Natural born grillers
Zucchini season is well and truly here. From my four zucchini plants, I’ve almost had my fill. I’ve pickled, grated into dozens of pastas, roasted, and even made a zucchini bake that was really quite delicious, my prejudice against “bakes” being what it is.
The plants have taken over, and I am looking forward to putting them through the compost.
I try to catch the zucchinis before they are any bigger than the size of a sardine. I prefer them young and tender. The zucchini is one of those vegetables that looks after itself, creeping along, but if you turn your back for too long you will have a monster that is quite inedible.
The real bonus of zucchinis in the garden is having flowers during the summer to stuff or shred through dishes. This year I fried some zucchini flower petals as a tempura, and topped them with homemade fresh curd and an anchovy – a happy update on the sometimes stolid, ricotta-stuffed number.
One of the best ways to cook zucchinis is over coals. I usually split them down the middle and cook them on the cut side only. I cook them until they are al dente, if that term can apply to more than pasta. I season the cut side for 15 minutes before I put them on the coals, and then cook until they are golden. If they need a bit more, you can flip them over and kiss them on the skin side.
From there, they can be sliced and dressed with most vinegars and any manner of European herbs.
The leeks in this recipe are grilled as well, to the point where they are actually burnt. I’ve used the outer layer almost like a wrapping, which I remove before serving. One of the great things about cooking leeks this way is that they steam in their own juices, become quite tender, and inherit a subtle smoky flavour.
Bottarga (salt-cured fish roe), finally, is one of my favourite flavours at the moment. A splash of fish sauce or anchovy essence is an okay substitute. Even better, mince a few anchovies and toss them through. Best of all: buy some bottarga.
Warm salad of zucchini, leek, smoked butter and bottarga
– 500g zucchini
– 2 leeks
– 1 tbsp vegetable oil
– drop of lemon juice
– pinch salt
– 3 tbsp double cream
– 2 tbsp lemon juice
– 130g cold unsalted butter, diced into 1cm pieces
– pinch salt
– pinch white pepper
– one small piece bottarga
Halve the zucchini and toss with the whole leeks in vegetable oil. Grill the zucchini cut-side down until golden, then set aside.
Meanwhile, grill the whole leeks on a hot barbecue or grill.
When charred, set aside to cool. Peel the burnt skin from the leek and slice into small discs. Cut the zucchini into small pieces. Toss the zucchini and leek with a few drops of lemon juice and season with a pinch of salt. Arrange the vegetables on a serving plate or individually.
Meanwhile, make the butter sauce by simmering the cream and lemon juice. As the cream simmers, turn the heat to low and quickly whisk in the cold butter, two pieces at a time. As the butter melts, add the next piece of butter until all the butter is incorporated. Taste the butter sauce and season with salt and a touch of white pepper. Spoon the butter sauce liberally over the vegetables before seasoning with a generous grating of bottarga.
2015 Nocturne chardonnay, Margaret River, WA ($42) – Mark Williamson, wine buyer for Cumulus Inc, Cumulus Up and the Builders Arms Hotel.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Mar 18, 2017 as "Warm salad of zucchini, leek, smoked butter and bottarga ". Subscribe here.