I have a new cookbook coming out any day now, called “The Almond Milk Cookbook.” It’s the first book of mine that I’m conflicted about, but I’ll save my remarks for when it’s actually out. Maybe by then my issues with it will have found resolution (Grrr! Don’t hold your breath). It’s important in life—as my father taught me—to keep a sense of humor, lest the wee, ultimately insignificant things rise up and smite.
I try to keep all my published recipes accessible to the average home cook, although I also try to stretch the envelope a little in terms of flavor, ingredients, techniques and presentation. I do this as a matter of habit, for my own satisfaction, but I figure that with all the gazillions of cookbooks out there, I owe it to anyone who buys mine to include a little unusual something the others might not have. My editor slaps me down when she thinks I’ve gotten too wild for people, which is probably a good thing. The wildness in me is inextricably entwined with the creative impulse, and I have no wish to tame it, so having an editor to do the taming is of inestimable value.
The dish below came to me last summer, when my wife’s garden was bursting with produce, especially zucchini (which I love). It got to the point where we had to go out and check the zucchini plants every day to catch the fast-growing squashes before they ballooned (suddenly, it seemed) into gigantic cudgels—a sad turn of events, because size is a function of water content, and the bigger they get, the less flavorful. The ones I picked for the first run were perfect, none of them thicker than one inch.
One point that isn’t made in the book is that the best results are achieved by using fresh corn (although frozen kernels will work just fine). When you’ve cut the kernels off the cobs, turn the knife over and use the back to scrape the remaining juicy starch into the same bowl. Add it all to the dish and proceed with the recipe. This, by the way, is the unedited version of the recipe, so don’t be surprised if the one in the book is somewhat altered (and by the way, if you’ve bought the book, thank you!).
Zucchini Pappardelle with Corn Cream
Makes 4 servings
In Italian cuisine, pappardelle are flat noodles, about an inch wide, which are usually served with rich creamy sauces and gravies. Look for young zucchini not much thicker than your thumb for the best results, but if none are available, don’t let that stop you. Zucchini and corn are a spectacular match under any circumstances, and this is among the best I’ve ever tasted. It’s light enough to serve as a first course.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup finely diced white onion
2 cups white corn
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon unrefined sea salt
2 pounds young zucchini
3 tablespoons snipped chives
Salt and pepper, to taste
Put the oil and onion in a large saucepan over medium heat and stir well. Spread the onion out to cover the bottom of the pan evenly. Cover the pan and decrease the heat to the lowest setting. Allow the onions to “sweat” for 30 minutes. Check occasionally and add 1 tablespoon of water, if needed to prevent the onion from sticking.
Increase the heat to medium-high and add the corn, almond milk, garlic and salt, stirring well. When the mixture comes to a boil, adjust the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until the corn is tender, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a blender and process until smooth. Return to the pot and cook over medium heat until the mixture forms a sauce thick enough to coat a spoon. Season to taste with the salt and pepper. Add 2 tablespoons of the chives and stir.
While the corn mixture is cooking, prepare the zucchini. Trim the ends and then cut the zucchini thinly lengthwise. A mandoline is very helpful in obtaining thin, uniform slices. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the zucchini. Cook until the zucchini is just tender, about 1 to 2 minutes, depending on thickness. Immediately drain thoroughly and add to the corn sauce. Toss gently but thoroughly.
Divide the zucchini and sauce among 4 plates. Garnish with the remaining 1 tablespoon chives and serve at once.