P1080147September is the season for zucchini–courgettes in French. There are so many kinds, and so many ways to prepare them.

In the raw: Zucchini and chickpea salad

I’ve eaten zoodles (zucchini noodles) all my life. My grandma used to make a wonderful creamy tomato soup with zucchini noodles. No spiralizer for Grandma. She was all about the knife, the wooden spoon and the arm muscles, though I think she did have a mandoline. P1040187Following in her footsteps, use a mandoline to make fettuccini of 3-4 medium-size courgettes, about 6-8 inches long. (Grandma grew everything in her garden to size XXL, but you’d do well to avoid baseball-bat zucchini, with their big seeds.) Salt and let sit a while in a colander to soften them up and become more noodle-like. Rinse and pat off some of the water with a paper towel.

In a large bowl, mix the zoodles with a drained 15 oz. can of chickpeas (you can cook up a batch from dried, but that requires planning, whereas this recipe is quick and dirty), some chopped fresh herbs (parsley, mint, basil–your choice), a swirl of olive oil, a splotch of red-wine vinegar and some pepper. Because the zoodles were salted, taste before adding any more.

I’m usually of the opinion that more is more when it comes to salads, and I tend to include anything and everything that’s in the fridge. But I left this salad simple and it was delicious, the zucchini and chickpeas both being mild and not in combat for dominant flavor. I’ve also done it with halved cherry tomatoes, which add color.zucchini 2 kindsLes courgettes sont cuites

(Actually, the saying is “les carottes sont cuites”–meaning “all is lost” or “the jig is up.” I saw many dubious explanations for the origin of this phrase–dubious, because if one can’t spell correctly in a piece about etymology, well, les carottes sont cuites. Fortunately, the book Légumes d’hier et d’aujourd’hui–Vegetables of yesterday and today–says it’s because in a mix of root vegetables, carrots are the last to be done.)zucchini yellow roundThe first time I ever had French food was in a fancy restaurant in the Midwestern city where I grew up. I was still in high school, being high-falutin’ going there. I remember the white-washed brick walls, which were SO radical in the ’70s, the simple black furniture, and the zucchini. Considering I could peer through the windows and see that interior regularly over the years, I suspect that ALL I really remember about that meal is the zucchini. Simple matchsticks of zucchini, sautéed in butter. Nothing haute about it, but you need to use good butter (NOT margarine). The zucchini caramelize in the browned butter and then melt in your mouth.P1080742Here you have it:

Cut some small zucchini into matchsticks. You want smallish ones so they aren’t full of seeds. Count on at least one per person–they melt down. You can peel them, but that (1) has less nutrition, (2) is more work and (3) is wasteful (a future post is coming on a French cookbook about using peelings and scraps). The easiest way to make matchsticks is to first cut coins and then make little stacks of the coins and cut them into slivers.

P1080744
Know what this smells like? HEAVEN.

Brown a tablespoon or two of butter in a skillet. If your skillet is big and you have a lot of  zucchini, add more. When the bubbles subside, add the zucchini and stir. It should be hot  enough that the zucchini brown without getting mushy. Almost seared. That’s it. A little salt and pepper. A perfect side to any main.P1080750Yes, you can vary this by sautéeing minced garlic or onions before adding the zucchini. And you can add fresh or dried herbs, whether oregano, basil, parsley or rosemary. But sometimes, the simple version is a revelation, especially when the brown butter makes the zucchini sing.

May I add that the great Prosper Montagné, native of Carcassonne and author of the original Larousse Gastronomique, has a similar recipe in his book Les Delices de la Table that I translate here as closely as possible to word-for-word: cut three peeled zucchini into coins not too thin. Salt them and sauté in a skillet with butter. Let them brown well. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve in a vegetable bowl (légumier).*

He goes on to note: Habitually, one sweats them by lightly sprinkling with salt, and one dredges the courgettes, as well as eggplant, in flour before sautéing them. We discourage this system. Zucchini and eggplant sautéed in oil or butter cook perfectly put into the skillet as they are. zucchini normalFar be it from me to argue. By the way, for those first chilly days of fall, check out this great zucchini soup recipe.

*Do you notice that there’s exactly one measurement in his recipe, and it’s three zucchini? But of indeterminate size. All the old recipes are like this!

 

23 thoughts on “Peak Zucchini

  1. I have a very few things that I honestly believe I could not do without in the kitchen. Onions are first. Tomatoes figure high and courgettes are high fivers too. This is a fabulous idea and I will be giving it my best foot forward. I just don’t know what it is about the Zucch but they just seem to be indispensable to me more than any other squash or gourd. Thank you – I shall think of you when I gobble these indecorously tomorrow (no cooking chez moi today … it’s my birthday and I utterly and completely refuse!)

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    1. Happy birthday! Your list is the same as mine. Yet how is a piece of luck. Aside from Grandma’s soup and zucchini bread, I don’t recall eating zucchini growing up. Maybe that’s why the French resto was so illuminating. And I have been crazy about the vegetable ever since.

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      1. My dad grew them was probably how I was introduced … I don”t think the local veg shop in Berkshire, England even knew what they were. Perhaps he thought they were cucumbers when he bought the seeds the first time – who knows but I bless them and your recipe! And thank you for the Happy Birthday … I’m a big kid so I love the wishes 😀

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  2. WE just ATE our last ZUCCHINI from the GARDEN last NIGHT!The season is over for us……I am so excited my YELLOW Zucchini and GREEN Zucchni look JUST LIKE YOURS!
    I do garlic and olive oil……….may have TO BUY some to try YOUR WAY!XX

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  3. We slice them, dip them in a batter of egg, flour and fizzy water and fry them…drain on paper, put on a serving plate, sprinkle with a little salt and eat immediately with a glass of wine!

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  4. I love zucchini, although I was introduced to it more by my ex-husband than the move to France. I love the simple salad idea – sometimes I’m just not in the mood for something hot during warm days! I was recently down in your area and had already booked a hotel when I saw something about your apartments on here and was reminded of them . . . next time I’ll look into them certainly as they are beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I loved it! I took the train this time; however, I might drive next time so that I can explore the surrounding area. There were activities listed in the City Pass guide that sound interesting. Also, there’s a vineyard nearby that does dinner and wine pairings, which is owned by Brits, so I want to stop by.

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    1. Here is your reason to try it. Simple, to the point of hard to fail, yet delicious. I don’t think my mom ever made zucchini, and the first time was in that French restaurant. Since then, it has been a constant companion. I think you will like it.

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    1. I had a food processor years ago and never replaced it once it died. No regrets. It chopped much faster, yes, but more than lost those gains by requiring so much time to clean. Not to mention taking up far more space in the cupboards than a knife!

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