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Better Than Pasta Subtitutes: Summer Squash Noodle Recipe and Video

by | Aug 27, 2012
Squash Pasta

Squash Pasta

Recently a reader asked:

“Any tips on pasta substitutes? (I did read your post about how whole grain/whole wheat pasta isn’t really a whole lot better than regular pasta).”

Pasta and noodles can be tricky if you’re trying to lose weight and get healthy. Though some people consider Italian pasta (made from semolina flour) to be a low glycemic index food, in my experience frequent pasta consumption will start the scale moving slowly upward.

I love pasta, but eat it sparingly.

Luckily I have found a noodle substitute that I absolutely adore, and it’s even faster than boiling water.

Although I was shocked at how delicious this turned out, I was even more amazed at how easy it was to prepare. All you need is some summer squash, a vegetable peeler and a bowl (optional). Cook the noodles by quickly sautéing them with a little olive oil and Kosher salt.

You can use any sauce you like. I modified the simple tomato sauce recipe from Cook’s Illustrated.

Summer Squash Pasta & Simple Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2-4 summer squash such as zucchini
  • 1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 medium fresh tomato
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • ~10 leaves fresh basil
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt

First run your garlic through a garlic press and place into a small bowl or cup. Add 1 tbsp warm water to the garlic, stir and set aside.

Next drain your tomatoes and reserve the liquid. Dice your fresh tomato into half inch cubes.

Chop your basil. Leaves such as mint and basil are easiest to cut if you chiffonade them by stacking the leaves on top of each other and rolling them lengthwise like a cigarette. From there they are easy to cut into thin strips.

In a pan heat 2 tbsp of olive oil and add the garlic. Cook until fragrant but not brown, about one minute. Add the canned tomatoes and simmer until sauce starts to thicken, about 8 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering, peel squash as shown in the video. Saute the squash ribbons in olive oil on medium heat. Sprinkle with salt and sauté for no more than 2 minutes. Do not allow them to brown or soften. Noodles should be brightly colored and al dente. Remove from pan and set aside.

When sauce starts to thicken, add fresh tomatoes and basil. Add some reserved tomato liquid if it becomes too thick to work with. Cook sauce another 3 minutes or so and salt to taste.

Toss your sauce with squash noodles and serve immediately.

How else do you like to eat squash pasta?

This post and video are pretty old, but this is still one of my all-time favorite recipes. Originally published July 29, 2009.

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Farmers Market Update: Summer Tomatoes!

by | Aug 14, 2011
Gigantic Tomato

Gigantic Tomato

This is by far my favorite time of year to go to the farmers market, it’s truly amazing. (If you’re interested in joining me next week, there are still a few slots left in my two market tours, 8am and 10am).

More than any other time of year the market is overflowing with life and bounty. The fruits are sweet, juicy and abundant, making it hard to decide which delicate morsels to cradle into my bag and try to get home undamaged.

O'Henry Peaches

O'Henry Peaches

Sea of Strawberries

Sea of Strawberries

We’re finally entering late summer, which means all the best summer tomatoes are finally here. The dry farmed early girls are my favorite, because they’re easiest to get home and amazingly sweet and rich in flavor.

Early Girl Tomatoes

Early Girl Tomatoes

But today I was also blown away by these giant heirloom tomatoes. They were as big as pumpkins!

Heirloom Tomatoes

Heirloom Tomatoes

While we’ve had sweet peppers for several weeks now, the spicy chilies are just starting to appear. I got some jalepenos, but I’m excited to see Thai chilies are available as well.

Thai Chilies

Thai Chilies

Eggplants, my gateway vegetable, are also a late summer delicacy. As a former eggplant hater, I find that the long thin plants are easier to work with and often taste better than their rounder cousins. The light purple color of these were particularly striking this week.

Eggplant

Eggplant

Late summer is also the time for corn, which not coincidently pairs exceptionally well with all the above vegetables. I love it raw off the cob or pan cooked quickly with summer squash and peppers. But I’m going to experiment with some new techniques using the ones I bought today.

Corn

Corn

Summer Squash

Summer Squash

Of course cooking is more fun with the abundance of summer herbs. This time of year I always have cilantro, dill and basil on hand.

