As we all know, life can get pretty hectic sometimes, especially on a mid-week night. This is when Mummy and Daddy get back rather late from work, there are plenty of things to do, there’s a baby parrot who needs to be entertained and dinner has to be ready early enough for Chef Gerald to be able to sample it before bed-time. And if you’re a parrot, bed-time is rather early, because you definitely need your beauty (read anticrankiness) sleep. Indeed, a sleep-deprived parrot is a force not to be reckoned with, and a psittacine chef who does not have a freshly-cooked dinner to sample before bed time is even more fierce.
This is why, at Bistro Gerard, we are always in search of recipes that are easy to put together on a week night. As much as possible, we try to do this without resorting to ready-made sauces and pastes, and the usual strategy is to find dishes that rely on only a few fresh ingredients to make them very tasty. Yes, we admit to having jars of minced chilli and ginger and tomato paste/puree as some of our pantry staples, but we always prefer to make our own pasta sauces. We find they always taste better when they’re freshly made (especially when most ingredients have been personally sampled and approved by Chef Gerald himself) and we can always ensure that no scary unpronounceable ingredient has sneakily made its way onto our plate 🙂
This week, the Bistro kitchen had such an abundant supply of zucchini that even Chef Gerald, who absolutely loves this vegetable, decided using most of it for a zucchini-based speedy dinner idea would still leave plenty for his daily fix.
The inspiration came from Neil Perry’s recipe for Pasta with Simple Zucchini Sauce. As usual, we felt the need to tweak things a bit, so this is what we did differently:
We used penne instead of orechiette, but that was simply because this was the only choice available in our favourite spelt pasta brand.
We added a bunch of rainbow chard to the sauce. If you have been following our recent posts, you will know by now that we’ve had chard nearly on a weekly basis lately and just can’t seem to get enough of it J We just prepared it the usual way: we thoroughly rinsed it, removed the stems and shredded the leaves. Then we cooked it in a heated frying pan for about 3 minutes, until the leaves were wilted and the liquid had evaporated. We then removed it from heat, and added it to the zucchini sauce (prepared according to Neil’s recipe) in the last stages of cooking, enough to ensure that it was heated through.
We also incorporated about 2 tbsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice to the sauce – it was just a last moment impulse, it just seemed that the chard and zucchini combination were begging for the lemony zing. It worked really well though.
One last note on this dish is that it requires quite a bit of olive oil for the sauce – we used 4 tbsp and could have done with some more. You will notice that the recipe does not specify the quantity, which in this case should really read: use as much as you’re comfortable with. For us, oily dishes are always cringe-indulging, so we prefer to err on the side of caution… You can also drizzle some extra olive oil on the dish just before being served.
The final result was a satisfying pasta dinner, where the chillies provided only some background heat, and the earthy anchovy flavour nicely complemented the vegetables.