I mentioned yesterday the absurd amount of zucchini I bought at the farmers market. Many times when I have an item that I am not sure how I want to cook, I will either look to Martha Stewart or the New York Times Recipes for Health. For an item like zucchini, NY Times is definitely the go-to. The Recipes for Health are generally pretty simple and, as the name denotes, healthy. When I saw the Rice Noodles with Zucchini, Tomatoes, and Fresh Mint, I knew it was the perfect recipe; I had all the ingredients necessary already in my kitchen.
I also decided to cook up the pimientos de patron that I picked up at the aforementioned farmers market. Pimientos de patron are one of my favorite treats. I love peppers, and these little guys are just delicious. All they need is a quick saute in olive oil and a dusting of coarse salt.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 to 2 garlic cloves (to taste), minced
1 pound zucchini, cut in 1/4-inch dice
1 pound tomatoes, peeled, seeded* and cut in 1/4-inch dice, or 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, partially drained
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
7 to 8 ounces thin rice sticks
3 to 4 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan or pecorino or crumbled feta (optional)
* To seed the tomatoes, cut the tomatoes in half along the equator, place a strainer over a bowl and seed the tomatoes into the strainer. Rub the gelatinous seed pods against the strainer to extract flavorful juice, and discard the seeds.
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, place the rice sticks in a large bowl, and cover with hot water. Let sit 20 minutes, until pliable. Drain and cut the noodles in half, into roughly 6- to 8-inch lengths, with kitchen scissors.
2. While the rice sticks are soaking, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat in a wide, heavy skillet, and add the garlic. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds, and add the zucchini. Cook, stirring, until the zucchini begins to soften and the skin becomes bright green, about three minutes. Add the tomatoes with juice and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring often, for 6 to 10 minutes until the zucchini is tender and the tomatoes have begun to break down. Remove from the heat, taste and adjust seasonings, and set aside.
3. When the water comes to a boil, salt generously and add the rice sticks. Boil one minute and drain. Toss with the zucchini and tomato mixture, the remaining olive oil and the mint. Serve, passing the cheese for people to sprinkle on at the table.