The English call them marrows, and – at least according to Agatha Christie (The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, if I remember correctly) – take great pride in growing the zucchinis to very large vegetables. They call young zucchinis “courgettes” (the French word for zucchinis) and the big one “marrows”. In the US, we call them baseball bats and we lock our cars in the summer so treacherous neighbors don’t surreptitiously leave bags of them as “gifts”.
But, people, marrows have their place – besides the compost pile, that is. One just has to rethink how to use them.
First, they will keep for several weeks at room temperature – unlike young fruit which get limp real fast. So you don’t have to use them right away.
Of course, we make zucchini bread. And would you believe it, but I finally made my first zucchini bread – ever? Very good at breakfast, I must say. Also very versatile, since the zucchini tastes pretty neutral: add a couple of tablespoons of poppy seeds for a little crunch and an Eastern Europe inspiration; some chopped candies ginger and honey for a spicy cake; chunks of apples or pears for a creamier cake. Etc. You get the idea.
How about zucchini pancakes? (recommended by my friend Rose; I have not made that, but it’s worth a try… I suppose). Zucchini fritters, that’s quite tasty too.
Grated and squeezed hard, packed in one-cup containers, they also freeze well. None of that mushy texture. So you can make zucchini bread in winter.
Rougails are ubiquitous and endlessly varied. There are cooked rougails that are served as main dishes (and are related to “carri”), and rougails – either cooked or raw – that are served as condiments, similar to fresh relish or fresh salsa. The side rougails come to the table as part of the traditional Reunionese main dish: rice (the base starch), meat, egg or fish (in moderate portion), a cooked vegetable (often a green leafy one), a legume (lentils, dry beans, or other pulse or dry peas), and an array of rougails, of various spiciness (read “heat” brought by chili peppers) that one adds in small quantity to their plate to season and enhance the meal.
Such raw rougails generally contain a little red onion – or shallots, sometimes a little ginger and/or garlic, always chilies (cayenne or bird type), salt, oil, sometimes vinegar. The main vegetable is diced finely or shredded and can be tomatoes, green mangoes, combava fruit (kaffir lime), green lime, tree tomato, avocado, “z’evi” (a relative of mango that hails from Polynesia). They also make a salad of raw grated zucchini on Réunion, so why not a rougail? so presto, Rougail Zucchini was born (or probably reborn, I can’t imagine a cook somewhere on Réunion has not already come up with something similar).
- 1 cup raw, grated, salted and squeezed-dry zucchini (see note)
- 1 red Jalapeno (or other hot chili of choice, more if you like it really hot)
- 1/8 of a medium red onion (or one small shallot), thinly slivered
- 2 Tablespoons oil **
- a few green coriander seeds (optional, but they add a nice touch)
- Cut the chili in small sliver (remove seeds and internal membrane if you desire less heat). Handle carefully, especially if you are sensitive to the hot oil (wear gloves if needed or wash hands very thoroughly after handling the chilies). On Reunion, they mash the chilies with a little salt in a lava-rock mortar like the one pictured here.
- Mix everything with a fork.
- Serve as a fresh relish. It does not have to be rice, although the picture below shows the rougail served with rice, braised chayote shoots, and 2 fresh fried eggs for a quick luncheon. I have served it also with a meal of roasted chicken, roasted cumin sweet potatoes and braised Swiss chard – and it worked! Very good with pork roast also.
** Variation: for a more interesting flavor, I use mustard oil. Mustard oil is very strongly flavored, and just a little goes a long way — but guests always rave and request the recipe when I make the rougail with half EVOO & mustard oil.
Note on Zucchini: You wnt a very large one – remove the seeds. I grate by hand, but if you have a good food processor that’s not going to make a mush out of the zucchini, by all means use it. Put one layer of grated zucchini in a non-reactive colander, salt. Repeat. Let sit for 30 minutes or so. Squeeze as tight as you can to get rid of as much water as you can. Collect the green liquid if you wish and use it for soup or to cook rice. It will give the rice a faint pleasant green tinge.
Locavore Log: Chayote shoots, garlic, jalapeno & zucchini from the garden; onions from The Farm at Sunnyside Farm; eggs from the hens; home rendered-lard from a Belle Meade pig.