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Ding Dong Ditch
The string of jokes and memes about the overly abundant bloated zucchini of August that are abandoned anonymously on one’s doorstep seems to be a purely American tradition. There exists even a Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day. The official date this year was August 8. which has mercifully passed for us without piles of zucchini mixed in with our FedEx and UPS deliveries. I wondered if perhaps this holiday had an international flair. Having dutifully searched the web for the English or French Courgette festival equivalent, only tepid jokes appeared. The Dutch jokes, however, were downright bawdy.
I think one of the reasons that this squash which, indeed, originated in Italy during the 19th century, gets so out of control here but not in its mother country, is that we don’t take advantage of their blossoms. And we should. Stuffed and fried, they are my favorite summer treat, rivaled by another Italian summer staple: Insalata Caprese. Take a look at this post from June 4, 2019 for some inspiration.
Looking through KD’s google searches, one of the most downloaded recipes (0ver 2000 times) is the one for the Zucchini Sformato Yes, another Italian standard, with just about any vegetable. And last year, I made several times a wonderful Zucchini Cake with apricot glaze and chocolate ganache from Cafe Dommayer in Vienna, Austria, which I found to be a big improvement over our customary zucchini bread.
On The Lighter Side
This year, I am offering something a bit lighter and simpler: thin slices of grilled zucchini (or raw as in the original version) with a light pesto dressing from the Gourmet’s Fresh Cookbook, which made the summer bearable with the Raspberry Limeade and my summer dinner party main course – Lobster and Corn Salad. The editors used thin slices of raw zucchini, but sometimes I grill mine first. If I do this with raw zucchini, the slices are thinner than the grilled ones. I now have a cross-hatch grill mark fetish, which I learned from author Bill Buford. After brushing the slices lightly with olive oil, line up the meat or vegetable angled to the right, first on one side and then the other. After they are grilled to the right, you angle them to the left and grill both sides. It’s a little thing, but it makes me unreasonably happy when I present them. Make the dressing, from the original recipe below – or- if you have some pre made pesto – measure 1/3 of a cup of the pesto – this recipe from Giordano Baudoni is my favorite, whether made in a mortar or a food processor. Add fresh lemon juice and olive oil to taste, and mix until you achieve a looser texture for spooning onto the slices. Summer on a platter, and it puts a delicious dent in the zucchini collection.
- 1/4 cup (60ml) packed fresh basil leaves
- 1/3 cup (1oz or 30gr) freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) pine nuts
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 cup (120ml) best quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 medium size zucchini
- 1 medium size yellow squash or an alternative zucchino
- In a food processor, puree together the basil, Parmesan, nuts, salt, lemon juice and oil.
- Taste and season with some freshly ground pepper.
- Using a sharp knife or on a mandoline, thinly slice the squash and zucchini lengthwise.
- Arrange the slices in a single layer, overlapping slightly on a platter and garnish with the pesto dressing.
- Make thinner slices if using the zucchini raw.
- The Spanish or Italian pine nuts are MUCH preferable to the Chinese ones.
After owning one of the best cooking stores in the US for 47 years, Nancy Pollard writes a blog about food in all its aspects – recipes, film, books, travel, superior sources and food related issues.