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Zucchini


When I was at high school, my mum came home one day with a strange, exotic Italian vegetable called a zucchini. She had asked the green grocer how to cook it and he said she could boil it or fry it in slices. That evening we gave it a try, thought it very uninspiring and didn't taste it again for many years. Our family by-passed the the zucchini cake era, but Mum now makes a highly regarded zucchini slice.

Italians have loved this summer vegetable for a long time and have many, many delicious ways to cook it which you will find in good recipe books. I have dipped into these and others over time.

Raffaele's favourite zucchini treat comes form his childhood. Zucchini is chopped up and fried with garlic in olive oil with a bit of salt in a covered pan which release the juices. Then beaten eggs and grated pecorino are added, the heat turned off and the eggs cook gently in the zucchini juices.

Below are some of my favourite recipes.



Fried Flowers and Fritters

If you have lots of zucchini growing, there will be lots of flowers. The male flowers are the tastiest so I recommend you pick and fry these rather than the female ones. However, if you have plenty, the female ones have tiny baby zucchini attached and are still yummy.

These fritters are a recipe from Sardinia and are also crispy and light. I adapted a recipe from A Sardinian Cookbook by Giovanni Pilu and Roberta Muir

Serve the flowers and fritters on a plate sprinkled with course salt and maybe some lemon wedges. They are fantastic as an aperitivo with an Aperol Spritz on a warm summer evening!


Batter - for around 10 flowers or fritters

100g fine white flour

1/2 cup cold sparkling water (or more if you need)

1 egg

salt and black pepper

2 table spoons of grated pecorino

olive oil for frying


Put the flour, salt and pepper in a bowl. Slowly pour in the sparkling water, whisking all the time to form a smooth, light batter. Whisk in the beaten egg. Add the grated cheese and mix well.

Let it sit for a while.

Heat the oil in a pan ready for shallow frying.

Take the stamen out of the zucchini flowers and shake off any dirt. Holding the stem, dip the flower in the batter one at a time and gently fry turning once so both sides are golden brown.


Fritters

Use the batter recipe above but add finely sliced mint leaves and marjoram.

Olive oil for shallow frying


3 - 4 small sweet zucchini

Cut the zucchini into matchsticks.

Gently fold the zucchini into the batter being careful they don't break up.

Heat the oil in a fry pan

Take a spoonful of zucchini mixture and using a second spoon, carefully slide into the hot oil.

Gently fry on one site then the other, turning only once, until they are golden brown.



Bruschetta with zucchini, summer herbs and lemon

This recipe is adapted from Green, a lovely vegetable cook book from the famous River Café which is divided by month, so you can always cook what is in season (In the southern hemisphere we have to read it backwards)


Toast slices of some good quality bread, preferably ciabatta or sour dough.

Drizzle olive oil on the bread and rub each slice with a piece of garlic.

Cut up small sweet zucchinis into cubes.

Finely chop plenty of summer herbs - the more the merrier! (I use whatever is available form my garden. e.g. basil, lemon thyme, oregano, marjoram, rosemary)

Grate the zest of a lemon

Cook the zucchini in olive oil until soft but not mushy.

Add the herbs and lemon rind.

Put the zucchini mixture on top of the toasted bread.

Mangia!


Penne with Zucchini and Basil

This is an amazingly simple but surprisingly delicious pasta dish for when zucchini are at their best and most prolific . It's a great one to whip up after work or for Sunday night dinner.


(for 4 people)

4-5 fresh young zucchini

salt

small bunch of basil

plain flour

olive oil for shallow frying

3 cloves of garlic

1 tablespoons of butter (or beautiful extra virgin olive oil)

grated pecorino cheese


Put a large pan of salted water on to boil ready for the pasta.

While you are waiting for the water to boil, slice the zucchinis into sticks about 4cm long and no more than 6mm thick.

Put the zucchini sticks into a colander and sprinkle with plain flour until they are lightly coated.

Heat the oil in a fry pan and fry the garlic until it is brown. Remove the garlic from the pan.

Fry the zucchini in the oil in batches until they are golden brown all over.

Drain the cooked zucchini on kitchen paper.

Tear up the basil leaves

When the water is boiling, put enough penne for 4 people (around 400g) into the water until it is cooked.

Drain the pasta and put this into a large serving bowl.

Add the zucchini and mix gently, add the basil leaves and then stir in the butter or oil.

Serve topped with the pecorino cheese.












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