Sweeter than the Sum of Its Parts

by paige on September 8, 2010

ONLY WHEN I sat down to contemplate this week’s Summer Fest assignment did I face up to this paradoxical truth: I put garlic in just about everything I make, and I am also a garlic avoider.

My pesto? Generally garlic-free. Garlic bread? Tasty, but I’d rather dip into plain (excellent) olive oil any day. I love the vinaigrette my friend makes, heady with chopped garlic, but I never add it to my own version. That said, pretty much any stew, soup, sauté or braise I make is loaded with carefully (and sometimes not so carefully) minced cloves. So garlic is an important note, but not, it turns out, one I like to bring to the fore. Some of this is tragic biology: when I eat raw garlic, it takes forever for me to stop feeling like I’ve got eau de garlic coming out of every pore. But it’s also about balancing flavors: I like garlic best when its bite is underlining other tastes. Which makes it darn hard to pick a recipe that features garlic.

And then, as I was contemplating the pile of zucchini that (yes, still) overwhelms my fridge, I realized what I eat, all summer long (and, it turns out, fall too) that is all about garlic. All about garlic, that is, married to the sweet, sometimes astringent flavor of zucchini, producing a combination that, to me, is way, way more than the sum of its humble parts.

Spaghetti with Garlic and Zucchini
Serves 4

1 lb. dried spaghetti
2 T olive oil
6-8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2-3 medium zucchini, julienned on a mandoline
1 t kosher salt
1/8 t pepperoncini or other crumbled dried chile
freshly grated parmesan cheese, the best you can find and afford–quality makes a huge difference

Place the julienned zucchini in a colander in the sink, and sprinkle with the salt. Allow to drain for 20 minutes or so, then rinse, and finally squeeze out as much water as you can without breaking down the zucchini slivers.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil and add pasta. Cook al dente, according to package directions and/or your taste.

While the pasta cooks, heat a sauté pan over medium heat and add the chopped garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is aromatic, golden and softening, but preferably not brown and crispy. Add the zucchini, and sauté until just cooked through. If it browns slightly, that’s fine, but your goal is lovely bright green strands to intermingle with your pasta.

Drain the spaghetti and add as much as you can to your sauté pan (if it won’t all fit, that’s ok–you can mix more in to each bowl as you serve, if you need to) and toss to combine with the zucchini. Sprinkle with the pepperoncini, to taste.

Serve immediately with as much freshly grated parmesan as you desire.

SUMMER FEST IS A cross-blog recipe (and tip) swap–and you’re invited to participate. Simply post your link or recipe or idea in the comments below my post, and also on the blogs of the other participants listed here. Want more information? Get the details (and the schedule for upcoming weeks). My collaborators’ goodies:

Todd and Diane at White on Rice Couple: Garlic Knots
Nicole at Pinch My Salt: Spicy Pickled Garlic
Sara at Food2: Easiest Recipes Ever, Starring Garlic
Michelle on Cooking Channel: Roasted Garlic
Liz at Healthy Eats: 5 Reasons to Eat More Garlic
Kirsten at FN Dish: Garlic Chicken Greats
Margaret at A Way to Garden: Growing and Storing a Year of Garlic
Caroline at the Wright Recipes: Ajo Blanco Soup, and Confit Garlic
The Gilded Fork: Garlic Dossier and Recipes
Food Network UK: Glorious Garlic
Alana at Eating from the Group Up: Pickled Garlic
Cate at Sweetnicks: Double Dose of Garlic—Cuban Black Beans and The Best Pork Ever
Caron at San Diego Foodstuff: Italian Marinated Eggplant and Sorrel and Garlic Sauce

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Prerna@IndianSimmer September 8, 2010 at 10:46 am

Wow, adding garlic in pasta is the my most favorite way nest to garlic chicken for getting that garlicy flavor which I love. I always add tons of garlic in my pasta. Thanks for sharing the recipe!
Here’s what I did with garlic this week

Nicole September 8, 2010 at 11:44 am

I also tend to shy away from adding much raw garlic to things, but I cook with it all the time. Spaghetti with garlic, olive oil, and red pepper is one of my favorite simple dishes and I absolutely love the idea of adding the zucchini strands. Can’t wait to try this!

Ranjani September 8, 2010 at 11:53 am

Yum, sounds simple and delicious. I like how cutting zucchini into julienne rather than slices can make it seem like a totally different vegetable
This week I made garlic soup with poached eggs:

Michelle September 8, 2010 at 1:24 pm

sounds so good and recipe could be used with nearly any vegetable (like the pile of red peppers I have in my ‘fridge?) though I’m not sure I agree with you on the garlic bread, I’d eat it for every meal. bad breath, schmad breath.

Stephanie @ Dollop of Cream September 8, 2010 at 8:40 pm

Oooh, I love the idea of the julienned zucchini mixed with the pasta and garlic.

My contribution to Fall Fest this week is a gentle nudge to plant your own garlic. It’s so very easy!

Kathleen September 9, 2010 at 10:03 am

Sounds delicious. Love the zucchini in this recipe. I made some garlic chicken this week for Summer Fest.

art and lemons September 10, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Garlic, zucchini, and Parmesan cheese tossed with pasta is one of my summertime staples! Your chile version sounds like a great way to heat up the dish.

For Fall Fest, I made sofrito:


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