Friday, August 1, 2014

Spaghetti'd Zucchini with Lentil Marinara

Move over immersion blender, step aside olive oil spritzer: there's a new kitchen gadget in town! Front and center in my kitchen cabinet, I proudly introduce to you "The Spiralizer"; paramount to today's Spaghetti'd Zucchini with Lentil Marinara recipe.

Obsessed with the idea of zucchini noodles—I love any dish that replaces a well-known ingredient with a healthier, more calorie-conscious counterpart—I made my first batch of zucchini noodles (affectionately named zoodles) with a vegetable peeler. Two band-aids and a hand cramp later, I decided there would be no more faking my zoodles. Perfection was principal. I didn't want peeler slivers, I wanted spaghetti. Right then and there I decided (insert rap video slow entrance music into Bed Bath and Beyond here) that it was time to invest in a spiralizer.

I was deciding between the Paderno Tri-Blade Spiral Vegetable Slicer and my Gefu Spirelli Spiral Slicer, but ultimately, the latter won out because it was small—an essential for any cramped NYC apartment kitchen. The Gefu may not spiralize firmer vegetables like carrots (thats ok, coodles sounds weird) and is a bit of a pain to clean, but for $29.99 (minus 20% if you bring a BB&B coupon!) it totally gets the job done. My zoodles are as spaghetti'd as can be. (A larger blade gives you the option of linguini-ing your zucchini too.) And you really get bang for your buck: estimating one zucchini for each serving, it really makes—yes I am going to say it—oodles of zoodles!!

So, have you noticed the variety of squash overflowing the farmers market right now? The Spiralizer is your way to try them all! From golden yellow squash to evergreen zucchini to the sage-colored tints in between, there's no denying the copious quantities of summertime courgettes. I usually sauté them up with onions until they sweat, but to most closely mimic the texture of an al-dente pasta, you only need to flash-cook these bad boys. The firmer texture is a really enjoyable and refreshing departure from their regular preparation.

At first, I envisioned a rich ground turkey bolognese to top my zucchini noodles, but decided to stick with the food-fooling theme, achieving "meatiness" and protein instead with lentils. (This recipe is 100% vegan.) The lentils blend wonderfully with the sweet, acidic tomatoes; a hearty, chewy enrichment to the sauce. To really beef it up, I think I'll try adding mushrooms and carrots to the sauce next time as well, or maybe sun-dried tomatoes.

Another great thing about this recipe is its extremely adaptable to your schedule: As the zoodles themselves take about 8 minutes total to prepare—less time than it takes to boil and cook a pot of pasta—you also have the option of buying cooked, refrigerated lentils and prepared marina sauce, for a meal that will truly be ready in minutes.

Twisting each strand of "spaghetti" around my fork in classic Lady and the Tramp style, I decided I was in love with this recipe. In the way that only comfort food can make you feel—satiated in appetite and spirit—I was so excited to realize that this dish was probably as healthy a bowl of noodles as could ever be. So, are you ready to zoodle your noodles? I'm eager to hear what you think!

Spaghetti'd Zucchini with Lentil Marinara (adapted from In Sonnet's Kitchen)
Serves 2

1/2 cup dried French lentils (or 3/4 cup precooked lentils)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 cup yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 28 oz can crushed San Marzano tomatoes (or 1 15 oz can tomato sauce)*
1 teaspoon sugar*
1 tablespoon red wine or balsamic vinegar*
1 teaspoon dried basil*
1 teaspoon dried oregano*
½ teaspoon dried thyme*
1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
2 large or 3 medium zucchini, spiralized into pasta
salt and black pepper to taste
Parsley, for garnish

*Omit if using premade marinara sauce. (I prefer Antica Cucina or Rao’s Homemade)

1. In a medium pot, bring lentils and 1 cup of water to boil. Lower heat to a simmer and cook, covered, until lentils are tender and liquid is evaporated, about 20 minutes. (It’s ok if they aren’t cooked through—they will cook more later on.)
2. Meanwhile, add 1 tablespoon olive oil to a pan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes, or until translucent. Add the garlic cloves and sauté for an additional minute, until fragrant.
3. Add the tomatoes (drained, if not using sauce), sugar, vinegar, basil, oregano, thyme, red pepper flakes, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Simmer on low for 10-15 minutes.
4. When lentils have absorbed the water (but are still slightly firm), add them to the sauce and simmer for an additional 10 minutes.
5. In a separate pan, add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and sauté the zucchini pasta for 2- 5 minutes. Err on the side of underdone—you don’t want to overcook them, because they may become liquidy. 

6. Divide the pasta into two portions and top with lentil marinara.  Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot, garnished with parsley.

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