Sunday, June 9, 2013

June Gloom

Santa Barbara is pretty spectacular most of the year, that is with the exception of the sixth month. Without fail, on the first day of said month, June Gloom arrives. It affects most of the coastal towns in California, unfortunately. Basically a cold, thick marine layer rolls in early every morning with a steady misting and usually socks in the town until late afternoon. Honestly, yesterday the sun didn't make an appearance until 5:30 pm. Basically, it sucks. I guess it's our punishment for being able to hang out at the beach in February. I know I'm not getting much sympathy over this situation, but can I just say it is wrong to be typing this in jeans, a long sleeve t-shirt, cashmere cardigan and boots with my space heater running when it is the ninth of June. It's probably the month I miss the South the most. June is when you're supposed to be running around in bare feet at the beach, licking popsicles while wearing a sundress, watching heat lightening in the evening from the porch.... June is when you're supposed to be having picnics, potlucks, lunch at the pool, BBQs, and eating a dish like this pasta. 

It's been on heavy rotation since this spring and I think it's perfect for summer too. I know pasta is the ultimate comfort food and often something you'd crave in the fall and winter, but I assure you this one is ideal for the warmer months. It's fresh and light, yet leaves you perfectly satisfied. 

The mint is a welcome twist on the usual basil you associate with pasta, the walnuts provide a buttery crunch, and the feta delivers the perfect salty note. The zucchini and shrimp are a great combo brought together with fresh lemon for some punchy acidity. It also comes together fairly quickly, which is a bonus because who wants to spend hours on a sunny summer day in the kitchen (I mean if you actually have hours of sun on a summer day)?

I do think it's key to use fresh pasta (be it linguini, pappardelle, or fettucini), which seems like you can find in most grocery stores these days. I made it with shrimp but it would be lovely with roasted or grilled chicken, or you could add spanish tuna or a can of white beans. It also works without any protein added as a fabulous side dish. 

As I said, I've made this at least a half-dozen times over the past few months and it is always a hit, even with kids. It just kind of screams summer to me with the mint, the lemon, and the zucchini. While fairly pedestrian summer ingredients, this recipe combines them with some smart flavoring to an incredible effect. 

The only negative that comes to mind was the last time I made it, I had a little accident with my salt shaker. Apparently the plug was loose (I'm not naming names but I do recall someone perhaps slightly inebriated at my house who was twisting the wrong end of the salt shaker), so when I went to place the shaker back on the counter, the bottom fell out and the salt went EVERYWHERE. This video does not do justice to the extent of the damage.

I'm incredibly grateful to the kitchen gods that it did not spill over the finished dish, although it was still a total pain to clean up. But as they say, you can't cry over spilt milk—or salt for that matter. 

Zucchini-Mint Pasta
from Southern Living

2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, diced
1 1/2 lb small zucchini, sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp fresh lemon zest
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
9-oz package refrigerated fettuccine pasta (or something similar), cooked according to directions
1/2 cup chopped mint
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
4 oz crumbled feta cheese

Melt butter with olive oil in large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat; add shallots and saute 2 minutes. Add zucchini and saute 5 minutes or until zucchini is tender. Stir in minced garlic and cook 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Toss in cooked pasta, fresh  mint, walnuts, and Parmesan. Sprinkle with feta cheese just before serving. 

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