Last night we had some good friends to dinner. The main course was garlic & sweet chilli prawns, but on casting about for an entrée I decided on this zucchini dish. Mainly because we have zucchinis in the garden, & with this vegetable it seems you have either a glut or a famine. I’ve had the recipe for years but haven’t made it a lot in recent times; it’s from an old edition of the Australian Women’s Weekly microwave cookbook (we’re talking the 1980s here 😀 ).
The timbales: first, puree 8 small zucchini in a blender – you could equally well grate them; I’ve done it both ways & both work just fine. Cook the result in the microwave on ‘high’ for 5 minutes & then squeeze out as much of the moisture as you can.
Put the squeezed veges in a bowl & mix in a 250g tub of sour cream (‘lite’, if you insist, a pinch of salt, as much chopped basil as you like (the recipe says 2 Tblsp but I like more than that), 2 Tblsp grated parmesan, & 4 eggs.
Divide the mix between 6 1/2 c moulds (I love my silicone ones; if you are using another kind remember to grease them well) & cook in the microwave for around 7 minutes on med-high – check occasionally. You want them firm in the middle. (They could also be done standing in a dish of water in a moderate oven.)
The coulis: peel & chop 4 medium tomatoes & put in a bowl with a clove or more (I used more as garlic is something we also have a lot of & we all like it) & 2-3 Tblsp tomato paste. Cover & cook on high for 3-4 minutes, then blend to a puree.
Unmould the timbales onto serving plates & serve with some of the tomato sauce on the side. This is a lovely, light, summery entrée 🙂
Zucchini. We’ve had them steamed. We’ve had them stir-fried. We’ve had them marinated in a salad, cooked up in tomato sauces, or in fritters. Today I saw a recipe for spiced zucchini with tahini dressing that I must try soon (thank you, Ruth Pretty). But recently I wanted a more substantial vegetarian main course, so I did this:
In a bowl, I mixed 1/2 c plain flour, 1 tsp baking powder, & 1/2 tsp salt. Then I whisked in 4 eggs, 1/2 c of grated tasty cheese, & a rather large amount of finely chopped basil.
The next step was to top & tail, & then grate, 4 medium-sized zucchini** before adding them to the bowl & mixing everything together – it was a reasonably sloppy batter. I poured this into my large (pre-greased) pyrex pie dish & decorated the top with sliced tomatoes & a sprinkling of parmesan cheese, before putting the dish in the oven at 180 degrees until well-risen, firm to the touch, & golden on top.
With a potato salad & a corn salsa, it was a very nice meal indeed.
** I’m never quite sure what marks the boundary between courgettes & zucchini, although I know a marrow when I see one! Mum used to do this thing that involved de-seeding a marrow & stuffing it with a mince mixture; it was not a gastronomic success.
After a slow start to the season, our tomatoes are really beginning to bear fruit. And the husband planted quite a few this year: the usual beefsteak & cherry tomato varieties, but also – because I asked nicely – a type called Long Tom. Which are big plants with big, elongated, fleshy fruit. Lots of them. So I’ve been making sauce – not the kind you’d put on sausages & pies, but the kind you’d use with pasta, or cook down to make a thick pizza sauce.
I tend not to use a fixed recipe for these. (Poor daughter 😦 ) I always begin with about 50g butter & a slosh of olive oil in one of my Really Large Pans, in which I set a couple of peeled & chopped onions to soften gently over low heat. After that I tend to add what’s available. The tomatoes are obviously a given 🙂 This time round I had a couple of kilos, which began their journey to sauce-dom by being put in a bowl & covered with boiling water, to make them easy to peel. While they sat there I peeled and sliced several smallish heads of garlic & added them to the onions, followed by half a dozen sliced ‘bulls horn’ red peppers (seeds removed). The peeled & chopped tomatoes joined everything else in the pan and then, because we have a lot of them as well, 4 thinly-sliced courgettes. (After all, I told myself, no-one – not even the courgette-averse – will know they’re there, once I’ve blitzed everything with the blender.)
Pot covered, I left it all to simmer over a low heat for about 20 minutes & then added a cup of chopped basil & about 1/2 c of fresh oregano leaves. A taste indicated a certain need for salt (1-2 tsp), & this time I also added 1 tsp of the lovely smoked paprika that my friend Annette gave me a while back. The final step when I’m making sauce is to add baking soda (1 tsp for this quantity of sauce): it cuts out most of the acidity & you’re left with a lovely, sweet, well-rounded sauce 🙂
The stick blender is about on its last legs, but it just managed to puree the vegetables, & once everything had cooled a bit I poured it into zip-lock bags & froze it for a less fruitful time of year. (Apart from that which I used in last night’s dinner, that is!).
I am soooo enjoying being on holiday 🙂 And my idea of being on holiday includes (among other fun activities) cooking lots of Nice Things. This morning I biked down to the Farmers’ Market, but – because I knew I’d be coming home with blueberries – before I left I mixed a brioche dough & left it to rise. And when I got back I used it to make blueberry brioche (which I will probably write about in another post).
Also in the saddlebags were beetroot, apple juice, avocados, macadamia nuts, free-range eggs, and a whole lot of lovely long sweet red peppers, courtesy of the lovely folk at the Southern Belle Orchard booth. I had designs on those peppers! Some of them I packed away in the fridge, but I kept 4 big ones aside. After lunch (mmmm, nommilicious brioche!) I turned them into a lovely, slightly spicey sauce:
- Slice a brown & a red onion thinly & start them frying gently in a heavy pan. (It wouldn’t actually matter which kind you used; I just grabbed what was there.)
