Monday, July 09, 2007

Summer Overload Help: Zucchini with Olive Oil and Garlic

Summer means zucchini. Tons of zucchini for gardeners. And for their friends and neighbors. And for their already stuffed refrigerators. Here's a recipe that is a delight. At least it is a delight if you can get ahold of young, thin zucchinis. The big overweight zucchinis are best for -- and this is a stretch, since they are usually watery and bland -- slicing, marinating and grilling, or maybe stewing up as a vegetable. Or maybe heaving at stray, howling cats. OK, so I grew up in the country.

"Zucchini" is the Italian summer squash derived from the originally American Indian Concurbita squash. Literally, though botanically inaccurately, it means little zucca, "zucca" being a pumpkin, the winter orange-fleshed vegetable that is more like a kabocha squash with a taste like butternut. But I'm wandering.

Only young, narrow zucchini work well for this recipe, up to about 1-1/4 inches (about 3 cm in Italy) wide. The thinner, the better. This is a recipe I have taught for a number of years at Evening-at-Emory. It is based on an Iraqi recipe, from before the time when Iraq became so dismally our daily news. Though Iraqi, it suggests Mediterranean as well as Middle-Eastern cuisine, lightly sautéed zucchini with olive oil, garlic, and tomatoes as its natural partners. The recipe serves six.

Zucchini with Olive Oil and Garlic Tim

1-1/2 pounds zucchini (the youngest, thinnest you can find)
4 cloves garlic
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 medium-small tomatoes
4 tablespoons olive oil

Rinse the zucchinis but do not peel. Remove tips and stems, and with a sharp knife split each zucchini lengthwise into two halves. Then cut them lengthwise into narrow wedges, about 1/4-inch wide on the skin side. Cut them across into pieces 3-4 inches long. Prepare the garlic by pressing it through a garlic press or by mashing it to a paste in the salt using the back of a spoon. Quarter the tomatoes, gently push out the seeds with your finger, and dice the flesh into pieces 1/4 inch or less. Have all ingredients ready before starting to cook.

Heat oil in large frying pan or wok. Add zucchini and stir-fry for about 1-1/2 minutes. Add the garlic and salt and continue to stir-fry until zucchini is crisp tender, about 2-3 additional minutes. Check tenderness and saltiness by biting a piece of zucchini (it should be slightly salty, since the tomatoes will absorb some). Cook a little longer or add salt if necessary. Add diced tomato, and stir in for 15 seconds. Remove from the heat.

The dish can be served now or allowed to cool to lukewarm.

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