I USED to think the courgette was the vegetable that flavour forgot and have lost count of the times I have been served pallid little discs simply boiled or steamed in restaurants. But my wife likes them so I have to think up tasty ways to cook.
It wasn’t so much case of away with courgettes as a way with courgettes!
Courgettes, of course, have this blotting paper capacity for absorbing flavours and Mediterranean kitchens know what melodies you can play with olive oil, garlic, lemon and herbs. And flour. Blogger Jane Sofos has a tempting picture of battered courgette ribbons on her excellent website www.kouzinacooking.com a rhapsody on Greek food and landscape seen from the eye of a Sheffield woman.
I have yet to try this but often add courgette rolls to our ‘Italian evenings’ at home – Parma ham, finocchiona (fennel salami), Gorgonzola, oven roasted tomatoes and focaccia with a good Italian white. I used to love seeing this delicacy in Nonna’s deli: griddled ribbons of courgette (or should I say zucchini as this dish is Italian?) wrapped around a stuffing and bathed in oil. It was so good last time my wife asked if I could bottle some so I did.
From one decent-sized but not over-large courgette, washed with the ends left on, I got 12 thin slices, using a vegetable peeler, pressed hard. They were put in a bowl with a tablespoon of olive oil, minced garlic and thyme with salt and pepper and left to marinate while I heated the griddle. The strips cooked in a couple of minutes and I put them to cool in another bowl with the juice of half of half a lemon. I also griddled the ‘offcuts’ which I would chop and use in the stuffling.
Earlier this year I bought a couple of pots of Moroccan mint and it has grown vigorously in an old metal filing cabinet drawer onto which someone had soldered four legs then thrown over a fence near the Dronfield sewage works some years ago. I rescued it on a blackberrying expedition.
The mint has a vivid heady smell and flavour but I have not used it as much as I should. I made up for it by cutting off big handfuls and chopping it up finely. I added a few homemade nasturtium ‘capers,’ a little garlic, the chopped offcuts and added the drained lemon juice. The next job was to lay out each courgette strip and paste a teaspoonful of the mixture along its length before rolling it up tightly and securing with half a cocktail stick. You only need to do this last if you are putting them in jars. You can pack them neatly in a dish if you are going to eat them immediately.
Of course you don’t have to use mint. It could be feta. Or chopped walnuts and herbs. Or simply strips in lemon and olive oil. But mint is what I had and I could make it for pennies. I can’t wait to eat it.
*IT occurs to me that my last couple of posts have been all about preserving – home marinated olives and pickled eggs – and my blogging chum Craig Harris has countered with oven roasted tomatoes and balsamic onions at www.craigscrockpot.wordpress.com a blog so passionate and enthusiastic you can feel the heat of his kitchen. We are not in competition but if he ups the ante I’ll be ready!