Just a quick post with a recipe for a lovely Italian courgette salad that would be very well received at any summer dinner or barbecue. I got the idea for it from Rachel Roddy’s brilliant book on Roman cooking, Five Quarters, and I was totally blown away by the amount of flavour that her cooking method gives the courgettes. Instead of being watery and sort of casserole-y, as cooked courgettes often are, these beautifully golden discs of courgette are packed with flavour, having been fried till crisp and then covered in a simple but elegant dressing of just vinegar, garlic and some fresh mint leaves.
To me, this dish has that genuine, hard-to-put-your-finger-on Italian flavour; it tastes like the food you get in small restaurants around Italy, or the sorts of salads that patiently sit in white baking dishes in authentic Italian delicatessens the world over. I think the reason it works so well is that the oil cloaking the courgette slices from their quick fry mixes with the vinegar & salt to create a kind of meta version of a dressed salad, where the salad itself is part of the dressing, if that makes sense. If not, just trust me on this & give it a go. It’s a genius dish.
COURGETTE, MINT & MOZZARELLA SALAD
The trick to making the courgettes so tasty is in how you treat them before you cook them. To stop them from just braising in their own liquid as they’re fried, you slice them a few hours before cooking and leave them out in the air so that their water content reduces and their outer sides toughen somewhat. I think you’d get much the same effect if you popped them into the fridge overnight after slicing too if you wanted to make them ahead.
I couldn’t resist adding torn buffalo mozzarella and chilli flakes to the original salad (I never can) but it turned out utterly delicious so I would wholeheartedly suggest adding them to yours too.
2 large courgettes (or 3 smaller ones)
Handful of mint
1 scant tbsp of red wine vinegar
1 medium sized clove of garlic, peeled & diced
1 ball of buffalo mozzarella
Slice the courgettes and place on sheets of kitchen paper. Leave them in a warm part of your house for at least an hour and a half, or until they’re starting to feel slightly leathery & less wet to the touch. Heat a generous glug of olive oil over a medium high heat. Once hot, fry the courgette slices carefully in batches, turning each slice once (take the pan off the heat to turn the slices once with a tongs). Once golden on both sides, remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and place on kitchen paper momentarily before transferring to your serving dish. Season with salt and add mint leaves. Finely dice the garlic & mix with the tablespoon of vinegar. Pour the dressing over the courgette slices & sprinkle with chilli flakes. Tear the mozzarella and place on top. If possible, leave the salad to sit at room temperature for a little while before serving to allow the flavours to meld.