hawk! As soon as those puppies start to bubble, pull out of the oven and serve hot.

Homemade Tomato Sauce

You asked, I delivered.

Well. No. You didn't. But like the mailman with the credit card offers and junk mail, I'm bringing it to you anyway (on that note though is there a way we can opt out of stuff like that? That poor guy takes a lot of extra steps to bring things we throw out).

Homemade tomato sauce! It's quick, it's easy, and of course it's gluten free.

Now there are two ways we can go about this: the easy way or the slightly less easy way.
The former involves canned tomatoes, while the latter involves taking fresh tomatoes, boiling them to peel the skin off, deseeding them *but saving the seeds and extra goop in case they're necessary in a bit*, and then you're back to where the former was. The less easy way is delicious in the summer with fresh tomatoes and a blast to play around with if you're tactile (read: very messy and very odd texture), but if it's winter or you're just in a rush you'll really just stick to the canned version, which I'll go off of here. Sorry overachievers.

My inspiration came from stalking the Instagram lives of NYC chefs and restaurants - mostly Italian restaurants. Those clean close-ups of fresh pasta or pizza: Come. On. They eventually led me to Scott Conant and his  godly homemade marinara served at Scarpetta. The original article I read was from Serious Eats, and as soon as I finished reading I decided to make it.

You should understand first: we are a very Irish family. Sauce from a jar is the norm, except for high school pasta dinners at teammates' homes before a big meet (swimming!). I was always in awe when other families whipped out these seemingly complex Italian dinners for us with hunks of garlic bread (ugh I know I'm sorry my Celiac friends), endless plates of pasta and homemade marinara, chicken parm, and meatballs. Now I'm distracted.

Long story short, deciding to make a sauce from scratch was a big deal, but it immediately paid off. This is a sweet sauce that relies on real tomatoes, essence of basil and garlic that were warmed in oil added at the very end, and the sneaky trick I don't typically use but could really love to - butter. If you're looking for a decadent (weird word but *one hundred percent emoji* true here) but easy addition to amp up that gluten-free Barilla penne you're heating up right now, look no further. As a bonus, I think picky kids are more likely to eat this since all they see is the red sauce - the basil is removed and there aren't any mushrooms/onions/weird stuff (sauce purist rant over).

I have riffed off this recipe for years, making it this lazier version, but I would highly recommend reading through the original recipe as well.

Serves:  6-8

Total Time: 1 1/2 hours

Ingredients

  • 2 cans San Marzano/equivalent tomatoes (I use crushed or whole - depends on if you mind the aseeds really!), or as many fresh tomatoes as you can gather/boil/peel/deseed 
  • 1/4 cup EVOO
  • 6 basil leaves (or 1 little nugget if you use frozen packs of basil, it'll just be harder to pick out the big pieces later)
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and slightly pressed with the side of a knife but still whole
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • Pinch of salt, pepper, and sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter, whatever you have (we always have salted YES)

Instructions

  1. Put a large pot on medium on your stove, once it's warmed up add in your tomatoes! Bring to a boil then return to a simmer. Add salt, some red and black pepper and sugar (to bring out the natural sweetness!) and let simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes. During this time you get to work on the fun part - breaking down the tomatoes! The original recipe's recommendation for a potato masher is spot on. There are few things in the world as fun as mashing down tomatoes after a long day (or even in the middle of a Saturday). Enjoy!
  2. In a smaller pot, heat olive oil over medium-low. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes (or what you can manage) with the basil and garlic. Now just let that baby go. Close any doors and open windows if possible if you don't want that garlic stankin' up your house for a week. Take olive oil mixture off burner once garlic is slightly browned, and remove everything from the oil (threw a strainer or just with a spoon if you're a B0$$).
  3. Gently and carefully (seriously this stuff will explode on you otherwise), add olive oil to tomatoes. and stir. I bring this up to a nice warm temperature and then serve with pasta.
  4. Now, if you're going for extra credit and willing to clean up an extra pan, pour some of your sauce into a large pan on medium. Add in your butter, a spoonful of pasta water and a bit more sauce and stir to incorporate, then throw in your pasta and heat everything up together. 

Serve with inappropriate amounts of cheese, red pepper flakes, and lots and lots of milk (seriously though if it's not 2% or whole you're drinking water - don't pay for gallons of water).

If you've ever eaten at Scarpetta I'd love to hear about your experience, especially if you tried making the sauce after!

Fully reduced with oil added!

Fully reduced with oil added!

Summer Daydreaming: Tomato Mozzarella Salad

June? June are you there? It's me Kerry. Are you ever coming back, with your warm weather and your endless sunlight and your long weekends for adventure?

Ghost of summers past!

Ghost of summers past!

Hmm. June doesn't seem to be responding to me. I don't remember being a bitch to her last year but it's a definite possibility. In the meantime let's pretend and make a classic summer app or entree: tomato mozzarella salad! 

The great thing about this option is that it's already gluten free - nothing else to adjust or worry about, just the simple joy of fresh, meaty tomatoes (I'm SORRY I know meaty is a bogus word I just couldn't help it) with whatever fresh mozzarella you can find with basil leaves from the garden - or little plant by your windowsill - and a good drizzle of EVOO, balsamic vinegar, s&p. What am I doing? By the time you read all of this you could be enjoying it. Go already!

Serves: 1 (or 2 as an appetizer)

Total Time: 3 minutes

 

Ingredients

  • 1 large tomato, ripe and beautifully red (really feeling like my girl Ina Garten rn)
  • Small balls of fresh mozzarella, or a few slices (I'm not going to go all measure this out on you for this one!) of a larger mozzarella hunk (again with the gross word but so accurate)
  • 5 fresh large basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon EVOO
  • 1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper

Instructions

  1. Wash and dry tomato, then slice into 4-6 thick slices. 
  2. Arrange on a plate and top with mozzarella slices, and full or torn basil.
  3. Pour EVOO into a large spoon and slowly drizzle over each tomato, repeating with balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle on salt and pepper to taste and have a party!

Some people go full sea salt here; I'll do that occasionally but most of the time I prefer having some lighter salt that's a bit less obnoxious for something this light. It's not guacamole, people.

Around this time of year you could also just use some cherry tomatoes: cut them almost in half the long way, rip off a little piece of cheese with shredded basil to put in the middle, and set with a toothpick. Then follow your usual process and drizzle and sprinkle over the whole cherry tomato plate! Easy party play that's a bit less messy for the guests, although there will still be bits of olive oil and vinegar dripped around your house. Unless you have very well-trained guests (if so send them my way!).