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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Gay Camping & #Zoodles...

So I am going Gay-camping this weekend. No, not glamping, and certainly not the real rustic stuff so many bearded and Teva wearing folks engage in during the summer months. This is truly Gay-camping. Generally defined as sleeping in a tent at a resort with all or some of the following features; a pool, restaurants, cocktail bar, a place likely clothing optional, but definitely scandalous Speedo friendly…Think of it as beach-bar meets night-club meets the forest... I've already packed five of my smallest and brightest pieces of swimwear for the next two days (guilty). 

Naturally, I am panicking about my body. Should I decide to wear one of my briefest briefs, I don’t want to be cavorting in the woods having to wonder from what angle I might be seen. I mean, I’m not super concerned about the judgment of my friends nor the central Pennsylvania public I may encounter, but I hold certain aspects of my vanity close to my heart. I just want to be prepared.

Like any sane person, I have responded to my last minute realization of this (and lack of physical preparation), by attempting to crash diet. My general disdain for the minutia of the work week and the need to maintain civility at home, eliminate starvation as an option because the #hanger is real.

So, as I poll my family for donations of tents and other camping supplies in preparation, I have decided to give my cooking a more extreme health slant in the days leading up to the trip (see preview pic).

You’ve all seen the stop-motionesque 30-second Facebook videos from Tasty, or received the Pinterest recipe board notification from someone in whom (ironically) you are not interested at all,  espousing the incredible versatility of a Spiralizer, the glory of guilt-free zucchini pasta, and the picture perfect creation you can whip up with your eyes closed (riiiiiggghhhttt). 
#zoodles #whatisthat

Needless to say I am not a fan, for many reasons. Not least of which is the trend factor. I honestly do not want to hear about another “fast and fresh” dinner where you swap out something good (pasta) for something nutritionally void and infuriatingly bland (squash in general).  I especially don’t want to see your poorly lit, badly composed, over-filtered picture of soggy squash and some indistinguishable sauce captioned with the hash tag #zucchininoodes #lowcarb #cleaneating or the absolute worst - #zoodles. Honestly, #zoodles is unforgivable, it’s like tagging #broccolicheddar and posting a sad picture of soup. Only #zoodles is worse because it's unnecessarily abbreviated. I can’t with #zoodles, I’ll just be over here reposting your gram as #uglyfood.

Anyway, in case that rant wasn’t clear, I’m not into Zoodles, at least not until last night.

So last Saturday my fiancé and I took a trip to Williams Sonoma, and among other artifacts of our particular brand of consumerism, we picked up some European made Swissmar vegetable peelers. Kind of like a hand-held mandolin. Completely unnecessary, but like most things, they came home with us anyway.

#broccolicheddar #uglyfood
I had never even thought about making zucchini noodles until I first experimented with this new tool by shaving some carrot into a salad recently. The pieces came out long, and very thin, like orange spaghetti. I should have known it then, but Zoodles were undoubtedly in my future (ugh, I can’t believe I am typing that).

Flash forward to my current impending woodland Speedo sporting body panic phase, and the timing was perfect.

I picked up a basket of four large summer squash at the Sunday farmers market, mixed variety with a good diversity of color, bright yellows and greens would be perfect for my dish (and the photo to follow). I decided something simple, like a basic Bolognese Ragu would be ideal for this first foray into the world of alternative noodles. I started my onions and mushrooms for the sauce, and browned some lean ground beef to begin. After I deglazed with red wine, added tomato puree, seasonings and turned it down to simmer, turned to the squash. The process of making the Zoodles is likely easier with a Spiralizer, but I think my tool actually results in a finer cut, one more delicate and akin to angel hair than say a bulky Bucatini. I cooked the Zoodles very briefly in some olive oil, garlic powder, and too much salt. Too much salt turned out to be a life saver, as I was forced to rinse the Zoodles very briefly under cold water, which stopped their cooking and prevented them from getting too soggy. I returned them to my large pot and added the meat to my simmering sauce. I plated like I would any spaghetti dish and begrudgingly admitted to myself that the Zoodles looked brilliant under the light on a stark white plate. I topped with the Ragu and finished with a generous pinch of shaved parimigano for a rustic effect.  Needless to say the picture was flawless, and fortunately the flavor the same (but I mean, who’s shocked?).

In reality, I don’t know if it was due to the texture from my slicing tool, or the error I made over salting then rinsing, but the Zoodles were absolutely delicious. I know my sauce is delicious, so I was starting from a good place, but I was pleasantly surprised at how satisfying the Zoodles were in flavor, texture, and as a vehicle for the Bolognese. They definitely, and could not possibly, offer the chew or olfactory pleasure of real pasta, but for my current dietary predicament, they really fit the bill. In fact, my fiancé’s reviews were even stronger, and if you know how picky he can be, that is the proof in the pudding.

So, am I am fan of Zoodles? No, never will be, Zoodles isn’t going to happen, it will fade like Acai berries and Greek yogurt, and live on only in the most basic of kitchens and Instagrams.
But, if faced with less than a week until I have to be in Speedo shape, and if done just right, they are a wonderful stand-in for pasta. 

Enjoy, my one and probably only #Zoodles…because Gay-Camping.

Zoodles Bolognese

  • 4 Large Summer Squash
  • 16oz Lean Ground Beef
  • 1 medium White Onion – diced
  • 4 oz Cremini Mushrooms – Sliced and cleaned
  • 28 oz Tomato Puree
  • 1 Small Can Tomato Paste
  • 2 Tablespoons Garlic Powder – Divided
  • 1 Cup Red Wine
  • Dried Herbs to Taste: Bay, Basil, Oregano, Thyme
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste
  • 3 Tablespoon EVOO – Divided
  • Shaved Parmigiano Reggiano to Taste


In a large sauté pan, over medium heat, sweat the onion in the evoo until begins to be transparent, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and stir occasionally to keep form sticking as they brown. Turn the heat up and add the red wine, as it sizzles it will pull all the tasty pieces sticking to the pan into the liquid to add flavor to the sauce. Turn heat back to low and add the so tomato puree and seasonings stirring until completely incorporated. Allow to simmer on low while you cook the meat.
In another pan over medium heat, brown the ground beef and add the tomato paste about half way through, 8 minutes total. Drain excess fat and add to the simmering sauce.
While sauce simmers, use a Swissmar peeler, Spiralizer or mandolin to make long thing slices of the squash. Once all 4 are sliced into thin spaghetti- like noodles, toss in a hot pan with evoo and top with garlic powder and some salt. Just allow them to warm and get coated with oil, if they actually cook they can get soggy. Remove from heat and use a utensil to place Zoodles on a plate. Top with a ladle of you warm sauce and finish with shaved parmigiano reggiano.

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