- Peel & chop the cloves from a couple of small heads of garlic & add them to the pan.
- Remove the seeds from the peppers (you could use ordinary capsicums too) and slice the flesh; add that to the pan as well.
- At this point I looked at our excess of zucchini, and then chopped 3 of them into small dice & popped them in the pan with everything else.
- Add 1 tsp of paprika – the rich red smoked kind if you have it (which I do, cos my friend Annette gave me some), 1/4 tsp chili powder (more if you like it hot), & salt to taste, before pouring in 500 ml chicken stock (I didn’t have vege stock available). Pop a lid on the pan and simmer the mix gently for about 30 mins, & then a further 30 mins with the lid off if you want to thicken the sauce.
- Finally, use a stick blender or food processor to process to a smooth-ish puree.
Now, I’d started off making the sauce without a firm idea of what to use it with, but while it was cooking (& I was doing my embroidery) I decided it would go rather nicely with cheese-&-herb ravioli. So I mixed up a batch of pasta dough (3 c flour, 6 of those free-range eggs, a couple of Tbsp of olive oil, all kneaded together & then – when I needed it – rolled out into thin sheets), & then dealt with the filling. Again, you could vary this according to what you’ve got in the fridge.
- Beat together 250 g ricotta cheese and 250 g cream cheese, plus however much grated parmesan you feel like using.
- Crush 2-3 cloves of garlic and add that to the cheese, along with about a cup of finely chopped herbs: I used parsley, basil, marjoram, lemon thyme, chives, & garlic chives.
- Fry 3-4 rashers of bacon, chop finely, & stir into the cheese/herb mix, along with the zest of a lemon & juice to taste.
- Finally, mix in an egg – it helps hold everything together when cooked.
- Take a sheet of pasta (I rolled this one sheet at a time) & place teaspoonfuls of the filling on half the sheet, spacing them about 3 cm apart.
- Fold the other half of the sheet over the top & press down around each little mound of filling, before cutting into ravioli. Place to dry on baking paper on a cake rack & then roll your next pasta sheet. That amount of dough & filling gave me about
4 dozen 5 dozen** ravioli.
When ready to eat, bring a large pot of lightly-salted water to the boil, drop in the pasta, & cook 3-4 minutes or till they’re al dente. Heat the sauce through while the ravioli cook. I’m just about to go & do that now. And we’re going to have it with a nice bottle of red wine, all the way from Italy!
** make that 5 dozen – I counted as I popped them into the pot 🙂
We had a real house-full over Christmas, including a vegetarian niece. So, I made quite a few vegetarian dishes. One of them was this one, which is actually from the latest cookbook – The Ultimate Vegetarian Collection – by Alison Holst & her son Simon. (Dame Alison is a real national treasure, here in NZ: according to an article in the morning paper, from a list of celebrity cooks, she was the one most people would choose to cook a New Year’s dinner.) I made it because a) it looked delicious & b) I was a bit pressed for time & it was going to be faster to prepare than eggplant parmigiana (which was the daughter’s original pick for tea). The original recipe has you slicing the aubergines/eggplants in half longitudinally & then slicing each half in half, so that at the end of the recipe you end up with tidy stacks, each with a skin-up slice of the aubergine. But mine were huge things & so I sliced them horizontally, keeping sets of 2 slices together so that they were roughly equivalent in size. It worked fine but probably lacked the visual appeal of the original.
Anyways, once the eggplants are sliced, brush both sides of each slice with oil (I used olive oil), sprinkle with salt, & then pop under the grill until they soften & are starting to brown. Then whip them out & assemble thusly: cover the bottom slice of each pair with sliced or diced tomatoes. (I used the first of our summer crop, & they were delicious.) Follow this with a layer of basil; while you could chop this, I just used whole leaves off the big bunch of basil that I’d bought at the market. Top that with sliced or grated mozarella, & then pop the other aubergine slice on top, & arrange the stacks in a roasting dish big enough to take them all.
At this point I looked at the stacks & decided that they needed a bit of extra something, so I put another slice of mozarella atop each one. (If I’d sliced them the Holst way, this wouldn’t have been necessary 🙂 ). Then back them at 200 degrees C for 10 minutes or so, until the cheese is melted & golden & the tomatoes are cooked.
We had them with zucchini fritters (gussied up by the addition of parmesan & basil, which replaced the cumin I often use) and a sweet red pepper sauce. Vegetarian and omnivores alike declared them delicious!
As is usual for this time of year, we are trying to keep up with a glut of zucchinis. Every year we agree that we’ll grow just one plant, & then we add another in case the first dies, & it never does… This year the first plant was a yellow ‘tennis ball’ zucchini, & because early indications were that all we’d get were golf balls, we added a ‘normal’ green plant as well. However, the yellow plant is now happily producing tennis ball-sized offerings and the green one is giving us the normal long variety. So today for lunch (myself, the daughter, & our two foreign imports, lol) I made spicy zucchini fritters.
- Put 1&1/2 c plain flour, 3 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 2 tsp ground cumin seeds & 1 tsp ground coriander seeds in a bowl & stir to mix. (I have never owned a sifter, although Mum always used one.)
- Add one small red onion, finely diced, and as much coarsely grated zucchini as you like, plus lots of chopped parsley.
- At this point I decided to liven the mix up a bit more so I added 1/4 c of crumbled blue cheese.
- Add 4 eggs & 1/2 c milk & mix to a soft, pouring-consistency batter – you’ll probably want to add more milk.
- Fry in oil over a moderate heat until golden and crispy, then drain & serve with sour cream and sweet chilli sauce.
The only complaint from the young persons was that I could have added more blue cheese 🙂