Posted by: seasin | August 6, 2009

Warm zucchini/courgette and prawn salad

Posh start to a simple tuna pasta dinner :)

Posh start to a simple tuna pasta dinner 🙂

DB and I have been in a bit of a dining rut lately, eating out or making do with whatever we (please read I) could scrap together out of nearly fosilized remains in our fridge (only because we did not have the time to go food-shopping…and I think, frankly, we also couldn’t be bothered). But yesterday I thought enough is enough, and even if DB asked for pasta (again???WTF? This man is starting to be addicted to pasta like I am to curry and he didn’t even used to like it when we first met!) with a very simple sauce,  while I was shopping for canned tuna and sweetcorn (yep I made him pasta with tuna and sweetcorn-a classic, ladies and gentlemen) I couldn’t resist the appeal of lovely fresh zucchini (you know what I mean if you’re Italian or American) aka courgettes (if you’re French or British)-by the way, what the linguistic HELL happened there? Why are the Americans calling this vegetable by its Italian name, while the Brits are calling it by its French name? Couldn’t you people just agree on a name and possibly even without STEALING words from two different LATIN languages? But again I’m digressing.

So I couldn’t resist their appeal…and as I was looking around for stuff to marry them with, because I was in a cheap mood, I got stuck with some very very reasonably priced frozen prawns. I then proceeded to drive home…and all through the drive I was stumped as to what to do with my catch. I routinely put myself in such situations, you know. But after a bit of brainstorming, here’s what you do when you have courgette/zucchini (reversed the names just for some variety, he he!), prawns and not much inspiration.

Grab the vegetable (whatever you call it)-I used, for two hungry people, 4 small-to-medium c/z (much easier to call them that)-they were precisely 700 g but I’ve never been one for precision so ignore that-just get 4 of the little buggers. Wash them thoroughly, cut the little stumpy tail and the little nub nose, and get to work on them with a potato peeler. Just pretend to be peeling them lengthwise until there’s nothing left but the puny little squarish looking centre, which is sometimes loaded with seeds and you can either discard or cut up in little cubes and use in the tuna pasta :). Just for the sake of clarity-no, I’m not telling you to peel the c/z. I’m telling you to basically turn them into thin ribbons by using the potato peeler with a vengeance. Very therapeutic, and darn easy to thinly slice a big vegetable in no time whatsoever (I also use this technique to get thin strips out of raw carrots, for salads and stir-fries). Place the mound of lovely pale-green (with interesting darker-green edges, because we didn’t peel them, just sliced them) ribbons into a colander, sprinkle with salt and leave in your kitchen sink to drain for about ten minutes. While the salt sucks the moisture out of them, wash, de-seed (and for God’s love, get rid of the internal white-ish ribs, too-they have a spongy texture, no taste and they’re just surplus to requirements) and chop into small-ish cubes one red bell-pepper (has to be red for the color. I supposed orange will do as well, but please don’t use green. Rather not use a pepper at all, if you can’t get any of those two colors. It’s my recipe and I can order you around as much as I want!). Place the pepper cubes in your salad bowl, sprinkle with salt (no, you don’t have to, but I’m a salt addict). Then, peel and mince three cloves of garlic (put them through a press, or grate them, you need them quite fine for this one) and chuck them with a glug of olive oil (we only use extra virgin, because I’m manic!) in a fairly deep saute pan. Then, if you’re addicted to a bit of heat, like I am, crumble in two dry tiny fiery Italian pepperoncini (or finely slice half of your favorite fresh chilli pepper, de-seeded. We’re not trying to kill anyone here). Turn the heat up to medium-high, then grab handfulls of the c/z ribbons, give them a fairly firm squeeze to get rid of more water, then add them to the pan. Get crazy with the pepper mill on top of them, then give them a stir so that they’re coated in the garlicky-hot oil, cover and cook on high heat, shaking the pan vigurously every now and then, for about…5,6 minutes? The ribbons are fairly thin and you don’t want them stewed and completely limp, just perfectly cooked and yet a bit crunchy (now, if you’re smart, which I definitely wasn’t last night as I was making up this dish, you’ll use a wok for the process and that will both get you perfect texture AND cut the cooking time to I guess three minutes). If you squezzed them properly before cooking, then once the 6 minutes are up, you can just tip the pan on top of the sweet peppers in the salad bowl. The oil, garlic, pepperoncini and the small amount of cooking liquid that the ribbons eventually let out will create most of the dressing you need for the salad. If you feel there’s too much liquid, then curse yourself for not being more thorough with the squeezing and lift them out of the pan/wok with a slotted spoon, then add to the salad as much of the cooking juices as you deem fit.

Now, as the cooked c/z are mingling with the sweet peppers cubes, warming them up and sharing fragrance secrets, heat up a little olive oil in a frying pan (I use non-stick but feel free to use whatever floats your boat in the frying pan universe), and when it’s really hot, add the (mine were still frozen, the buggers!) prawns. The ones I bought were medium, pre-cooked (so you really just want to heat them up-or more acurately, to thaw them AND heat them through), peeled but with tails still on. Season them with freshly ground salt, pepper, and sprinkle with about half a teaspoon of garam masala (if you don’t have any, shame on you! you can still use any sort of mixed spices you have-like chinese five spice, or an italian blend-I just fancied the garam masala last night). If yours are frozen, like mine were, they’ll let up quite a bit of liquid. So once the liquid starts bubbling, reduce the heat to medium, cook for about 5 minutes tossing them about every now and then. Grab one by the tail when the time is up, bite on it, and if it’s edible (as in hot and nice, not overcooked prawn, instead of a prawn ice lolly) and the pan juices have reduced to about one spoonfull, add the whole content of the pan to the c/z and peppers mix in the bowl. If you’re unlucky like I was, and the pan juices are enough to flood the Missisipi plains even after the prawns are nicely done, then take out the prawns with a slotted spoon, and leave the pan on medium heat to keep simmering until the juices have reduced to the above quantity (1-2 tablespoons).

Once everything is in the salad bowl, squeeze the juice of half a lemon in a small cup, add a teaspoon of honey, stir until honey is disolved in the lemon juice, throw in the big bowl with everything else, and stir the lot around so that everything is mixed together in harmony and coated with the various liquids. Taste, adjust salt, pepper and lemon juice if required. Voila. Warm c/z and prawn salad. To be served warm. Obviously. Aren’t the colors pretty?

pretty...and damn tasty, too

pretty...and damn tasty, too

Here are the quantities, again:

4 courgettes/zucchinis

1 red or orange bell pepper

1 bag of frozen medium prawns, pre-cooked, peeled, tails still on (400 g)

3 cloves of garlic

2 dry pepperoncini OR half a fresh chilli pepper

Juice of half a lemon

Olive oil

salt, pepper, garam masala (or any other spice mix you fancy)

Folks, this is really easy, fast and very tasty. And obviously, if you live in a country where you can buy fresh prawns and you’re not on a tight budget, please use fresh prawns-they’re a huge treat. And also obviously, if I had some fresh coriander, I would have chopped and sprinkled a handfull on top right before serving. But I live in Sofia and I didn’t have any. Use some if you are more fortunate than frustrated Transilvanians living in Sofia.

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