It has taken forever for me to upload and sort out the photos of our trip to Arizona – don’t worry I’m not going to post them all here. Disappointingly, and as we had feared, the Grand Canyon simply doesn’t photograph well with the lens that we have. It is truly impossible to describe the beauty of that place, the awesomeness (real definition of the word) of what you’re looking at, and glory of Mother Nature. The trip was one natural wonder after another, from the drive down to southern Arizona with mesas in the distance, to the petrified forest and the painted desert, from the drive to Monument Valley (the scene of so many westerns), to the jaw-dropping, tear-inducing (on my part – Dad was very manly about the whole thing), utterly amazing wonder that is the Grand Canyon. Natural wonders apart, we saw the Lowell Institute where Pluto was discovered; stood on the corner in Winslow, Arizona (and had Take It Easy going through our heads for days); ate some wonderful meals, almost all with a south-western flavour; saw John Wayne’s cabin; and saw more turquoise jewellery and Navajo rugs than you can shake a stick at.
Wet petrified wood in the Petrified Forest
Left Mitten, Monument Valley
Sunset, Grand Canyon
South-western food almost always has a bite to it. The Mexican influence cannot really be avoided and nor did we want to. Lime has always been a favourite flavour of mine. I find it a very clean taste and much prefer it to lemon. We ate all kinds of guacamole, from the simplest with just lime and chilli, to much more complicated with lime, chilli, onion, tomato, coriander and other seasonings which I couldn’t immediately identify. Salsa was eaten in all sorts of forms too – none quite as hot as the one eaten at Guadalajara in Tucson, thankfully. We had traditional dishes, fusion dishes and new south-western cookery – none of which we disliked and all of which were much appreciated. The obvious thing would be to give you a recipe for one of these dishes? Indeed but I’m not going to yet! Autumn is drawing in, and people are back at university. Some people don’t have a huge amount of money for one reason or another. Some of you don’t have much time. So I’m giving you an easy, quick and warming recipe.
Pasta with Courgettes and Cheese
- 2 medium courgettes
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium shallot, finely chopped – you can use a small onion but the flavour won’t be quite as sweet
- 1 large celery stalk, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, diced
- 250 g / 8 oz pasta – like penne, orechiette or fusilli. This recipe is a US recipe and the quantity may be too much. Recommended amount of pasta for one person is usually 75 g. Leftovers are not the end of the world though!
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 125 g / 4 oz cheese – I have used both blue cheese like gorgonzola or a strong Cheddar
- 2 tbsp parsley, chopped – not necessary for flavour but looks pretty
- Parmesan to grate on top
Bring water to boil for pasta. Cook pasta. Meanwhile wash, trim and grate the courgettes.
Heat the oil and butter. Add the shallot/onion and celery. Cook at medium heat until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the courgettes and cook until soft. Season.
Just as pasta is about ready, add lemon juice and 6 tbps of pasta water to the vegetables. Add cheese. Stir. Add parsley and simmer for a few seconds.
Drain the pasta. Add to pan with vegetables and stir carefully, coating the pasta with the vegetable mix. Cook for about a minute.
Serve immediately and grate fresh Parmesan on top.