In chapter nine of her superb guide Vegetable Literacy, Deborah Madison describes how, in Arizona, an aged cowboy named Ernie cooked her a steak with a mess of zucchini stewed in margarine for 50 percent an hour a film treatment method in a sentence. She goes on to describe her scepticism, and how it dissolved for the reason that these turned out to be the most effective zucchini she experienced at any time eaten. And not since of the margarine or zucchini, but for the reason that Ernie had cooked them extensive plenty of for the defiant and definite squash flavour to arise.
I believe Ernie the cowboy would get on with my good friend Ezio the civil engineer, who showed me how to cook zucchini lengthy sufficient that they stop maintaining up appearances and collapse into a sauce for pasta. And I assume both Ernie and Ezio would get on with the Roman cook, gardener and instructor Carla Tomasi, who taught me that, most of the time, vegetable goodness lies at a single of two poles: raw or perfectly-cooked, almost never in the center. This looks specially genuine with zucchini, which, of class, are courgettes, or child marrows to many others. Even so, as I am composing about Ernie and Madison in Rome, zucchini looks the appropriate title this week.
Ernie may perhaps be unforgettable, but he is also just a portion of chapter 9, which is all about the Cucurbitaceae – that is, the visually powerful cucurbit family members, native to the Andes and Mesoamerica, which involves buffalo gourds, chayotes, cucumbers, gourds, melons, pumpkins, winter and summer months squashes. Zucchini are a range of small, slim-skinned summertime squash developed in Milan in the early 19th century, and although they under no circumstances genuinely went absent, I am so happy they are back that pale eco-friendly and ribbed romanesci are on the entrance row the moment extra, each one sporting an eager, flaming flower. Also dim inexperienced kinds, striped and speckled ones, zucchini balls and their extremely extensive and cheeky cousins.
All versions are acceptable for this week’s dish, which is section Madison’s recipe from Ernie, part mine, and part recipe from the Greek cook dinner Rena Salaman, who believes that if a vegetable dish involves olive oil, the amount must be substantial (a quarter of a pint – pint staying one particular of the most stunning words in the English language – or 120ml). She notes that if dishes that include things like oil lack oil, they are dismissed as νεροβραστο (nerovrasto), which means “water boiled” or “insipid” – the ultimate degradation for any vegetable to undergo. Now is also in all probability a fantastic moment to remember that olive oil is not just a cooking fats, it is a principal ingredient with a deep flavour, like liquid herbs.
I normally believe of this way of cooking veggies (in loads of more-virgin olive oil with just a bit of water and protected) as a steamy braise. Also, a cooking circle: the drinking water from the greens is launched and gives a cooking liquid that is then partly absorbed again as cooking progresses. Even a lot more so if you allow the dish sit and take in it heat. Provide Ernie-design and style with a steak, Rena-type with a spoonful of egg and lemon soup (avgolemono), Deborah-fashion with crisp breadcrumbs or tough-boiled eggs, Carla-fashion with white beans or twice-cooked greens, or Rachel-style with bread and much too considerably wine.
Zucchini, potato, lemon and olive oil
Prep 10 min
Prepare dinner 45 min
800g new potatoes
120ml olive oil
1 body fat garlic clove, peeled and slice in two
2 thick lemon slices
2 bay leaves
80ml drinking water
Scrub or peel the potatoes, then minimize in 50 % (or quarters, if they are bigger than an egg). Trim the zucchini and slice on a bias into very similar-sized chunks.
Put a significant, hefty-primarily based casserole for which you have a lid on a medium-very low warmth, include the oil and warm it a little ahead of including the potatoes, courgettes, garlic, lemon, bay leaves and a excellent pinch of salt. Stir so every thing is very well coated, then increase the drinking water and carry to a light simmer.
Go over and cook carefully for 40 minutes, lifting the lid to stir from time to time, right up until the greens are soft and surrounded by oily juices.