Zucchini (Courgettes) braised in rosemary infused olive oil

braised_zucchini1_500.jpg

I have not doing a lot of serious cooking lately, at least not the kind that results in a useful blog post. Most of my cooking energies have been expended on another project, which is wearing me down a bit (more on that at a later time). What I have been cooking for actual meals is very simple food, that requires minimal kitchen time, though not necessarily quick to cook.

The subject of this article is zucchini (courgette) slices that are slowly braised in a fragrant oil. It requires perhaps 10 minutes of actual kitchen time, but an hour or more to complete. Days even, if you choose one option. You don’t need to hover over the pan for that time, but you do have to be nearby, to keep an eye on the hot oil, not to mention any errant pets, children or clumsy adults that wander in.

The wait and vigilance are worth it though. The zucchini slices, scented with the pine-mintiness of rosemary, become brown and sticky and almost caramelized on the surface, and soft and creamy on the inside. It’s great as an accompaniment to roast or panfried meats or fish, or as part of a vegetarian meal (try it with pasta). I could have it every day, just on its own, if it weren’t for the rather ruinous effect it has on my waistline, even if the oil is good-for-you olive oil.

This is the taste of late summer in Provence for me.

Recipe: Zucchini (Courgettes) braised in rosemary oil

braised_zucchini2_500.jpg

Preliminaries: For optimal results, make some rosemary infused olive oil. Just put some good olive oil in a clean glass jar, about two thirds of the way up, then stuff the jar full with rosemary. No garlic, no chilis, and certainly not a dainty single sprig. Put the lid on the jar and leave it out on your countertop. Give it a shake when you see it, once a day at least. In a few days you will have a headily rosemary-scented olive oil. At this point you can leave the rosemary in to make the scent even stronger, or remove the rosemary.

If you are in a hurry, you can scent your olive oil as you cook the zucchini slices by putting a couple of sprigs into the simmering oil. Beware of the rosemary burning though, which will impart a bitter taste.

  • 3 to 4 small to medium zucchini (courgettes)
  • Rosemary infused olive oil, or olive oil plus a couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary, or rosemary hydrolat if you have it (see notes below about hydrolat)
  • Salt

Slice the zucchini (courgettes) into 1/2 inch / 1cm thick rounds. Pat the slices dry with paper towels or a kitchen towel.

Pour 1/2 inch / 1cm oil into a large frying pan, and turn the heat up to HIGH. Put the zucchini in one layer in the pan - do not overcrowd the pan. Keep the heat on HIGH until the oil starts to bubble up rapidly, then lower the heat to low-medium, or to the point where the oil is quietly bubbling around the zucchini.

Leave like this for at least 30 minutes, until the undersides of the zucchini slices turn golden brown. Turn the slices over, and cook until the other sides are also golden brown.

Do not add salt during the cooking process! Salt will draw out the moisture from the zucchini, which is not what we want here. We want the moisture to stay inside while the surface gets crisp and caramelized.

Once the zucchini slices are darkly golden brown (they will have shrunk quite a lot too), remove them from the oil. You can drain them on paper towels to get rid of excess oil if you like. If you are using hydrolad, add about 1/2 teaspoonful at most to the hot zucchini slices and toss rapidly right now. Add a pinch of salt - don’t oversalt, or you’ll mask the delicate rosemary scent.

Serve piping hot, or at room temperature.

You can save the cooking oil for another dish. If you mix the braised zucchini with pasta, sauté the freshly cooked pasta in a bit of the oil. Wonderful!

Chef Erick Vedel’s Provençal cooking classes in Arles

I learned the slow braising technique at a wonderful class in Provençal cooking given by Erick Vedel in Arles, the town in Provence made famous by Vincent Van Gogh (he left an ear there, literally). Chef Erick scented his zucchini with mint hydrolat - hydrolat is the water that result when herbs and other plants are steam-distilled for their essential oils. Getting a hold of hydrolat may be a problem, unless you have some lab equipment to do your own, so I’ve used rosemary-infused oil instead (I just prefer rosemary with zucchini instead of mint). If you can get a hold of either rosemary or mint hydrolat, by all means use that - I’ve included instructions in the recipe. Using a drop or two of edible essential oil would work too, but be very sparing or you’ll overwhelm the zucchini.

I’ll have more about Chef Erick’s classes in later posts, but in the meantime if you’re interested in a great culinary experience and you’ll be in the area, I can highly recommend his classes. (If you’re a bit persnikety about order and cleanliness and stuff, be forewarned though, his kitchen is let’s say, well lived in.) Here he’s showing us how he distills lavender, using his huge antique copper distiller.

Chef Erik Vedel distilling lavender

Incidentally, I haven’t really posted a lot about my time here in Provence (though we have actually been living here for the better part of 6 months or so, with occasional forays elsewhere) because I have been scared of jinxing our chances of being able to stay here permanently, if I talked about it or something. I know, irrational. Things are looking up in that area now…once we are officially and truly settled you’re likely to read a lot more about it here. (That is in case this small mention has jinxed it! Ack. ^_^;)

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Re: keep an eye on [..] any errant pets

That will be difficult: one of my kitties really LOVES olive oil! She might even kill for it ;)

But temptation is sweet... This recipe looks real tasty!

