Courgettes are one of those vegetables that needs help. There is no getting away from it – they are bland and watery. You can guarantee that if someone tells you they make a delicious courgette soup, pasta or risotto, there will be something else key in there to help the courgettes along: garlic, cream, butter, cheese or herbs, something to lift its dullness to a new height. They also benefit from grilling or frying which will intensify their flavour and helps caramelise their natural sugars. They do however have great texture and take on other flavours well and are best used as fresh as possible, so don’t push them to the back of the fridge; use them first and they will reward you.
I also got a free bunch of basil in my Medium Vegbox (less roots) this week. I just whizzed it up straight away with some good extra virgin olive oil using a hand blender. This will keep in the fridge now for at least a week and can be used to elevate all sorts of dishes from pasta to soups, marinades or sauces.
Talking of hand-blenders, it is time for my “Gadget of the Week”. Please invest in a good one. Do not be tempted by the economy range version for £5.00. It will last a month. Instead, invest in the best and it will reward you with years of hard work and save you hours of washing up. They are particularly good for pureeing a small amount of something and can make light work of even ginger and lemongrass. Also, it is just so much easier to blend a soup straight in the pan than have to decant it into a liquidiser. Rant over!
Tomato and Courgette “au Gratin”
Serves 2 as a main, 4 as a side
5 ripe beef or large tomatoes
6 tbsp olive oil
Bunch of basil
2 clove garlic
40g parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 350F, 180C, gas 4. Top and tail the courgettes and slice them thinly, on an angle to get a larger surface area. Put them into a bowl and toss with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and some salt and pepper. Heat a grill or griddle pan or use a frying pan. Either grill or fry the courgette slices on both sides until tender. Slice thinly the tomatoes thinly.
Very thinly slice the garlic, (A mandolin is good for this.) Whiz up the basil and the remaining olive oil until you have a smooth sauce.
When you can handle the courgettes, start layering the veg. starting with the courgettes put a layer almost standing up at the end of your gratin dish. Next almost cover them with a layer of tomatoes but leave the top still showing. Keep going, adding some garlic slices between each layer. Push the layers together to give you more room to a add more. You want to get in as much as possible. When finished, season with a little more salt and pepper and drizzle basil oil generously over the top. Mix the grated parmesan and the breadcrumbs together and bake for 30 minutes in the oven until golden on top.