When you’re dealing with a good product, you don’t mess with it too much. Here on the South Fork, there’s no doubt about it, we are at peak tomato season. But just like with most things, there’s a time and place for everything. Not only is it uber convenient, but truth be told, sometimes the jarred stuff just hits better. Case in point is this zoodles fra diavolo, brought to us by Vine Street Café’s executive chef Terry Harwood. They’ve got this whole jarred tomato sauce thing down to a science, and we are here for it.
“We grow the tomatoes and jar our market sauces in-house,” says Harwood, “and with its complex blend of tomatoes, garlic, herbs, and spices, it is truly ready to use.”
Knowing the love and dedication that is put into the sauce, not to mention its oh-so-helpful time-saving factor, VSC’s tomato sauce has gained pantry staple status. “Heirloom tomatoes are fruitier tasting than plum or San Marzano tomatoes,” explains Harwood, who grows them specifically for this summertime menu mainstay at the 20-year-old Shelter Island restaurant. While much of the recipe uses traditional ingredients typically found in this little-bit-spicy, classic-for-a-reason, Italian-American dish, featuring local clams, lobster, and mussels, it swaps out the linguini for zucchini bringing a lighter, healthier twist in comparison to its gluten-rich co-hort.
And while one pound of julienned zucchini might look like a lot of veg, “it does cook down to a manageable size once it steams in the pan,” says Harwood. This is certainly the time to bust out that vegetable spiralizer to create those cutesy zoodle shapes. Otherwise, a sharp kitchen knife–and a little patience–will do the trick.
A few tips from chef if doing by hand- don’t use the pulpy insides for the zoodles; it’ll make for a too watery consistency. Instead, cut your zucchini in half, scoop out the insides, and, slowly but surely, cut into long, thin strips. This ensures the zoodles will have that desired al dente texture as if it were pasta, while simultaneously soaking up all that tomato-ey goodness.. To serve, top with a drizzle of olive oil and a handful of torn basil leaves, for that perfect little pop of color and freshness. Friendly reminder: this is also the time for that crusty bread moment. Toasted demi baguettes smeared with sea-salted butter, to sop up all that yummy liquid, are preferred.
“This is a quick sort of clambake that can be prepared over a fire at the beach, in your backyard fire pit, or on the stove in your kitchen,” explains Harwood, “for simplicity, it’s important to use our jarred sauce.”
Yet another of the countless reasons to visit Shelter Island! Vine Street Café’s adjoining market is located behind the restaurant, where you’ll find fresh foods to-go, gourmet essentials, and of course, their line of sauces and condiments. “Our market customers really stock up on this versatile sauce,” reiterates Harwood, “it makes a great pantry staple that is ready to go without a moment’s notice.”
Vine Street Café’s zoodles fra diavolo
- 1 jar VSC Basic Heirloom Tomato Sauce
- 12 littleneck clams
- 15 to 20 mussels
- 8 to 10 shrimp size u16 to u20
- 1 tbsp butter optional
- 1 lb julienned zucchini about 4 zucchini
- sea salt, cracked pepper, dried chili flakes to taste
- 1 to 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 handful freshly torn basil leaves
- toasted baguette with salted butter
- 1 handful parmesan cheese optional
- fresh chilies optional