Written by Chef Alan Zox, email@example.com Thursday, 22 August 2013 09:39
In The Silver Spoon, the renowned 50-year-old Italian cookbook recently published in English, there are 37 recipes for zucchini and six for zucchini flowers. An ample number are found in most cookbooks because zucchini is so plentiful, inexpensive and delicious and because there are so many different ways to prepare them. They are also easy and fun to grow.
During my childhood, our garden was large enough to enable zucchini and pumpkin to grow as large as possible. Their long vines wrapped themselves around the tomato plants as though they belonged to them. It really was an embarrassment of vegetable riches. We were always offering these vegetables to friends and neighbors. But it wasn’t always easy to give them away in late August since everyone had a surplus of the ever present summer squash available to them.
I was particularly drawn to the speed at which our vegetables would grow. It seemed they could double in size over night. And sometimes it seemed they would grow as long as a baseball bat. I remember dreaming that our crop was going to grow up to our home and invade us. My mother told me if this happened we would just make more soup for family, friends and neighbors. My scary dreams disappeared.
This year the local farmer’s markets are again filled with zucchini. My favorite recipes have grown as well. I love to stuff them, bake them, fry them, steam them and roast them. Zucchini also plays a significant role in the recent publication of vegetarian cookbooks like Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Literacy. And we see them throughout London Chef Yotam Ottolenghi’s vegetarian cookbooks Plenty, and in his newest release Jerusalem, co- authored by friend and business partner, Sami Tamimi. Both Israeli native Chef Ottolenghi Palestinian ex-pat Tamimi believe that food is the salve to find peace in the Middle East. Both are hopeful that the popularity of their book Jerusalem will facilitate this belief.
Here’s a short recipe that stuffs zucchini in a different way and another that brings us a zucchini salad that is wonderful tasting and simple to make either on your outdoor grill or under your broiler.
Stuffed Zucchini — Serves 6
Best chilled (Inspired by a Turkish recipe in Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty)
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 2/3 cup short grain rice, like Arborio
• 2 tablespoons currants or raisins
• 1 tablespoon pine nuts
• 2 tablespoons parsley, plus extra to garnish
• ½ teaspoon dried mint
• ½ teaspoon allspice
• ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
• ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
• 3 tablespoons lemon juice
• 3 medium zucchini
• ¾ cup boiling water
• 1 ½ tablespoon sugar
• Salt and black pepper
Sauté the onion in the oil until softened. Add the rice, currants, pine nuts, parsley, mint, spices and half the lemon juice. Continue cooking on low heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Halve the zucchini lengthways along the center and use a spoon to scoop out some of the flesh to make “boats.” Place in a shallow saucepan that is large enough to accommodate them side by side. Fill them with the rice stuffing. Pour the boiling water, remaining lemon juice, sugar and some salt around the zucchini. The liquid should not come as high as the filling.
Simmer, covered, for 30- 40 minutes, basting the filling occasionally with the cooking juices. The zucchini are ready when the rice is al dente and almost all the juices have evaporated. Allow to cool down completely before refrigerating. Garnish with chopped parsley when serving.
Grilled Zucchini And Nut Salad — Serves 4
(Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty)
• 1/ 3 cup shelled hazelnuts, walnuts or cashews
• 7 small zucchini
• 4 tablespoons olive oil
• Salt and black pepper
• 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
• 1 ¼ cups mixed greens and radicchio
• 3 ounces parmesan reggiano, broken up or thinly sliced
• 2 tablespoons hazelnut, walnut or other nut oil
Preheat the oven to 300F. Scatter the hazelnuts over a baking sheet and roast for 12 to 15 minutes, or until nicely browned. Let them cool down before chopping roughly or just crushing lightly with the side of a large knife. Place a ridged griddle pan on a high heat and leave it there until it’s almost red hot — at least 5 minutes. Meanwhile, trim the ends of the zucchini and cut them on an angle into 3/8 inch thick slices. Place them in a bowl and toss with half the olive oil and some salt and pepper. Place the slices in the hot grill pan and char grill for about 2 minutes on each side; turn them over using tongs. You want to get distinct char marks without cooking the zucchini through. Transfer to a mixing bowl, pour over the balsamic vinegar, toss together and set aside. Once the zucchini have cooled down, add the remaining olive oil, the basil and hazelnuts or whatever nut you choose to use. Mix lightly, then taste and adjust the seasoning accordingly. Transfer the salad to a flat plate, incorporating the Parmesan and drizzle over the oil of choice. Really delicious.
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