Zucchini in the US, zucchine in Italian though sometimes also zucchette, courgettes in British English - whatever you call them zucchini are one of the most versatile vegetables around. Among my likes for sure though not my top favourite vegetable, but my absolute favourite in terms of their adaptability. There are so many things you can so with them, an endless list. I will be posting many more zucchini recipes from now through the summer to come.
Though I'm very find of crisp fried zucchini, either in a a light batter or just dipped first in milk then in flour, for most flavour I still like them best of all gently fried in olive oil the way my mother taught me when I was growing up in Malta. It may just be nostalgia but those tender well-browned zucchini rings tasted like heaven on earth. A large platter-ful was always available all summer long for snacking, for filling a sandwich, for tossing with pasta or for using as a side dish As the eldest girl in my family - my one brother is older but he was not expected to take part in kitchen duties - it was one of my summer jobs to make up the next batch when the first one was running out.
The platter was expected to last a few days so that was a lot of zucchini to fry for a family of six. They took long, patient and gentle frying. They had to be laid out in a single layer and I had to watch and turn each one over singly when the colour round the edges of the ring told me it was time.
Though they kept me from joining my friends on the beach, I so looked forward to the end the result that i did not mind the time it took. Always a greedy gourmand, even as a girl!You'll be glad to know that the recipes I'm sharing today do not require a lot of skill, nor do they need a lot of work or time. They are recipes for two easy antipasti suited to this time of year.
Involtini di Zucchine alla ricotta - Zucchini Ricotta Roll Ups
250g (ounces) ricotta, 3 medium zucchini (courgettes), 2 sprigs fresh mint, 4 sprigs fresh marjoram, 2 tbsp. e.v. oil, salt and pepper
Clean the zucchini
and slice thinly.
Clean the herbs, strip the leaves from the stems and chop or snip with scissors.
In a bowl mash the ricotta with the chopped leaves, seasoning with salt, very little pepper and 1 tbsp. of the olive oil.
Heat a ridged grill pan (or use a large heavy frying pan) and cook the courgette slices dry for 2 minutes each side (or parboil for 1 minute and pat dry).
Lay the slices out flat, place a walnut sized piece of the herb ricotta mix on each and roll up. Add dabs as you go to help the zucchini roll to hold. A dab at the end is important to "glue" the roll together. Place rolls on your serving platter as you complete them. Stab with a cocktail stick or skewer if you wish to serve as finger food.
When you have used up all the filling, you have a choice:
You can place any remaining grilled courgette slices round the edge of your plate, garnish with any left over herbs, and drizzle with the second tbsp. of olive oil just before serving.
Or you can poach and unused zucchini trimmings till soft and then whizz with a stick blender with some salt, olive oil and water to make a sauce to set the roll ups on.
If you have cherry tomatoes or radishes you can top with a little slice to add a touch of colour.
Barchette di Zucchine con Purea di Piselli - Zucchini Boats with Pea Puree
For 4 people you will need
4 large zucchini (which you may choose to cut in half), 500g (a little over 1 pound) fresh peas or 200g (7 ounces) frozen, 100g (3 and a half ounces) smoked cooked ham, 30 g (an ounce) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, a shallot or medium fresh white onion (cipollotto, like a large scallion /spring onion), a fresh herb like marjoram or fresh wild fennel, olive oil, salt
Pre heat the oven to 200°C (390° F).
Trim the vegetables into log shapes. Blanch for 5 minutes in salted boiling water, then drain and refresh in cold water.
With a pointed spoon - a grapefruit spoon is ideal - scoop flesh out of the centre of the “logs” working inwards from both sides. Make a good space as this recipe makes lots of filling. Reserve the removed flesh.
Finely mince the shallot or fresh onion. Shell fresh peas. Finely chop the ham removing fat from the edge.
Place peas and minced shallot in a sauté pan with 2 tbsp. water and 1 or 2 of olive oil. Season with a little salt and cook together till the onion is softened, adding a little more water as needed to stop the onion from frying and colouring.
Place the peas and onion in a food processor (or use stick blender) with the ham, and the grated cheese and process till well blended but not quite smooth, a little texture is nice.
Fill the zucchini logs with the mixture and place in a baking pan. Add a little water to the pan and cover with parchment paper. Bake for 20 -25 minutes then remove the paper, grate some extra cheese on top, drizzle with a little oil and bake till cooked through. (Test with a tooth pick or thin wooden skewer).
Place the reserved scooped out flesh in the processor with 4 tbsp. olive oil, season lightly with salt and pepper and the fresh herb of your choice. Whizz, diluting with water as necessary to create a sauce of the consistency you prefer, more or less runny.
Allow to cool to lukewarm or room temperature before serving, with some of the sauce and a drizzle of olive oil.