Sunday, July 18, 2010


Zucchini. Courgette. Did you know it's technically an immature fruit?

I don't love zucchini. It is decidedly not one of my favorite vegetables. Is it anyone's? Maybe in late winter? When the thought of an abundance of zucchini means summer and warmth and bbqs and cherries but then it' not really about the zucchini itself, now is it? I mean, I don't hate it. It's not something I refuse to eat (like raisins) or only eat reluctantly and with enough recognition from those around me that I am in fact eating something I find terribly gross (like raisins). No, I just don't LOVE zucchini. And as anyone who has ever hate a fight with a loved one knows, hate is not the opposite of love. Indifference is.

I am indifferent to zucchini.

Also, even though I live in England and it is called courgette, and I call it courgette in conversation, I still call it zucchini in my head and when I go to write it down. Someone should look up the etymology between the two words, so everyone can understand the  cultural differences between them. Maybe I will. (I did. See below the recipe.)

Even though I don't actually like it that much I seem to buy it quite often. It's in season. It's there, I'll purchase a few (especially cute little ones from the farmer's market) and surely I'll find inspiration in one of my many cookbooks for something delicious that will uplift it beyond it's humble vegetable (fruit) state. And I have. I've made some nice dishes. But none where I was so excited about the zucchini itself. None that were so amazing and delicious that I felt proud of my creation.

I've made zucchini lemon pizza. Zucchini wrapped lamb kebabs. Zucchini saute with almonds. Zucchini side dishes. Zucchini soup. Pasta with zucchini. But really? It's all meh.

Anyways, the reason for the zucchini rant, and the reason I figured out that I'm not actually all that big a fan, is because I made a zucchini dish the other day that I really liked. That made me feel proud of my creation and pleased that I had purchased zucchini. It's from the New York Times, a recipe by a New York interior designer of Egyptian descent. It's lovely. It's delicious. We had lunch leftovers. You should make it too.

Maybe then you'll learn to love zucchini a little.

Here is the recipe, pilfered directly and without change from the New York Times.

In Egypt, “every lunch and dinner includes rice,” she said, as she prepared zucchini pilaf and almonds, a subtly spiced dish that includes tiny amounts of allspice, coriander, cumin, cayenne and cilantro. To finish the dish, she serves the rice with a thick yogurt-garlic sauce on the side. The garlic is not a mere token addition — though finely minced, it is clearly present and makes yogurt a newly fascinating food.

Zucchini Pilaf With Almonds

        For the rice:
        1/2 cup slivered almonds
        1/2 tablespoon butter
        1/2 cup long grain rice
        1 cup vegetable broth
        1/2 teaspoon allspice (the only other recipe with zucchini that i like also has allspice. maybe the    key to an excellent zucchini dish is allspice?)
        1/2 teaspoon salt

        For the zucchini:
        2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
        1 medium onion, finely chopped
        2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
        1 pound zucchini , ends trimmed, halved lengthwise (or quartered if large) and cut into 1/3-inch slices
        1 teaspoon ground coriander
        1 teaspoon ground cumin
        Pinch of cayenne pepper
        1/2 teaspoon salt
        2 tablespoon currants or dark raisins
        3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
        Freshly ground black pepper
For the yogurt-garlic sauce:
        1 cup Greek yogurt, or strained non-Greek yogurt
        2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or pressed through a garlic press
        1 tablespoon dried crushed mint
        Pinch of cayenne
        Salt and freshly ground pepper 
1. For the rice: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place almonds on a baking sheet, and bake until lightly toasted, about 10 minutes. Remove, and set aside to cool.

 2. In a small pan over medium heat, add butter and rice. Stir until the rice is lightly toasted, 5 to 8 minutes. Add vegetable broth, allspice, and salt. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to very low so the broth barely simmers; use a heat diffuser if necessary. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the zucchini.
3. For the zucchini: Place a large sauté pan over medium heat, and add olive oil. Add onion, and cook, stirring, until translucent and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, and cook for 2 minutes. Add the zucchini, coriander, cumin, cayenne and salt. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add rice and currants, and mix well. If the rice looks dry, add two tablespoons water. Cover, and cook until the zucchini and rice are tender, about 15 minutes. The rice mixture may be uncovered and quickly stirred once or twice, covering it immediately after.
4. For the yogurt garlic sauce: In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, garlic, mint and a pinch of cayenne. Mix well, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
5. When the rice and zucchini are ready, top with cilantro, toasted almonds and fresh black pepper. Serve immediately, with yogurt-garlic sauce passed separately.

Zucchini vs Courgette
From Wikipedia (citations required):

Zucchini, like all summer squash, has its ancestry in the Americas[citation needed]. However, the varieties of squash typically called "zucchini" were indeed developed in Italy, many generations after their introduction from the "New World". Courge, French for squash. "Zucca" is the Italian word for squash and "zucchina" is its diminutive, becoming "zucchine" in the plural. However, "zucchino", the masculine form, becoming "zucchini" in the plural, is just as commonly used and is prevalent in Tuscany. Italian dictionaries such as "lo Zingarelli 1995, Zanichelli editor", give both forms. "Zucchini" is used in Italy , and in Australia, Canada and the United States. 'Zucchini' is plural in Italian whereas in English it is singular. The first records of zucchini in the United States date to the early 1920s. It was almost certainly brought over by Italian immigrants and probably was first cultivated in the United States in California.

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