Zucchini or courgettes? Same difference; it just depends where you live. For some unexplained reason, we Brits took the French name for this delicate and delicious vegetable, while Americans preferred the Italian name — which is also strange, because the whole, diverse cucurbit family to which these belong came originally from Mesoamerica. And as for summer squash, the name baffles British cooks, who know the delicacy as a yellow courgette.
Whatever you call them; they’re wonderfully versatile and lend themselves to all kinds of interpretations. Here are three recipes that draw their inspiration from Europe: The Carpaccio speaks Italian, the tatin, or upside-down tart, has an unmistakably French accent, while the rösti has its roots in Switzerland. You can use zucchini (courgettes), summer squash (yellow courgettes) or a mixture.
As far as size is concerned, infant vegetables are best for the Carpaccio, while medium-sized ones are good for the upside-down tart. If your zucchini have run away from you (or from the neighbour) and gotten too big for their boots, the solution is to make them into rösti — the mixture is the same as for fritters, but with far less hassle. Since all have high water content even when still quite small, salting to draw out excess moisture is always a good plan.
Cool and fresh for a speedy summer appetizer, thinly sliced raw zucchini and summer squash are lightly salted to draw out the juice, patted dry and drizzled with an olive oil and lemon juice dressing. Top with shaved Parmesan and ring it with herbs — basil, parsley, mint, cilantro or chives each have their merits.
4 to 6 servings
- 2 slim zucchini
- 2 slim summer squash
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Freshly ground black pepper or Piment d’Espelette to taste
- Handful of pine nuts
- 1 sprin onion, halved and very finely sliced
- Fingernail-sized pieces of Parmesan, shaved from a chunk
- Shredded basil, parsley, mint or coriander leaves, or snipped chives to taste
- Slice the zucchini and summer squash very thinly using a very sharp knife, a mandolin slicer or the slicing disk of a food processor.
- Lay them on a serving dish or plates, alternating the colors if you like. Sprinkle with salt, lay paper towels on top and leave them for about 10 minutes to release some of their water.
- Mix together in a small dish the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper or Piment d’Espelette for the vinaigrette.
- Toast the pine nuts in a small pan until lightly golden — keep them on the move by shaking the pan so they don’t burn.
- Remove paper towels from zucchini, sprinkle vinaigrette over the slices, scatter chopped pine nuts and scallions on top and finish with the shaved cheese and herbs.
Tatin (upside-down tart) of Summer Squash and/or Zucchini, Tomatoes and Anchovies
This is a taste of the Mediterranean on a plate. Baking summer squash or zucchini and tomatoes with the pastry on top (rather than underneath) gives a lovely result: When you invert the tart to serve, the vegetables will be sitting pretty on top of the freshly baked, sprightly pastry.
- 500 grams summer squash or zucchini, or a mixture
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 to 4 medium tomatoes (about 300 grams), sliced
- Plenty of freshly ground black pepper
- A pinch of sugar
- 6 anchovy fillets
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano or 6 basil leaves, snipped with scissors
- 230 grams of ready-rolled puff pastry or piecrust, or 230 gram piece of puff pastry or piecrust
- Heat the oven to 200 C
- Slice the squash and/or zucchini fairly thinly, lay the slices out on a board and sprinkle with salt. Lay paper towels on top and leave for about 30 minutes to draw out the juice.
- Pat the vegetables dry with more paper towels.
- Brush a round baking dish or cake pan with a little of the olive oil and arrange a layer of vegetables in concentric circles in it, overlapping them and alternating the colours if you’ve used both summer squash and zucchini. Splash in a little olive oil and season with pepper.
- Top with sliced tomatoes; add a pinch of sugar, more pepper, oregano or basil and a final layer of vegetables.
- Drizzle the remaining olive oil on top.
- Bake the vegetables uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes or until barely cooked and the juices are somewhat evaporated.
- Remove dish from the oven and lay the anchovies on top of the vegetables.
- Unroll the pastry disk and lay it on top, tucking in the edges to fit the dish. (Alternatively, if using a piece of pastry, roll it out on a floured board and cut it to a round the same size as your baking dish or cake pan. Lay it on top and tuck in the edges.)
- Prick the pastry in two or three places with a fork.
- Bake the tart for 20 to 25 minutes or until the pastry is golden.
- Remove from the oven, invert a plate over the tart and turn it out to serve.
Zucchini Rösti With Onion and Herbs
This is especially good if your home-grown zucchini have got a bit above themselves and headed for marrow status. Vary the herbs, depending on what you have on hand — I love a mix of cilantro and parsley, but dill works its magic too. It’s great for supper topped with slices of soft, fresh goat’s cheese or smoked salmon and served with a green or tomato salad. It’s also good as a veggie accompaniment for a summer barbecue. You can serve it hot, at room temperature or cold.
- 3 zucchini (about 500 grams), topped and tailed
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 eggs
- 3 tablespoons flour
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 spring onion or small red onion, finely chopped
- 2 handfuls of fresh herbs (about 20 grams), such as coriander and parsley or dill
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- A couple of sprigs of flat-leaf parsley to garnish
- Grate the zucchini, using the grating blade of a food processor or a cheese grater. Place about one-third in a colander, sprinkle with some salt, add successive layers of zucchini and salt and leave in the sink for several hours or overnight to drain.
- Squeeze out as much liquid as possible from the zucchini, handful by handful, and set aside.
- Break the eggs into a mixing bowl, sprinkle on the flour and add pepper to taste. Beat with a wire whisk until the flour is smoothly incorporated.
- Stir in the chopped spring onion or onion and the herbs. Add the grated, squeezed zucchini and mix well.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan and tip in the mixture, flattening and smoothing the top with a spatula.
- Cook over moderate heat for about 5 minutes or until you can see the edges going a little golden and crispy. Place a lid over the top of the rösti and turn it out onto the lid. Heat another tablespoon of oil in the pan and shunt the rösti back into the pan, cooked side upward. Cook for another 5 to 6 minutes or until the underside is done and the rösti is firm to the touch. Check the cooking by turning it out onto a plate. If necessary, return it to the pan for a little longer until cooked to your liking.
- Turn the rösti out onto a plate and garnish with flat-leaf parsley.
Copyright 2016 Sue Style via Zester Daily and Reuters Media Express