That time when deciding what to cook is a difficult task, is back. Cauliflowers have lost their spunk and cabbages are looking blanched. [Another winter has gone by without an attempt at making kimchi. Sigh.] Now that bottle-gourd juice has become the new diet-fad they can be found on the shelves the whole year round but the season when they, and other gourds, are at their best is still around the bend. Zucchini, surprisingly, is looking beautiful; must be an early season squash. Last week I brought home a good-looking specimen but I was not in the mood to cook it a-la-tori.
I picked out my Italian cookbook from the bookshelf and checked it for zucchini recipes. As is my habit, I looked at the colour pictures first to see if I could spot something quick. There was a picture, almost part of the background, of a bowl piled high with zucchini rounds and labelled, quite simply, Sauteed Zucchini Rounds. That was going to be dinner, along with Herb Pasta (wholewheat spaghetti) with Double Tomato Sauce (to which was added a generous handful of fresh fennel fronds).
The zucchini turned out very well, as many simple dishes with just a few ingredients often do. The Double Tomato Sauce was a bit too thick I thought but definitely very flavourful. Next time I will not go overboard with the ‘healthy’ options and use regular pasta instead of wholewheat. Wholewheat pasta stays a bit too al dente for our taste. After all we eat pasta but a few times a year!
I had bought this book many years ago when I was still a student and had only recently been introduced to Italian cooking. I don’t remember cooking from it at the time. These two recipes were quick, easy, and turned out well. I am inclined to check out the rest of the cookbook with new eyes. The sections on Antipasti, Breads, and Desserts beckon!
Sauteed Zucchini Rounds
(from Italian Favourites, by Bon Appetit, no author)
8 servings (I halved the recipe for our dinner)
3 pounds small zucchini, cut into 1/3″ rounds
3 T butter
2 T vegetable oil
3 leeks (white part only), minced [I omitted leeks]
1 small onion (I used a medium-sized, since I was not using leeks)
3 T balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar
Toss zucchini with salt in a colander. Weight it down with a plate and something heavy (I used my mortar). Let it stand for 1 hour to drain. Rinse and pat dry.
Melt butter with oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Add leeks and onions and cook until softened, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes; do not brown. (Can be prepared 8 hours ahead.) Add zucchini. Season with salt. Increase heat to high and saute for 3 minutes. Stir in vinegar and let boil until reduced to glaze. Serve immediately. [I added some shredded fresh basil leaves towards the end.]