Thursday, 11 August 2011
What do I do with....courgettes?
Courgettes, aka zucchini or baby marrow are a lot more versatile than people give them credit for. These vegetables, if left to their own devices can grow very large indeed, but are (in my opinion) at their best when harvested young - anything between finger and banana sized. Speaking of bananas, courgettes may have green or yellow skin. One thing to note - they have tiny hairs on the skin which can trap little grains of grit... adding a most unwelcome crunch to the eating experience. So wash them well before using, but don't peel them.
Let's explore a few things you could do with them once you've done that.
I have encountered cooks who can't think of a use for one lonely courgette (or carrot, or whatever) when cooking for more than two people. A single courgette doesn't have to be left to rot in the veg compartment of the fridge. You can do things with them so that they don't go to waste.
Pretty much as you would with a cucumber (although it tastes comp-uh-letely different), you could slice a courgette into your salad. You could also cut it into 'fingers' to use as crudites with dips.
Steamed or boiled:
Courgette works really well as one of the veg in the traditional meat-and-two-veg meal. You can steam or boil it for this. I suggest either halving them lengthwise or cutting them into fat chunks, rather than the sort of thin slices that you would for a carrot. They cook quickly!
Absolutely yummy in a stir fry, this might be where you want to slice the courgettes fairly thinly. Unless of course, you're using the teeny weeny ones (finger sized), then I'd just halve them lengthwise. Courgette is also one of the traditional ingredients of ratatouille.
If you're doing a huge joram of roasted mixed veg (beetroot, carrots, potatoes, peppers, etc.), try throwing in a few large chunks of courgette. As an alternative, you could use them with (or even instead of) cauliflower and/or broccoli in a cauliflower cheese bake.
While in Australia on his gap year, my elder son spent some time with the Kitchen Crusader, and he taught me one of her tricks with courgette. Thinly slice lengthwise and use the slices to line an oiled loaf tin. Fill with cheesy mashed potato. Bake in a moderate oven for about half an hour or so and turn out onto a plate. I'm just imagining adding bacon to that... among other things.
Because they cook so fast, and can disintegrate, they may not be at their best in a stew, but there are some fantastic courgette soup recipes out there!
Just yesterday, I was given some courgettes straight from someone's garden. I used some in a stir fry for dinner, and the rest were used to make courgette and carrot muffins. They were absolutely delicious, and I will share the recipe with you next week. But if you happen to have some courgettes to hand and you don't want to wait for my recipe, get googling - the Internet is your oyster!
So... happy cooking!
Image by raven_ryyder