Zucchini with chile negro, pine nuts & basil


It’s summer and let’s face it, Mother Nature is being a bit of a show off. She’s treating us like we’re minor royalty and dazzling us with all her best from raspberries so sweet they make you want to cry to tomatoes that taste – well, like tomatoes should taste. So we smile and say ‘yes please’ and ‘thank you so much’ and enjoy every last bite of it.

Of course we know it won’t last forever – it never does. We roll from one barbecue to the next putting a mental block on the words ‘autumn’ and ‘winter’. Right now it’s all factor 50, cold rosé, and nabbing the last beach chair before someone else does.

If we can be bothered to cook it has to be quick, simple and tasty. Luckily, just about everything is in season so it’s a bit of a no-brainer. If you’ve got your own vegetable garden – you-industrious-so-and-so – so much the better. Then you can saunter out and pick your own and be incredibly smug about it.

And while you’re at it, pick a zucchini while it’s still small and cute and before it looks like a club wielded by a grumpy giant. Make a quick chile sauce, toast some pine nuts – aka piñon or pignoli – tear some basil leaves and you are done. Because who wants to spend summer in the kitchen when all the fun is happening outdoors?

Serves 2-3 as a side dish

1 zucchini, about 8-9oz

2 Tbsp pine nuts

1 lemon, zest & juice

1 small clove of garlic or half of a larger clove

1 dried chile negro

pinch of cumin seeds

¼ tsp smoked paprika (sweet pimenton)

4 Tbsp olive oil

small handful of basil leaves

To make the chile sauce, place the dried chile in a bowl and cover with not quite boiling water. Allow to sit for around 15 minutes until soft and pliable. Remove the stem and seeds and chop roughly. Mix together the chile, lemon juice & zest, garlic, cumin seeds, smoked paprika and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Blitz in a blender, taste and add salt as needed.

Slice the zucchini into rings and set aside. Heat up a frying pan and toast the pine nuts until golden. Watch them like a hawk as they’ll burn before you’ve had a chance to check out your Instagram feed. Remove the toasted nuts and place in a bowl. Add the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil and the sliced zucchini. Cook over medium high heat until nicely browned on both side. Add the toasted pine nuts, stir and remove from the heat.

Place the zucchini and pine nuts on a serving platter. Tear the basil into pieces and garnish the zucchini with it. Drizzle the chile sauce over and serve any remaining sauce in a bowl on the side.

Sour Power

When life gives you lemons, forget the lemonade. Instead, make an extra-dry martini with a twist (so much more refreshing). But hold on – why is it so bad to get a bunch of lemons anyway? Lemons are lovely (just think about that martini) and we can all use a whack of sour in our lives, can’t we? LEMONS 2 Sour is good. Sour makes your lips pucker and wakes your mouth up. Not to mention that thanks to lemons you don’t run around like a toothless sailor with a bad case of rickets. Lemons are essential any time of the year but they’re much appreciated in the cold, dark, dregs of winter when we really need something – dare I say it? – zippy. LEMONS 3 And there is nothing zippier than a jar of preserved lemons. Loved in Middle Eastern cooking, preserved lemons are a must on any shelf. Now you may be lucky enough to have a grocery store near you that sells them but don’t bother. Save your money. Preserved lemons are a dawdle to make. The only caveat is that they should sit in their wee glass jar and steep for about 4 weeks before you use them. However, there are lots of recipes for ‘quick’ preserved lemons although lets be honest, there’s not a lot of preserving going on in a few hours.

How to use them once they’re done? The real question is how not to – they’re incredibly versatile. You use the flesh and can chop that up and add it to stews, tajines, roasted veg, salads – you name it. Of course, never content to let well enough alone, I add chile and other spices to give it an extra kick. So sue me. I can’t help myself.

(Recipe after the break.)HEART HOT LOVE

A year ago today…

HOT LOVE &
CHIPOTLE CHILE CHOCOLATE COOKIES

If chile is the food of love — and let’s be honest, it is — this is the perfect Valentine’s recipe.

LEMONS 4Preserved Lemons with Chile and Spices

If you can, use unwaxed lemons because be honest, do you really want to eat a bunch of wax? The recipe is for four lemons but you can scale it up or down based on the number of lemons you’ve got. Basic math is that you’ll need a tablespoon of sea salt and the juice of a lemon for each lemon you’re using.

4 unwaxed lemons
4 tbsp coarse sea salt
1 cascabel chile (rehydrated with hot water)
Sprinkle of cumin and coriander seed
Juice of 4 lemons

LEMONS 1Get a jar that’s just large enough to fit your lemons. Fill the jar with boiling water, let it sit for a minute then empty the water out. Let the jar dry and it’s ready to go.

Wash the lemons and make four lengthwise cuts from the top almost all the way to the bottom. Don’t cut all the way through – you want the lemon to stay in one piece. Stuff each lemon with a tablespoon of salt each. Place the lemons into the jar – squeeze them in tight. Sprinkle a bit of cumin and coriander onto the lemons and add the cascabel chile. Squeeze in the lemon juice (the juice of one lemon for each lemon you’re storing) and close the lid. Store for about 4 weeks before using.