Fresh Dill and Cilantro

Fresh Dill and Cilantro

If you love basil, look around your farmers market for vendors that sell it with the roots attached. You can bring it home and put it into a vase with water. I’m still using one I bought several weeks ago with one of my market classes. Just be sure to change the water 1-2x per week, and that the plant has access to light. I tried keeping some in my kitchen but it always wilted in one day if I didn’t move it near a window.

Rooted Basil

Rooted Basil

This is also my favorite time of year for salads. I make a big one most days for lunch, and the huge variety of greens like spinach and radicchio help mix it up and allow me to make something that tastes different every day. I love how the bloomsdale spinach is so deeply colored that it almost looks blue.

Radicchio

Radicchio

Bloomsdale Spinach

Bloomsdale Spinach

Fresh legumes including peas, green beans and shelling beans are staples in my kitchen this time of year as well.

Cranberry Shelling Beans

Cranberry Shelling Beans

Though I don’t talk about it much, melons (particularly the heirloom varieties I often find at the market) are a completely different experience when I get them directly from farmers. The rich complexity of the smell alone is intoxicating, and the flavor is nothing like the typical honeydew, cantaloupe and watermelon I’ve had from the grocery store.

Watermelon

Watermelon

Lastly, the grapes are finally here. They’re particularly sweet and crisp this year, which is how I love them.

Red Flame Grapes

Red Flame Grapes

Today’s purchases (~$55):

What did you find this week at the farmers market?

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Farmers Market Update: Fruit!

by | Jun 5, 2011
Sweetest Strawberries Ever

Sweetest Strawberries Ever

I don’t usually buy a lot of fruit. It’s not that I don’t like it, I think it’s wonderful. But it tends to be much more expensive than vegetables. And it’s also hard to get soft fruit home without smashing it.

But today, I couldn’t help myself.

Similar to last week, the cherries were just way too good to pass up.

Ranier Cherries

Ranier Cherries

But I also realized that I hadn’t even tried any of the newer fruit in the market, like these amazing blueberries. I sampled a few, and knew some would be coming home with me.

Delicious Blueberries

Delicious Blueberries

Then there were the plums. I love plums, but like tomatoes they are one of those fruits that are so rarely good that you forget what real ones taste like. Until you try one.

Fruits

Fruits

I thought it was a bit early in the season for plums to be good, but I was wrong. These were as sweet and luscious as I’d ever tasted, and of course I had to get some.

Virctoria Heirloom Rhubarb

Virctoria Heirloom Rhubarb

Amazingly, I still had to restrict myself from buying strawberries, even more cherries, and also some peaches I found that were unseasonably delicious. But I did have to save some of my money to get vegetables.

Radishes

Radishes

I’m mostly enjoying salads these days. I like them with French radishes, carrots, sugar peas, spring onions and usually some quinoa or lentils.

Beautiful Treviso

Beautiful Treviso

I’m not ready to buy them yet, but summer vegetables are becoming more common as well.

Early Summer Squash

Early Summer Squash

The strangest thing I found at the market this week was fresh Japanese ume plums, which I’ve only ever seen pickled. I might pick some up next week so if any of you have a recipe I’d love to hear it.

Ume Plums

Ume Plums

Today’s purchases (~$50):

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Farmers Market Update: iPhone 4 FTW!

by | Aug 15, 2010
Summer Squash

Summer Squash

It was a beautiful day today in San Francisco. I’m feeling much better and was super excited to hit up the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and snap some photos.

Apparently though, I’m still not quite in top form. When I tried to take a picture of these beautiful grapes, my camera smugly informed me that it did not contain its memory card. PhotoFAIL. Luckily, I had my trusty iPhone 4.

Lovely Grapes

Lovely Grapes

I was curious how the new iPhone would perform at the farmers market, and today it had it’s chance to prove itself. I still think I prefer my regular Canon SD900, but overall I was pretty impressed with my pocket phone. What do you think?

Not too much has changed at the market from last week. The late summer produce is beautiful, especially the eggplants, peppers, peaches and plums.

French Prunes

French Prunes

Rosa Bianca Eggplants

Rosa Bianca Eggplants

The beets have been marvelous (and impressive!), as are the summer squash.

