IWhen you grow your own zucchini, you have the option of plucking them small — barely thicker than your index finger — and eating them raw. You can thinly slice them into small coins and marinate them with olive oil, lemon juice, and basil leaves for an effortless salad. Plucked in this tiny state, their flesh is sweet and waxy, their skin thin and pale. A calm and elegant late summer dish.
As they get bigger, I like to sear my zucchini in the fat from pancetta or streaky bacon, then sprinkle with white vinegar and whole parsley leaves. You can slice a large zucchini into strips with a vegetable peeler and sear on the griddle, then garnish with chopped anchovies, olive oil and finely chopped and seeded tomatoes. I also like the grilled ribbons marinated in salsa verde, with serrated pieces of bread to mop up the sloppy garlic dressing.
One of my first jobs in the restaurant was cooking zucchini for each table every night. After 12 months, I haven’t been able to look at anyone else for years, and even now there’s something of an implacability about them. When I grow them in the garden, I leave the last stragglers to the birds to peck at, as they will be full by early fall. They are reliable – cheap, reliable and easy to cook. A very good thing to have around you.
This week I cut several whoppers into rounds and baked them with pak choi, then put them back in the oven with lemongrass, chili and coconut cream. We ate them with brown rice. Larger ones (they seem to multiply in the fridge) were sliced and sprinkled with a little tangle of mushrooms, dill and juniper berries. It felt like a fitting end to their season.
Baked zucchini with lemongrass and coconut cream
This works best if you let the dressing on the zucchini become slightly crispy. Once pale golden, add the pak choi and coconut milk and bake until the zucchini is nicely toasted. For 2-3 people with rice
garlic 4 cloves
lemongrass 2 fat stalks
A bird’s-eye view of the chilies 2
ground turmeric 1 teaspoon
sea salt flakes ½ tsp
peanut oil 6 tbsp
Pak choi 2 fat heads
spring onions 3
coconut cream 200ml
steamed brown rice to serve
Peel and coarsely chop the ginger, then place in a food processor. Peel the garlic and add to the ginger. Remove the outer leaves of the lemongrass and the tough ends of the stalks, then chop and add to the bowl.
Halve the chili peppers lengthwise, remove the stalks and seeds and add to the ginger along with the turmeric and sea salt flakes. Process into a thick paste and pour in the oil while the blades are turning. Set the mixture aside (it will keep tightly covered in the fridge for several days).
Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6. Line a roasting pan with kitchen foil. Clean the zucchini and cut into thick slices (1 cm coins), then place in a bowl. Add the paste and toss to lightly coat the zucchini, then place in the foil-lined roasting pan. Bake 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, quarter each pak choi head lengthwise and finely chop the spring onions. Mix the bok choy and onions, then when the courgettes have cooked for 25 minutes, add the vegetables and coconut cream and mix gently.
Place the dish back in the oven and cook for a further 15-20 minutes until the pak choi is tender (stalks should remain slightly crispy, leaves soft), courgettes are golden. Serve in bowls with the steamed rice.
Mushrooms, zucchini and toasted crumbs
I usually prefer to grill or sauté zucchini. In this recipe, they’re given a few minutes in boiling salted water to provide a refreshing contrast to the fried mushrooms and crunchy herb crumbs. 2-3 servings
shallots 2, large
vegetable oil 3 tbsp
garlic 3 large cloves
small brown mushrooms 200 g
Dijon mustard 2 Tea spoons
dill 2 tbsp, chopped
juniper berries 6, slightly crushed
olive oil 3 tbsp
fresh white breadcrumbs 45g
pumpkin seed 2 tbsp
Parsely a handful, roughly chopped Lemon peel from ½ lemon, finely grated
Peel and finely chop the shallots. Heat the oil in a pan, then add the shallots and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, for 6 or 7 minutes. Peel and finely slice the garlic, add to the shallots and cook for a further 4 or 5 minutes until soft, pale golden and fragrant.
Thinly slice the mushrooms (about a pound-coin thickness) and add to the shallots and cook until tender and light brown (about 7 minutes). Season with salt, black pepper and mustard. Stir in the dill and lightly crushed juniper berries.
Finally: Heat the olive oil in a separate pan over a moderate heat, add the breadcrumbs and toast until golden, tossing the pan regularly. When nicely toasted, add the pumpkin seeds, chopped parsley, and lemon zest and set aside.
While the mushrooms are cooking, bring a saucepan of water to the boil and lightly salt. Cut the courgettes into thick slices and add them to the water. Cook for a minute or two until translucent, then drain and place on a flat serving dish. They should be left a little crispy, I think, but cook to your own taste.
Place the mushrooms over the courgettes, sprinkle with the seeds and toasted breadcrumbs and serve.
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