Monday, November 29, 2010

Zucchini with Thyme (Courgette with Thyme)

In an effort to feature appetizing vegetable dishes outside the boundaries of the traditional Filipino veggies like “ginisang gulay” a.k.a “pinakbet tagalog”, “abraw” or “inabraw”, “laing” and even “chop suey”, among those already posted here, and to continue the surprising saga of the now popular “beef with broccoli” recipe, I heeded to our group’s request that I cook zucchini. So when we went shopping for our weekly food provisions over the weekend, a medium-sized pretty zucchini is among the new food items that we acquired. We are hoping to transform it into a delectable veggie dish for our Sunday dinner.

Like broccoli, zucchini is a European vegetable now widely available in the fresh harvest section of most Philippine supermarkets. As some of us know, it is now successfully being cultivated and produced in the cool regions on the Philippines like the environs of Baguio City in Benguet and probably Tagaytay City in Cavite. It is a fine–looking and intriguing produce which is akin to a cross breed of the local gourd or “upo” and squash or “kalabasa”. While its skin’s usual deep green color with tiny white spots (there is a golden variety colored yellow or orange) resembles that of the skin of a young squash, its flesh is pretty much like that of a gourd, soft and whitey.

Zucchini as commonly called in North America, Italy, Germany, Australia and the Philippines or courgette as known in the United Kingdom, Greece, New Zealand, Ireland, France, the Netherlands, Portugal and South Africa, is a popularly cultivated summer squash that can grow big (up to one meter in length) but harvested while still immature at just half the size. While botanically, zucchini is a fruit, being the swollen ovary of the female zucchini flower, it is considered a vegetable in the culinary context. Meaning, it is usually cooked and served as a savory dish or accompaniment rather than consumed raw or fresh.

As a food ingredient, zucchini is very flexible. It can be prepared using a variety of cooking methods, including sautéed, fried, steamed, boiled, grilled, baked, barbecued, or included in other recipes. Interestingly, it can also be baked into bread in the same way as the banana bread, or quite astonishingly, folded into a chocolate cake mix.

The zucchini has a delicate and subtle flavor and requires little more than quick cooking with butter or olive oil. Quick cooking allows the vegetable to partially boil and steam, with the juices concentrated in the final moments of sautéing when the own rendered liquid is reducing. In such preparation, the skin is usually left in place which provides the crunch in the final dish.

For this sautéed veggie dish flavored with thyme, the ingredients needed are: 2 tbsp canola or vegetable oil (olive oil is best if you have), 2 tbsp butter, 8 gloves garlic, crushed, peeled then minced, ¼ cup minced green onion, 1 medium zucchini, about 700 grams, cut into ½ inch sticks, 3 inches in length, 1 tsp dried thyme or 1 tbsp fresh thyme, 1 beef (or chicken, if you like) bouillon cube, crumbled, ¼ tsp freshly ground pepper and ¼ tsp iodized salt or to taste.

The cooking process is straightforward sautéing. In a wide pan, heat oil and butter on medium flame. Fry garlic followed by green onions and cook until soft, but not browned. Add in zucchini sticks, crumbled beef bouillon cube and dried thyme.

Season it with ground pepper and salt. Gently stir to coat the zucchini pieces with the blended ingredients. Put the lid on and continue cooking on low-medium heat until the zucchini is cooked through but still crunchy. Stir from time to time during the cooking process. Make sure not to overcook.

Transfer in a wide platter and serve right away. This is good to be eaten while still warm.

Since this is just an accompaniment in a meal, serve it along with your other fish or meat entrée. This goes well with either fried or steamed rice as well. :-)

The combined flavors of thyme, butter and beef flavorings made this dish distinctly delicious. It could well stand as a main meal, actually.

Our group ate this with plain rice so some slices of minute sirloin steak cooked medium well on a hot griddle made our dinner complete. Try this and enjoy! c“,)

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