Continuing my healthy January and another use for zucchini - zucchini inspiration #6. I am kept in plentiful supply by the wonderful Epicurean Supplies. Just as well as mine continue to be on a seemingly permanent strike. It does look like there are little ones developing in there but they just never seem quite to make it to full grown zucchini let alone any marrows.
This is another recipe inspired by Self.com. It is bright and full of fresh Summer flavours and goodness: zucchini, spinach, sweet cherry tomatoes and fragrant basil. With the wholewheat pasta and grilled chicken it is also satisfying, key when one is trying to be virtuous. Almost 3 weeks in and I feel very much the better for my healthy living, though I do confess I am looking forward to a wee vino the weekend after next!
In the meantime I am enjoying healthy eating and a fairly serious amount of exercise as I retain a little New Year's zeal, well a serious amount for me anyway. I have strangely been enjoying the increased exercise schedule. That is in spite of the pain and effort, it has all been oddly satisfying. Maybe I am treading that fine line between pleasure and pain. The gym has moved to a fabulous new location where everything is sparkly and new, so that may well be helping.
There is only one thing not working and that is the air conditioning. Given the drizzle, extreme humidity and high temperatures we have been having in Auckland that was not a good thing. Post my 45 minute jog and walk I resembled a bit of a tomato myself. It was a totally futile exercise to even attempt to put on make up and don't get me started on straightening my fringe! What with the humidity and lack of air conditioning my poor body just couldn't recover from the shock of all that cardio or stop resembling a tomato, let alone cool down. The last time I felt this hot was in the sauna that is a Dubai Summer.
The make up slid off as quickly as I could put it on and the moment I got outside the drizzle put the end to my fringe. Arrived at work looking like some sort of red faced rag doll that had been dragged through the proverbial hedge backwards. But at least the air conditioning was working!
Chicken & Summer Vegetable Wholewheat Spaghetti, adapted from Self.com
4 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut in to 1 inch / 2cm pieces
140g wholewheat spaghetti, or you could use regular spaghetti
2 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic clove crushed
1 pinch chilli flakes, less or more is also fine depending on your heat preference
4 zucchini, sliced on the diagonal - green, yellow whatever you have
6 cups spinach
2 cups mixed cherry tomatoes, halved. I had a wonderful mix of red, blush and yellow from Epicurean Supplies.
1 bunch of fresh basil, roughly chopped
4 spring onion, chopped
Salt and pepper
Put the pasta on in a large pot with plenty of boiling salted water. Cook for a minute or 2 less than what the packet says. You still want a little bite and I always find if you cook as per the instructions it ends up over cooked.
For the chicken cook fat-less in a griddle pan or with just a a little oil in a frying pan. Season with salt and pepper and cook for a few minutes each side until cooked through, about 8-10 minutes. The benefit of the griddle pan is the char grilling which will give that great smokey flavour.
Meanwhile in another frying pan add the olive oil, garlic and chilli flakes. Fry over a medium heat for a few minutes to allow the garlic and chilli to infuse the olive oil. Add the zucchini slices and fry until not quite done, again you want a little texture rather than watery mush. Add the spinach and allow it to wilt for a moment. It will look like a huge green mountain of spinach, but it will cook down very quickly. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook for another moment or 2 just to warm them through and to release a little of their juice. At the last minute add the basil and spring onion.
Add the spaghetti to the pan and toss with all the vegetables to allow. To serve top with the chicken.
This one could become a Summer regular. It even looks like Summer on a plate with the bright red and yellow cherry tomatoes, yellow and green zucchini, flecked with the dark green spinach, the vibrant green basil and the bright white and green of the spring onion.
I love pasta and really enjoy the nuttiness of wholewheat pasta, especially when cooked al dente and retaining a good bite, it really adds texture to this dish. The char grilling gives the chicken that great BBQ flavour. The zucchini still had texture and was full of flavour from the chilli and garlic. There was a burst of sweetness from the cherry tomatoes, a fresh aromatic hit from the basil, a clean, fresh bite from the spring onion and just a little heat from the chilli. For a relatively simple dish this one has an abundance of flavours and texture that will leave you feeling both satisfied and virtuous!