Monday, July 09, 2012

Zucchini heaven

A few years ago I had a holiday that I've never forgotten.  We went to Tuscany in Italy and I have many wonderful memories of our time there, but one thing stands out above all the rest - the food!  On our first day we went to Cortona, a place I'd always promised myself I'd visit.  We walked to the top of the village and on our way back down we came upon a tiny, tiny restaurant in a back street.  There were three tables on a raised dais opposite the restaurant, one was free, so we claimed it.  The meal that followed was simple but probably the best I've ever had.  I've never before, or since, found that intense pleasure from such a simple meal.  I began with stuffed courgette flowers and it was the most delicious thing I'd ever eaten; the crisp outer casings and goey interior is still the basis for my food fantasies, and so my love affair with courgettes really began.  It's so versatile and it's flavour can be enhanced and toyed with in a whole variety of ways.  You can grate it into salads, fry til the edges are browned and crispy before dowsing in lemon juice; bake them in the oven with chilli flakes and parmesan or steam them and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.  One of my go-to things to cook with them tho' is a frittata - combining all my favourite ingredients - cheese, eggs and courgettes.

Here's how:
1 courgette, thinly sliced lengthways (I use a cheese slicer for this!)
4 large eggs
55g grated cheddar (or any other hard cheese you like)

1.Heat a spoonful of olive oil in a frying pan and add the courgette slices, cook for 2/3 minutes until they start to turn a golden brown.
2. Beat the eggs with a fork and season with salt and pepper before pouring over the courgettes.  Sprinkle with the cheese and cook for about ten minutes, until the egg is almost set.
3.  Heat the grill to high, place frying pan under the grill for two minutes until the frittata is golden.  Serve warm with salad.

Stuffed Courgette flowers
1 onion, finely chopped
salt and pepper
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 small courgettes
100g unsmoked rindless streaky bacon, diced
30g breadcrumbs
1tsp pitted black olives, finely chopped
2tbsp fresh oregano
75g manchego cheese, grated
12 courgette flowers

1.Heat some olive oil in a pan and saute onions for about 20 mins until soft.  Season, and stir in garlic, courgettes and continue to cook for another few minutes.
2.  Spoon onto a plate and return pan to the heat and fry the bacon and chorizo until golden and cooked.
3. Drain the fat from the bacon mixture and return to the pan along with the onion mixture, breadcrumbs, olives and oregano.  Mix together well and season, before stirring in the Manchego cheese.
4.  Preheat the oven to 220c/425f/Gas7.  Line a baking sheet with baking parchment and spoon the filling into the courgette flowers.  Season and place on tray before drizzling with a little lemon olive oil.  Bake in the oven for 12/15 mins until the flowers are golden and crisp.  Serve with a tomato salad and warm crusty bread.

What was your most memorable meal?

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