Gnoe | 4 September, 2009 - 15:36

Re: Zucchini (Courgettes) braised in rosemary infused olive ...

I am loving the sound of this. Also, thanks for the reminder to make rosemary-infused olive oil. I need to be picking herbs and doing that sort of thing!

Kalyn | 4 September, 2009 - 15:53

Re: Zucchini (Courgettes) braised in rosemary infused olive ...

Apparently everything grows quite well in the part of the Bay Area I live in, so my Rosemary is going crazy. I think that this and a few other recipes I should have it back to a normal sized shrub.

*Side Note: I have been reading a lot of local gardening books lately and apparently shiso, gobo root (although it can be quite invasive), as well as quite a few other Japanese staples grow very well in the East Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area. I will be testing some of them out as well as our extended growing seasons.

Stephanie | 5 September, 2009 - 00:22

Re: Zucchini (Courgettes) braised in rosemary infused olive ...

Shiso should do very well in San Francisco's mild summers. Gobo does well almost everywhere, but you do have to dig your soil up very deep or the roots fork.

maki | 5 September, 2009 - 16:50

Shiso in San Francisco

All the shiso plants that I grew from seeds are booming in pots in downtown San Francisco. I am tucking sprigs of it in our bento for the beauty and fragrance. I am also pulling up and hanging some of the bigger plants. The dried shiso is wonderful when crumbled into salsa and pasta sauce! Can the buds be pickled or used as a tasty garnish in dishes?

Folly | 8 September, 2009 - 18:11

Re: Shiso in San Francisco

Shiso buds can be pickled in salt. You need to soak the buds you can leave them on the stalks, and scrape off the buds when you eat them, or scrape them off when you pickle them) in some salt water and then drain (this gets rid of the bitterness), and then add more plain salt and leave under a weight for a few days. Finish off by adding a little ume vinegar. You can also try just pickling/marinating them in straight soy sauce. Pickled shiso buds mixed into plain rice and formed into onigiri = fantastic! You can also make tempura out of the shiso buds, stalk and all (when the buds are still tender, not dried out).

maki | 8 September, 2009 - 21:23

Re: Zucchini (Courgettes) braised in rosemary infused olive ...

This would make a great dip - slice in half lengthways and fry, maybe for a bit longer till crust and cooked and then peel bake the crusty layer, drizzle with the oil and salt dip some crust baguetter flutes in to scoop the juicy puree out! Lekker (aka dutch for delicious)

Kitchen Butterfly | 5 September, 2009 - 16:03

Re: Zucchini (Courgettes) braised in rosemary infused olive ...

This sounds delicious. The farmer's market near me has the last of the summer zucchini :( so I've bought lots of it and I'll definitely be trying this soon.

I've just got to ask though: what is hydrolad? I can't really find anything on Google...

Thanks for the great blog!!

anon. | 8 September, 2009 - 04:26

Re: Zucchini (Courgettes) braised in rosemary infused olive ...

Ack, I misspelled it actually - it's hydrolat, not hydrolad. I've corrected it now in the post. It's as I described it - the water that results when herbs, spices,flowers, etc. are steam-distilled (the oil that results is essential oil). It is also called floral water, though that's a not-quite-accurate name for it since it's not just flowers that it's produced from.

maki | 8 September, 2009 - 10:36

Re: Zucchini (Courgettes) braised in rosemary infused olive ...

i just finished reading a chapter from jeffrey steingarten's book about alain ducasse's vegis and the new techniques that he brings to them. This post reminds me of that- bringing fresh ideas to vegis.

Also - on another note - the gobo in SF is great. Jus tmade a salad with lotus root, konnyaku, gobo, carrots, celery, pickled onions. divine.

katiek @kitchensidecar | 8 September, 2009 - 06:40

Re: Zucchini (Courgettes) braised in rosemary infused olive ...

i was able to make this with eggplant as well. very yummy.

watermagequu | 10 September, 2009 - 00:52

Re: Zucchini (Courgettes) braised in rosemary infused olive ...

Our zucchini weren't very successful this year, so I'll try this method next year it's a complete departure from my quick sauté. Thanks for the tip about Erick Vedel. Though we missed our trip this summer, for the last several summers we've spent a few weeks in the Arles area-mainly in Le Paradou these days. I love the wine shop in Fontvielle. I think it's called Farandole or something like that. The owner knows his stuff, so I always stock up there. We walk down the street and eat lunch at the Bistrot du Paradou as often as possible then spend the day working off the lunch in the swimming pool. Dinner is a light affair, though my boys love the lamb chops and lamb sausages at Boucherie Charles. If I have the energy I go up to the early evening farmers' market in Velleron, though usually end up buying vegetables at the shop in Mausanne. I'm going through withdrawals this year. No France. But my pocket book is thanking me. Next summer for sure. And cooking with Erick. Thanks again. I wouldn't trade our farm for living in provence, but I would trade France for Japan (sorry).

Nancy Singleton Hachisu | 13 September, 2009 - 11:27

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