My take on Thomas Keller scored zucchini is really much better, I’m afraid. It’s hot and sweet and acidic which is what the bland and boring courgette needs, no matter how much you score it. Also, I call it ‘courgette’, which is better because it has a plural form.
There is a viral courgette recipe doing rounds at the moment which you might be familiar with – unless, of course, you’re reading this in 2035.
It’s oven-roasted courgette or rather zucchini, as its father is the American chef, Thomas Keller. It has already spawned a myriad YouTube, Instagram and TikTok videos as well as tonnes of blog posts.
What’s the deal? In my humble opinion, nothing special.
The courgette is sliced lengthwise in half, scored in a diamond pattern on the inside surface, then shallow fried, scored side down, in hot oil. Following that, it goes into the oven for a spell and then it’s served with a topping: sauce vierge or chimichurri.
Rave comments wax lyrically about the creaminess (I call it mushiness) and the flavour (never knew they had any) of the courgettes. It’s supposed to be a ‘life changing’ recipe! Blimey. It all beats me a little bit.
The dish doesn’t even look that nice: true, the scored pattern chars and opens up nicely, but it’s all covered by the topping which, depending on what kind you make, enhances anything it’s put on, possibly including cardboard.
So what’s my take on it?
I really don’t think courgettes, even twice cooked, are superbly flavoursome on their own, creamy or not. But they will certainly improve when seasoned with a little heat, a little acid and a lot of sweetness.
Made like this, they don’t change anyone’s life but are a lovely side to a meat dish: pan seared duck fillet, steak or game.
How to prepare my courgettes?
I don’t have an issue with scoring and salting the slices, leaving them face down on paper towels for a while to draw out as much moisture as possible. Watery vegetables benefit from salting and sitting, expelling excess water, because it intensifies flavour – or what little flavour there is in zucchini.
Then frying, face down again, in only a little oil as I don’t like them swimming in grease, but for longer over medium heat so they don’t burn but uniformly char on the scored surface.
I then transfer them face up onto a baking tray lined with parchment, rather than whacking the frying pan with the oil into the oven, and sprinkle them gently but thoroughly with hot smoked paprika. In they go, for about 15-20 minutes depending on the courgette variety.
What courgette varieties are there?
They come in the elongated or round shapes, and they can be various shades of green, or yellow.
There is also a white variety, star-shaped, called patisson or patty pan but they are more popular on the continent than in the UK.
I think I like the yellow varieties best – or maybe it’s just the cheerful hue that I find more appealing?
My courgette flavour combo
Back to the courgettes, baking in the oven. Towards the end of the cooking time I drizzle each slice generously with maple syrup and return them to the oven. On exit and just before serving I squirt half a lime over the tray – and they are ready to accompany that duck or whatever.
I’ll argue quite passionately that it is the sweet-hot-acid combination that transforms the courgette, not the frying-roasting.
I first learned how wonderful that flavour combo was while making corn ribs, and ever since I’ve been adding just that seasoning to sweetcorn which – just like zucchini – isn’t renowned for its strong taste.
So this recipe is most likely nowhere near viral, but if you have stumbled upon it and tried, I think you’ll be grateful.
More courgette recipes
Caramelised courgettes with basil and garlic: is it a sauce, a condiment, a side dish? All of those and more.
Tian de courgettes, courgette and spinach gratin, courgette bake - however you call it, it's a great vegetarian recipe. Zucchini and spinach are a well matched couple appearing in risottos, pasta and frittatas.
Raw courgette ribbons marinated with lemon and tossed with raisins, almonds, pistachios and nori flakes – a gorgeous courgette salad made without spiralizer but with a vegetable peeler.
More summer side dish recipes
Green beans with Parmesan cream – a creamy casserole of green beans in cheese sauce. The Parmesan cream is easier to make than thermidor or mornay sauce and can easily replace either in a variety of dishes.
Piperade is the Basque take on ratatouille with the heat of espelette pepper. This recipe is easy and simple, like a lot of best things in life.
Sauteed wild mushrooms, chanterelles and pied de mouton. Cook wild mushrooms simply, with only a little seasoning: salt, pepper and a dash of cream.