June 15, 2011

zucchini with mint & preserved lemon


It is possible that I have hit upon my favorite zucchini dish of the summer. Now, considering that the summer is young (okay, officially it hasn't even arrived yet) and that I'm bound to make about 108 more zucchini dishes between now and Labor Day, I might contradict myself at some point and announce a new favorite. But for now, this is where it's at.


The zucchini gets a quick high-heat saute to get the browned flavors going, followed by a gentle braise in a generous amount of olive oil, along with onion, garlic, and fruity Aleppo pepper. Emerging meltingly tender and sweet, the tangle of squash is joined by the brightness of fresh mint and dill and the salty-sour complexity of preserved lemon. And a crumble of feta; I love feta with zucchini. Eat it by itself, or as a side, or tossed with pasta or a whole grain for a main course.

I've become quite smitten with my first batch of preserved lemons and have been dipping into the jar on a daily basis to add the salty-fruity-sour peel to whole grains, lentils, salads, and cooked vegetables. If you've never made preserved lemons at home, you must make yourself a jar of these! It's incredibly easy and the uses are endless. Just don't repeat my mistake of putting up only a half recipe because you think 2 pounds of lemons sounds like, well, a lot of lemons. Go all the way and make a full batch. Once they've matured you'll be adding them to anything and everything and not a single wedge will go to waste.

The feta I served with the zucchini is an incredible goat's milk variety from Ardith Mae that I picked up at the Sunday farmers' market near the Natural History Museum. It's softer, creamier, and less grainy than the usual sheep's milk feta -- with an almost spreadable consistency -- and mild with a hint of goaty tang. {Ardith Mae's bigelo (ash-coated, soft-ripened) and mammuth (creamy, Camembert-like) cheeses are also fantastic. As if I needed another reason to wander this stretch of Columbus on a Sunday afternoon. . .}




zucchini with mint & preserved lemon
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 4 medium zucchini, thinly sliced (about 5 cups)
  • 2 small heads of green/young/spring garlic, chopped (or sub in 2 cloves of mature garlic)
  • 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
  • half of a preserved lemon, flesh discarded, peel rinsed to remove excess salt and chopped (about 1 Tbsp)
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • feta cheese (optional)

Heat a big glug of olive oil (about 3 Tbsp) in a heavy-bottomed pot or skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and zucchini and a pinch of salt. Saute, stirring occasionally, until the edges of the vegetables are beginning to brown, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the garlic, Aleppo pepper, and a few grinds of black pepper. If the mixture looks dry, add a drizzle of oil (1 to 2 Tbsp). Lower heat, cover, and cook until the squash is very tender, about 10 minutes more. If the zucchini has released a lot of liquid, simmer uncovered for another minute or two to evaporate some of the water and concentrate the juices.

Turn off the heat, stir in the herbs and preserved lemon, and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Garnish each serving with crumbled feta, if desired.

10 comments:

  1. Hmm...I've been wanting to make preserved lemon. Beautiful dish, Nancy. It just glistens!

    Yes, with the droves of zucchini yet to come to summer market, there could be a replacement or two for your favorite squash dish. but this looks like a winner. I like how you've been using mint lately.

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  2. This sounds fantastic. I haven't yet thrown up my hands in despair at the amount of zucchini in my kitchen, but like you said, the summer hasn't quite yet begun. Now I'm wondering what has been stopping me from making preserved lemons.

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  3. I still haven't made preserved lemons. What's holding all of us up? This looks like a great combination -- the lemon, mint, feta...beautiful.

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  4. You really have a lot of fresh takes on things I would never come up with. Looks and sounds so refreshing with the mint, dill and lemon.

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  5. Love the flavours, preserved lemon brings such a lovely tang to so many dishes!

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  6. What an original recipe and quite a welcome way to have zucchini an old favourite

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  7. Just wanted to say hi and hoping all is well...have not seen you on the blog in a while :)

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  8. Hi Jessica,
    Thanks for checking in ~ All is well, just taking a blogging sabbatical of sorts :) It got to be a little much with my job, etc...but I'll be back if and when the inspiration strikes!

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  9. hey Nancy---glad that all is well. hope the inspiration will strike again soon. we've missed you.

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  10. Wow! I am little past summer but this still looks delish! I may have to sub out the goat though as I am still working up to dairy. Hopefully soon!

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