zucchini confit with mint & almonds
Ok. I know. It doesn’t have the same kind of ring to it as something like the famous blog title – Chocolate & Zucchini. But trust me. You may have, like me, book-marked Clotilde’s recipe for Chocolate & Zucchini cake and never actually gotten around to cooking it**. But I have uncovered a zucchini recipe that just screams to be brought to life in the kitchen.
For a long time I considered zucchini to be a pretty run-of-the-mill vegetable, nothing to offend yet nothing to get excited about either. That was until I met my blond-headed pixie friend Juanita.
Now Juanita is one of those lovely earthy people who isn’t seduced by the exoticism of things like truffles, foie gras, Champagne, or diamonds. Juanita – or Jo as she was known until her Spanish teacher once took a shine to her and insisted on using the Spanish version of her name â€“ is a girl who knows what she likes. And Juanita not only likes, but zucchini. And when Juanita loves something, I’e learned to pay attention and give it some air time.
I remember my first foray into Juanita-inspired zucchini cuisine. She and Craig were living in a little terrace house in Newtown and I was inbetween wine making gigs – the Hunter Valley and California, if I remember correctly. Anyway, the important thing was that I was lucky enough to be crashing in that cute terrace for a week or so and as a thankyou gesture had volunteered to cook a family dinner.
I’d decided that I wanted to cook something that they would really appreciate. And as it happened I found a recipe for zucchini soup. It seemed almost boringly plain, and I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to be anywhere near as exciting as the chocolate cake I had my eye on for dessert. But somehow I knew Juanita would just love it and so I took a chance on zucchini.
The details are a little blurred after all these years. I remember that the soup was the black horse winner as the favourite dish that night. I remember that the soup had zucchini and parmesan and basil. But that’s about it. It’s always a little sad when you misplace a loved recipe, but given that it opened my eyes to the potential of zucchini as a vegetable, in some ways it still lives on.
If you aren’t lucky enough to have an inspired friend like the lovely Juanita and haven’t yet been converted to the wonders of the humble zucchini (or courgette) as a vegetable, this dish is the one you should try. Buttery and rich and still good for you as it’s vegetables after all. It is almost to good to be true – almost.
Add in the nutty crunchy complexity of roasted almonds and a refreshing burst of fresh mint and I can guarantee you’ll be diverting all your zucchini away from a life of debauchery in the form of chocolate cake and inviting them to partner with the nutty old almond on a regular basis.
Zucchini Confit with Mint & Almonds
serves 4 as a side dish
Inspired by Sam & Sam Clarkes treasure of a book Moro East.
This is truly a versatile side dish, I’ve tried it with BBQ pork cutlets marinated in fennel seeds and garlic to good effect. But I think it went even better with the snapper wrapped in foil and BBQed that we had for dinner last night. Either way I’m looking forward to tucking into the leftovers. Who knows? They may even end up being reincarnated as a sauce for pasta if they don’t find a cute poached egg or a hunk of feisty goats cheese to settle down with in the mean time.
I know it seems like a lot of zucchini for a side dish for four people. I almost reduced the quantity myself, but once they’ve reached their buttery melt-in-the-mouth goodness, you’ll be surprised how quickly they disappear.
1/3C extra virgin olive oil
1kg (2lb), approx 8 medium zucchini (courgettes), thinly sliced into rounds
2 cloves garlic, peeled & finely sliced
½ bunch mint, leaves picked
pinch dried chilli flakes, optional
100g ( 3 1/2oz) – a big handful – whole almonds, roasted
Place oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add zucchini and cook stirring occasionally for approx 10 minutes. Add garlic and half the mint leaves and chilli, if using and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes or until zucchini are buttery and tender but still holding their shape. Season well.
Serve either warm or at room temperature with remaining mint sliced and tossed through and toasted almonds sprinkled over.
** Although to be fair I do really love the idea of chocolate and vegetable cakes one day I’ll get there. If you’re interested in giving it a go try your luck at with the name-sake cake of one of the pioneers of the food blogging world Chocolate & Zucchini.