Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Shredded Zucchini and Chick Peas Over Polenta: Zukin' It Out

by Rachel, who is filling in this week for Kris.

My live-in boyfriend, J (the smarty who makes awesome gazpacho) has a delightful younger sister. We'll call her Sassypants.

A few weeks ago, Sassypants came in from Boston to stay with us for a few days. She's a razor-sharp journalist with great style and an awesome sense of humor. Needless to say, we love her bunches. And since Sassypants is in her early 20s and working creative-type jobs, she's also trying to keep her expenditures on the small side. Although we're not exactly heirs to the McDuck fortune, Jeff and I figured it'd be nice to be benevolent older sibling-types and subsidize a chunk of her food and drink.

In the days before she arrived, I was in crunch-mode at the dayjob, and even crunchier-mode at the nightjob. By the time Sassypants' Bolt Bus alit upon Penn Station, I was totally unprepared in the food department. Crap.

We made the most of some inexpensive neighborhood eateries and McCarren Park farmers market and our local cheap-o supermarket, but by the time Sunday night rolled around, I was wiped and fairly out of ideas. Hoping inspiration would strike, I took a look through our pantry, where I spotted two cans of Goya chickpeas. A promising beginning. Then, in the fridge, I found a hidden stash of my homemade tomato sauce, a few medium sized zucchini, some garlic, and a tube of pre-made sundried tomato polenta I'd gotten at the store weeks before. It was languishing behind some goat gouda.*

In a "duh" moment, this recipe came together. It looks fancier than it is, tastes awesome, and gets high marks for the low-fat/high flavor front. And isn't it nice when you can look like a culinary rockstar in front of the in-laws? I say, hells-to-the-yes.

*I often describe myself the same way.

Shredded Zucchini and Chick Peas Over Polenta
Serves 4

1 1/2 pounds zucchini (about 3 medium), ends trimmed and cut crosswise into 2" pieces
1 heaping teaspoon of kosher salt
3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
1⁄2 teaspoon olive oil, divided
Cooking spray
1 15-ounce can of chick peas, drained and rinsed
1 scant cup of marinara sauce (NOTE: I used my homemade stash, but feel free to substitute what you've got.)
1 package of pre-made sundried tomato polenta, cut into 1⁄4" rounds (NOTE: I was super lazy, and bought the pre-made, fat-free stuff. You could also easily make your own.)
2 ounces of grated goat gouda (NOTE: I used Arina brand goat gouda.)
Salt and pepper to taste

1) Shred zucchini on the largest setting of a box grater. Toss with a heaping teaspoon of salt, place in a colander set over a bowl, and allow to drain, 15-30 minutes. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible.

2) Coat a non-stick pan with 1⁄4 teaspoon of the oil with several sprays of cooking spray, and heat over a medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until aromatic and starting to browned, about 30 seconds. Add the zucchini, stir, and cook through, about 6-7 minutes.

3) Add chickpeas, and cook through, 1-2 minutes. Add sauce and saute until heated through, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a separate bowl, and season with salt and pepper.

4) Wipe out the pan, and heat the remaining oil over a medium heat. In several batches, add the polenta rounds, and sauté until just browned (roughly three minutes per side). In the center of each plate, arrange four polenta rounds so that their sides are touching (or in a "diamond" pattern). Top with a light coating of gouda. Mound the zucchini mixture on top, and sprinkle with additional gouda.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price Per Serving
305 calories, 8.4 g fat, $2.14

1 1/2 pounds zucchini (about 3 medium): 109 calories, 1.2 g fat, $1.48
3 cloves garlic: 13 calories, 0 g fat, $0.10
1⁄2 teaspoon olive oil: 20 calories, 2.3 g fat, $0.02
Cooking spray: negligible calories and fat, $0.03
1 15-ounce can of chick peas, drained and rinsed: 350 calories, 7 g fat, $.75
1 cup marinara sauce: 140 calories, 3 g fat, $0.70
1 package of pre-made sundried tomato polenta: 360 calories, 0 g fat, $3.99
2 ounces of grated goat gouda : 228 calories, 20 g fat, $1.48
Kosher salt/pepper: negligible calories and fat, $0.01

TOTAL: 1220 calories, 33.5 g fat, $8.56
PER SERVING (TOTAL/4): 305 calories, 33.5 g fat, $2.14

(Photos courtesy of Flickr members Svadilfari


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