Coarsely grated courgettes caramelised in butter and olive oil, flavoured with basil and garlic are delicious – quite unlike courgettes!
How to make courgettes taste not like courgettes? Or rather: how to make courgettes taste of SOMETHING? This recipe is the answer.
First things first: this is a recipe for caramelised courgettes, not for an omelette. The omelette serves only as a presentation. Although truthfully, it’s a great combination.
What to do with courgettes?
To say courgettes are bland is an understatement. They are the chicken of the plant world: always, every day, thousands of people are looking for new ways of cooking them (and chicken).
No matter how much we salt and squeeze them, they’ll be watery. No matter how fast we flash-fry them, they’ll be limp. Green or yellow, oblong or round, they taste exactly the same.
If you have a garden vegetable plot or an allotment, you know the story. The onions have bolted, the broccoli has gone to seed, the sweetcorn will never ripen and only the courgette plant welcomes you every morning with a new fat gourd topped with a ridiculously cheerful, yellow flower.
Why do we bother planting them? Because they grow well, I guess. In fickle British summers, it is reassuring to have one reliable crop which will bear fruit no matter what.
How long should you cook vegetables?
At a glance, this is a recipe for dramatically overcooked vegetables while we know we should cook them as briefly as possible to retain the most nutrients and vitamins.
And yet, cooking sometimes is nutritionally beneficial (I do love the sound of these two words together!) as it makes vegetables easier to digest and the nutrients in them more easily absorbed. Also, the most loss of vitamins and minerals occurs in boiling as those elements leach into the water which is then thrown away.
Cooking develops flavour in vegetables and long cooking concentrates it. Besides, caramelised courgettes taste weirdly unlike courgettes for those not so keen on the gourd, and like courgettes enough for the fans of the vegetable. I have tested the recipe on both parties!
And I’m becoming more and more convinced that the way with courgette is twofold: have it raw or cook it forever.
Tips for flavoursome courgette
The ‘forever’ method outlined below works very well and contrary to expectations doesn’t end with courgette mush. It also doesn’t take all that ‘forever’: about 20 minutes is all. Just long enough to let the vegetable caramelise beautifully in a heavy, cast iron or otherwise, pan.
The combination of flavours is excellent as well. Make sure you use whole sprigs of basil, with stems chopped up, they will add to the flavour immensely.
The crucial trick is not to add any salt to cooking courgettes as it will unnecessarily make them release a flood of liquid. Without salt they will start to caramelise sooner and take less time altogether.
So what do we end up with? A sauce, a side dish, a condiment, a topping for stuff? All these and more. It is a little like the Basque or Italian piperade/pepperonata which is spiced, cooked down peppers, and can likewise be used in many ways.
How to serve caramelised courgettes
The recipe comes from New York Times Cooking. It features there as a pasta sauce but I think it’s worth widening its usage. It is lovely on pasta, but just as nice with eggs, as demonstrated here.
It can also serve as a sauce/topping for simple roasted chicken fillet (two epitomes of blandness together, yay!) or pork chops. And last but not least, with or without a scrambled egg folded into it, it’s marvellous on toast: caramelised courgette bruschetta in other words.
More courgette recipes
I mentioned above using courgettes raw so I can’t fail to present a recipe. They are really excellent cut into ribbons in the spelt salad.
Sauteed courgettes would be boring if it wasn’t for the crispy, crunchy, magic breadcrumbs. It’s worth making a huge batch of those to put on all kinds of vegetables and pasta.
And here’s courgette in the supporting role, in anchovy braised vegetables, Provençal style.