I got another batch of nice, small, firm zucchini in my CSA basket, this week, so I’m looking forward to making what has become my favorite – and easiest – recipe for them. A 10-minute lunch operation, tasty and filling enough to make a vegetarian meal.
First time I made it was actually a midnight meal, as I was alone at home and took the “I’ll just finish another couple of things before dinner” to rather ridiculous extremes. I needed something fast and filling, and the recipe wound up fitting the bill.
I started by quickly cutting a small red onion into wide slices, while some nice extra virgin olive oil was warming up in a pan over medium-high heat (about 6 out of 10). Throwing in the onions and tossing them around the pan, I quickly added a good spoonful of cumin seeds and a couple of pinches of espelette pepper, as well as a pinch of salt and some freshly ground white pepper, and tossed the onions again to mix them with the spices.
When the onions had melted and were hinting at browning, I threw in a bunch (1/4 cup, maybe a bit more) of pine nuts, and tossed them around again, leaving them to roast a little bit while I cut three small zucchinis into slices about one-half inch thick and, when there was a bit of color on the nuts and onions, added them to the mix. Tossing the mixture around periodically, while I quickly chopped some fresh parsley, a couple of leaves of basil and a fair amount of fresh dill.
When the zucchini slices were heated through but still very firm, I added the herbs and kept on cooking and tossing until the zucchini slices were golden and al dente. Adding the herbs late in the game allowed the flavors to remain fresh, while still having enough time to infuse the whole dish with flavor.
It’s essential to keep a watchful eye over the zucchinis so they don’t overcook and become mushy – a sure fire way to spoil a zucchini dish.
After setting the zucchini in a bowl, I drizzled some olive oil on them, as well as a little freshly squeezed lemon juice. With some soft cheese (ewe’s milk or goat’s milk, especially) on a crostini, it’s enough for a full, tasty meal.
As a wine pairing, I’d recommend a spicy wine from Southern France – like old vines carignan or a grenache, syrah and mourvèdre blend – or maybe an aglianico from Campania. Especially if it’s a late-night meal.
I made two variations on the recipe, since then. One involved eggplant slices and almonds, which mainly made the color less interesting. The other involved cashews (I hadn’t found pine nuts at my local supermarket) and halved cherry tomatoes, which made the color more interesting and did add a bit of freshness to the flavors, thanks to the acidity of the tomatoes.
However, overall, the original recipe remains my favorite. In cooking as in so many other things, impler is often better.