martedì 11 gennaio 2011
uno zucchino, due zucchini, tre zucchini, quattro
Is there a more boring vegetable in the world than zucchini? (You might counter by naming any root vegetable, and then I would counter-counter with green beans.)
This question occurred to me while contemplating all the zucchini we have in the refrigerator (the Scallion is fond of this vegetable). Started thinking about how to make zucchini interesting in time for lunch, consulted my usual vegetable go-to folk (Simon Hopkinson, Nigel Slater, Sophie Grigson) and even they didn’t really have much to say – lots of empty (to my mind, and I am a huge fan of all of three) recipes. Re-do the Talking Heads line “You’re talking a lot/but you’re not saying anything” to “You’ve written many zucchini recipes/but I’m not tasting anything.”
While out on the terrace with the pups and the puppers, I wondered why a (boring) vegetable originally from the Americas has an Italian name in the plural – theoretically, one zucchini would be uno zucchino (or, a/one zucchino)(even my automatic spellcheck corrects the o to an i); then I wondered why we in North America (Canadian readers, is it ok if I assume you call it so?) imported the Italian name, and the English imported its French name (which is courgette, which is why I originally didn’t find any zucchini recipes in the above three-listed English writers, because I was having a blonde moment).
These profound thoughts I had while watching Yip, Yap, and Yup attack many of the terracotta pots on the terrace: I can state with certainty that they enjoy curly parsley (especially Yip), geraniums (especially Yap), and artemisia (especially Yup). (Let the record show that they enjoyed chewing rue ‘til steered away from it, that the ivy was fun, too – oh, but fun-nest of all was chewing on the Banks rose, a stray vine fluttered very close to pup-level). The Scallion needs to prune it forthwith, but perhaps he won’t need to, as three small souls seem to be doing a nice job on it all by themselves. One of the beauties of shooing Yap away from the leaves-covered hyacinth pot was the revelation that the hyacinth is growing. Thank you, my little hyacinth girl ...
It will be a challenge keeping them away from the lavender, which Waldo never evinced any interest in. They have found the lavender/clematis-we-hope-this-year nook a fine spot in which to relieve themselves. Troubling.
(It should be noted that on Waldo’s first and only trip abroad (to the south of France) he displayed exceedingly good gardening/landscaping skills. He pretty much wrecked the herbaceous border of our rental; he did, however, counter that malicious canine behavior by eating raw snails, which is something that I hope the 3Ys will take to, since our garden teems with them.)
(Neither Lulu nor Rosie have any interest in the botanical world as experienced on our terrace, and Harry prefers the garden.)
Here’s some controversy, as I’d always thought that zucchini were native to the Americas: Alan Davidson sets the record straight, kind of: “That there is no true English name reflects the fact that, although courgettes were mentioned (in italic, to show that the word was a foreign one) in a few English recipe books of the 1930s, they only became popular in England after Elizabeth David in the 1950s and 1960s had introduced them (not in italic) to readers of her books; and that as zucchini they had a similar late arrival in the U.S., where Italian immigrants made the introduction.” Grazie tante, voi italiani. We give you the tomato and look what you give us in return.
Asks Elizabeth David: “ Why do we have to leave marrows growing until they are the size of pumpkins and taste of nothing but water? … Baby marrows, on the contrary, are delicious and delicate …” Perhaps. I hate to quibble with one of my heroes, so I won’t, though I would whisper in an audience-aside kind of moment that even baby marrows (zucchini) taste like water.
AHA! From Wiki: Zucchini, like all summer squash, has its ancestry in the Americas. However, the varieties of squash typically called "zucchini" were developed in Italy, many generations after their introduction from the "New World". (You will, of course, note the usual uncertainty with Wikipedia: “citation needed.”) In all probability, this occurred in the very late 19th century, probably near Milan; early varieties usually included the names of nearby cities in their names. (Do note that there’s a couple of citations needed here, especially in the last sentence which I stupidly just deleted.)
(And in the Who Knew? Department, from Wiki: In a culinary context, zucchini is treated as a vegetable, which means it is usually cooked and presented as a savory dish or accompaniment. Botanically, however, the zucchini is an immature fruit, being the swollen ovary of the female zucchini flower.)
Have you ever knowingly eaten a swollen ovary before? Well, now you know you have.
Yes, I know that the most recent recipe posted was a risotto recipe. We tend to eat a lot of it around here, and this was one way of disguising zucchini. Sort of.
In an ideal world, baby leeks would substitute for the red onion; I wanted to pull a couple from our garden, but the Scallion advised me to wait ‘til they got bigger. In an equally ideal world, this risotto would be finished with a handful of chopped fresh marjoram but, as it turns out, Harry peed on it today rendering that an impossibility. Do know that this risotto is Italianate, not Italian. Putting sour cream – a hard-to-find product in many parts of Italy (we only have it at the local supermarket because where we live in Tuscany is heavily trafficked by Germans). If you want to render this more Italianate than Alto Adige-ish, use cream or an egg yolk instead.
We begin to plan our garden, as very shortly we’re planting garlic, fave, and peas for an early spring harvest. Guess what else will be included?
Risotto al pollo e zucchini/Risotto with chicken and zucchini
1¼ c. Arborio rice
2 T. butter
1 T. extravirgin olive oil
1 medium sized red onion, chopped
1 c. good-quality white wine
3-4 c. chicken or vegetable broth, heated ‘til quite hot
2 c. cooked chicken
1 c. zucchini, diced
1 zucchino, grated
1 c. Parmesan cheese, grated
2-3 T. sour cream
Handful of fresh marjoram
Melt the butter and extravirgin olive oil in a large, wide-brimmed saucepan. Add the chopped red onion (or leek, even better), and saute ‘til the onion is translucent.
Toss in the rice, and coat to cover. Add a cup of white wine (remember, it has to be potabile, because you’re drinking the rest of it with lunch), stir ‘til the rice absorbs it. Keep adding, as usual, in increments, the broth.
About five minutes before it’s ready to eat (which would be about 15 minutes after you’ve started), toss in the chicken and diced zucchini, and stir. A minute later, add the grated zucchini and the Parmesan cheese.
When it’s done, add the chopped marjoram (if pee free) and the sour cream (or cream, or egg yolk). Add a couple of grindings of salt from the mill, and pepper from the mill, check for seasoning, and eat immediately.
This would feed six as a modest starter, and four as a main course. In today’s case, it generously fed the Scallion (who cannot remember if he had thirds or fourths), and allowed a generous dollop to the Pups (Lulu, Harry, Rosie) on top of their evening kibble.
Line from “Psycho Killer,” Talking Heads: 77.
Alan Davidson, The Oxford Companion to Food, New York, 1999.
Elizabeth David, Italian Food, Middlesex, 1954.
The Joy of Cooking has a most excellent zucchini pancake recipe. It’s made most excellent by the inclusion of feta. Epicurious.com lists 589 zucchini recipes; most of those garnering four forks involved zucchini playing the supporting role to an animal product like cheese or meat. Zucchini flower recipes also receive great praise, but how could they not if stuffed with things like crabmeat and then fried? How could you possibly go wrong with that? Stig, Scottish chum in London, made a remarkable zucchini dish this past August – it had almonds and tomatoes in it. Eek! Did I just use “remarkable” in conjunction with “zucchini?”