I’ve been in a slump lately. My spring of inspiration has run dry. Maybe it’s the end of summer blues. It happens to all of us. Inspiration comes from many places. For me, it is often from seeing or smelling a particular vegetable or ingredient which brings back a memory or a new idea. It seemed like my well of ideas was running dry.
Then on a routine outing, I picked up this beautiful looking sauce at Costco.
I had to try it. It made me think about incredible pasta dishes I’d had in Italy made with a squash they have there. It’s kind of like a cross between an acorn squash and a butternut squash.
They simply call it “zucca” at the vegetable market which translates to “pumpkin,” but it’s not like the large pumpkins we’re familiar with.
At home, I also had some cherry tomatoes, zucchini, a red pepper, arugula, Parmesan cheese and left over meatballs from another dish. (My kids love plain meatballs. I’ll post a recipe for those soon, but you can add any kind of meatballs you like). I decided to use the julienne blade on my food processor to get longer slices of zucchini. One medium sized zucchini was enough for two people. The cherry tomatoes were whole and the red pepper I cut into long thin strips.
In a small pot, I warmed up the pumpkin sauce, cherry tomatoes and meatballs (optional). Once those were warm, in a separate frying I heated about 1 tbsp of olive oil on medium-high heat. If you like garlic, add a clove or slice of garlic to the pan and let it sizzle for a minute, then remove it. This allows the garlic flavor to be infused into the oil without having it overpower your dish. I sauted the red pepper until they were tender, about 5 minutes. Then added the zucchini and sauteed for another 3 minutes. The zucchini cooks fast. You want it more firm, not mushy.
I then turned off the heat and stirred in the sauce mixture to coat the zucchini. That’s it. It was served immediately topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and a few fresh arugula leaves. The peppery arugula added a nice bite and texture to the dish. The Parmesan cheese complimented the complex flavors and added salt.
I was very pleased with the zoodle experiment. It was a nice alternative to pasta and paired perfectly with the pumpkin sauce. Zoodles are not new to the culinary world, but they are new to me. There are many kitchen gadgets out there to make spiralized vegetables or turn zucchini into long thin strips of zucchini noodles. I found the julienne blade on the food processor worked just fine. You can also buy simple handheld julienne tools, like a vegetable peeler, but it will take much more time to create strips. I left the skins on the zucchini and liked the color and texture. I think it’s best not to think of zoodles as a substitute for pasta or spaghetti. It’s just simply a different way to get your veggies and shake things up.
By the end of this meal I felt better about my creative slump. It reminded me that inspiration can really come from just about anywhere. You just have to open yourself up to it and keep trying new things.