As Chef’s, in the summer, we are always thinking about quick food that requires less use of the oven and/or stovetop. Yet so much of the summer bounty benefits from amazing roasting, sauteeing and stewing cooking methods! Even the “coolest” of salads needs some veggies blanched, eggs, potatoes and pasta boiled. Grilled proteins on top of a composed salad still require some heat! And good ratatouille certainly doesn’t come in a jar!! FYI my favorite version is Roasted Ratatouille!
So often my darling sous chef wife will ask what I’m going to make for dinner and when I proclaim something roasted @450º in our NYC galley unairconditioned kitchen on a 90º day, the response is that scornful scrunched up Irish face (which she has perfected) that says: “I hope you don’t need any help!”
I’m usually OK with answering: “It’s what I do….I cook…..it’s hot…..we eat…..so?” And mind you, she’s never not shown up at the table to enjoy any of this sweat-producing summer fare!
This year I started collecting some summery recipes requiring minimal or no cooking with the plan to utilize them on the hottest dog days of summer. And quite honestly, they haven’t happened yet. (Although today is turning out to be good and hot as well as humid!)
On Sunday I ventured into my stash of newly procured Summer To Be Tried recipes and decided on Spiralized Zucchini & Yellow Squash nests filled with a Ricotta, Parmesan & Basil blending.
The original recipe is from Eating Well Magazine’s July/August 2017 issue. It is titled Spiralized Zucchini & Summer Squash Casserole I almost passed it up due to the word Casserole! The assumption on my part was that a casserole = tons of prep and fair amount of time in the oven! Boy was I wrong!
Prep is painless and cooking time is 6-8 minutes under the broiler………….period! Heating the accompanying hunk of frozen Ciabatta Bread and making grilled bread slices was slightly more tedious!
Here’s what I did differently than the recipe calls for: I mixed my spiralized zucchini and yellow squash, so that each nest would be yellow and green; placed the zoodles on a paper towel lined sheet pan, covered with more paper towels and gently patted out excess liquid then I created my nests freeform.
This is a great side dish, but I converted it to be our entree by adding a raw Diced Fresh Tomato Sauce to put between two nests on our plates and served the aforementioned grilled Ciabatta Slices.
Here’s what I’ll do differently next time: I will use the larger holed attachment when spiralizing the squashes, as they shrunk a good bit when cooked. I would increase the amount of ricotta in each nest and instead of adding basil to it I’d put a healthy dollop of fresh pesto in the center of each mound of ricotta and sprinkle the top with salt, pepper and chili flakes!
As you can see in the picture we garnished with a few extra halve cherry tomatoes and shaved Parmesan.
The raw tomato sauce was a mashup of several recipes but basically these are the steps for two pounds of tomatoes
- Grate two fresh tomatoes on the largest holes of your box grater into a large bowl
- Take the remainder of your tomatoes and core them, removing any trace of seeds and chop the flesh into smallish dice add to the bowl
- To the bowl add salt and pepper to taste 1 tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar, 1-2 Tablespoons EVOO, 1 teaspoon sugar and 1 clove of garlic minced
- Stir and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour or more.
- When ready to serve add 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
This was great as a condiment with the squash nests, spread some on the grilled bread also! It is pretty liquidy so I served it using a slotted ladle. If I were putting it on hot pasta I would not strain it.
Eat Well….Be Well!