Magda Cousa Squash

Magda Cousa Squash

Impressive Beetroot

Impressive Beetroot

I’m happy to see green bean season is starting to take off. We are experimenting with pickling some beans this weekend. Recipe on its way.

Pickled Blue Lake Beans

Pickled Blue Lake Beans

Don’t forget the greens and onions either, they are all amazing this time of year.

Spanish Onions

Spanish Onions

Escarole

Escarole

Fresh chamomile was nice to find today as well.

Seedless Grapes

Seedless Grapes

Chamomile

Chamomile

Today’s purchases:

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Farmers Market Update: A Midsummer Day’s Dream

by | Jul 25, 2010
Star Squash

Star Squash

“And, most dear actors, eat no onions or garlic, for we are to utter sweet breath; and I do not doubt but to hear them say, it is a sweet comedy.”

– A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Act 4, Scene 2), William Shakespeare

It is hard to imagine having anything but sweet breath after leaving the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market this weekend. I must have tried at least a dozen different varieties of pluots, and at least as many peaches and nectarines (my favorite this week).

Organic Yellow Peaches

Organic Yellow Peaches

Nectarines

Nectarines

There were strawberries, raspberries and blackberries. Apricots and figs. Melons and tomatoes. All sweet as can be.

Organic Raspberries

Organic Raspberries

Even the greens looked tender and sweet. I couldn’t help but get some of this red kale from Green Gulch Farm. There is something amazing about fresh picked greens grown with care. They look so soft, yet crisp and nutritious.

Beautiful Collards

Beautiful Collards

Red Kale

Red Kale

I would have bought some of the beautiful collards as well if I had been able to resist the beautiful chioggia beets, whose greens came attached for free (here’s my favorite beet recipe). I also grabbed one of their tea bouquets. Yes, we have some seriously sweet breath up in here.

Fresh Tea Bouquet

Fresh Tea Bouquet

Chioggia Beets

Chioggia Beets

I’m very excited to see that midsummer is in full swing and the eggplants are finally worth noticing. And being the chiliphile that I am, I was delighted to find that the peppers are starting to heat up.

Green Hot Chili Peppers

Green Hot Chili Peppers

Rosa Bianca Eggplants

Rosa Bianca Eggplants

I noticed fresh green beans have appeared too (no wax beans yet).

And lastly, does anyone know what glacier lettuce is??

Glacier Lettuce

Glacier Lettuce

Fresh Green Beans

Fresh Green Beans

Today’s purchases:

What did summer bring you this week?

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Farmers Market Update: Ode To Summer

by | Jul 11, 2010
White Nectarines

White Nectarines

Dear Readers,

I know that many of you enjoy the farmers market and visit it regularly, and if this describes you I’m sure you already know what I’m about to write.

For those of you who like the farmers market but find yourself cooking up excuses each week not to go, it is time to talk yourself out of that habit. At least this once. If you’re ever going to make visiting your farmers market a priority, now is the time. This is the season when a taste of a simple plum can change your life (I got mine from Paradez Farms).

Heirloom Tomatoes

Heirloom Tomatoes

Pluot Slices

Pluot Slices

There are only a few weeks of the year when berries and stone fruits haunt the market simultaneously, when you can get sweet cherries and perfect peaches. Even the tomatoes now would never be mistaken for anything other than a fruit. At this time of year it is possible to win friends with salad (I’ve done it many times already).

Summer Squash

Summer Squash

Green Chard

Green Chard

Today I saw children begging their parents to buy foods that most of us grew up hating (beets!). And I even bought a bag of broccoli simply because it was so cute. That’s right, even vegetables are getting their moment in the sun.

Adorable Broccoli

Adorable Broccoli

Summer Beets

Summer Beets

(the garlic and onions are photogenic??)

Summer Onions

Summer Onions

Purple Garlic

Purple Garlic

An added bonus is the late summer produce is just beginning to arrive as well. Today I bought my first corn, and saw eggplants available at a few different stands.

Bodacious Yellow Corn

Bodacious Yellow Corn

Mission and adriatic figs are also available, and surprisingly sweet for this early in the season. I even spied a few melons hanging out today, though I was too busy cradling peaches and nectarines to get one home safely.

Mission Figs

Mission Figs

First Eggplants

First Eggplants

And for today’s Moment of Zen, I present: kohlrabi.

Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi

Enjoy the summer! And if you discover or learn to love anything new this year, please come tell us about it.

xoxox
Darya

Today’s purchases:

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Farmers Market Update: Fruit Explosion

by | May 23, 2010
Apricots

Apricots

The San Francisco farmers market was a very different place this week compared to how I last saw it. Cherries, the first pitted stone fruit of the season, first appeared two weeks ago. But today fruit took over the market completely.

I must have tasted cherries from at least a dozen different growers this week, and they were all delicious. But the fruit explosion didn’t stop there. Apricots, peaches and nectarines were all available, and they tasted much better than I expected them to this early in the season. This week also marked the first appearance of local blueberries, which is very exciting.

First Blueberries

First Blueberries

White Nectarines

White Nectarines

The strawberries that had been somewhat elusive the past few weeks are now plentiful. And they are breathtaking.

Dirty Girl Strawberries

Dirty Girl Strawberries

If all this talk of berries and stone fruits is starting to sound like summer to you, I have some more good news. Summer squash is now available at the farmers market and looking delectable. I even found nopales (cactus petals), something that reminds me of the hot summers in Southern California.

Nopales

Nopales

First Summer Squash

First Summer Squash

I know all this is exciting, but let’s try to remember not to get too far ahead of ourselves. Spring is still dishing up delightful carrots, greens, peas, artichokes and delicacies such as green almonds. Enjoy them while you have the chance.

Fresh Almonds

Fresh Almonds

Little Carrots

Little Carrots

Today’s purchases:

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For The Love of Food

by | Jun 26, 2009
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

Thanks to everyone who voted for me for A Really Goode Job! I ended up with over 100 votes in just a couple days, which is very flattering. The top 50 were announced this morning and I was not among them. I guess my other two jobs will have to suffice for now. 😉

This week around the internet I found several reminders of why heart disease is not the only reason to worry about excess body weight and how industrial food is a threat to your health. I also discovered a fantastic article about how psychological barriers prevent us from being healthy.

B.S. of the week, once again, goes to Diets in Review for promoting a new “tomato pill.” Because eating real tomatoes for health is SO 1909!

If you would like to see more of my favorite articles each week or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. I am also experimenting with the social bookmarking sites StumbleUpon and Delicious, and would love to share articles with you there.

Submissions of your own best food and health articles are also welcome, just drop me an email using the contact form. I am currently accepting guest posts at Summer Tomato for any healthy eating and exercise tips.

For The Love of Food

What great articles did you read or write this week? Leave your links in the comments.

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Farmers Market Update: Veggie Hunting

by | Jun 21, 2009
Pluots

Pluots

I’m starting to remember how much self-control is necessary this time of year. Not only is the market exploding with a zillion varieties of perfect stone fruits (the kind with pits), but the vegetable options are still somewhat limited.

Stone fruits are wonderful, and I know that cherries and apricots will be gone in a few weeks. The problem is they are not cheap ($3.50 – $7/lb) and are not something you can base a meal around. Dessert, obviously, is another story.

Late spring is filled with gorgeous herbs and lettuces, and I am loving it. But I noticed last week that I was getting a little tired of eating salad for every meal. My limit is about 10 salads per week.

Baby Savoy Cabbages

Baby Savoy Cabbages

Summer Tomatoes

Summer Tomatoes

As a result I have been relying primarily on summer squash for my warm meals. Last week I bought some baby eggplant and made a delicious ratatouille. The baby savoy cabbages I got were wonderful pan-fried with spring onion and served on rice and lentils.

Artichokes are awesome right now, as are the fava beans, but both are a bit labor intensive.

I make an effort each week to buy some kale or chard so I have some nice hearty greens to eat.  Today I splurged on some squash blossoms, which are wonderful with eggs or stuffed with cheese and rosemary and fried tempura style.

Fresh Lavender

Fresh Lavender

Squash Blossoms

Squash Blossoms

I’m very much looking forward to the arrival of sweet bell peppers (a few did actually pop up this week at Happy Quail Farms), which I have no trouble eating every single day in the summertime. Mmmm….roasted peppers.

If you’re a flower person, now is the time to buy fresh lavender.

What vegetables are you finding at your farmers market these days? What do you do with them?

Today’s purchases:

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