Sunday, 6 June 2010

NCR Zucchini Salad and a Digression

It’s been a funny old week. Not much action in the kitchen. Monday I worked a long day so I didn’t have to work a half day on Tuesday. By Wednesday when I was roasting potatoes, the kitchen seemed incredibly hot and I realised it was me, not my oven. I spent the rest of the week feeling poorly. I was even most appreciative of child care on Friday so I could take a proper sick day without Sylvia.

Heat was not the only thing to bother me. I couldn’t stomach strong flavours. On Wednesday I had planned to make a zucchini salad for Jacqueline and Lisa’s No Croutons Required event. I was happy when the theme was zucchini (or courgette) because they are always around in my kitchen. I have long been inspired to make a blueberry vinaigrette after seeing Lisa make one. But having lots of lemons on our tree, I turned to Vikki Leng’s Quick Berry Dressing as the inspiration but made so many changes that it was unrecognizable as her recipe.

The salad was ok but too flavoursome for me. I think the main problem is that I used some beans that I had fried up the previous night with onions, a dash of cumin and a dash of cinnamon. Too many onions, too much cumin and too much cinnamon! I also found the large slabs of zucchini not to my liking. But it was a good accompaniment to these roast potatoes! (NB Sylvia loved the latter, even grabbing them off our plate after she finished hers but wouldn't eat roast potatoes at child care the next day)

Here I must digress to have a whinge about supermarkets. These potatoes had a glorious purple skin. It faded to grey upon cooking but I still thought they deserved a poetic name. However they were just given a dull generic “Coles roasting potatoes”. What a cop out! I am sure they have a far more interesting name that should be shared.

Not to mention my problems with supermarket tomatoes. Too many times recently I have opened a Coles brand diced Italian tomatoes and found they are whole tomatoes. I also bought some tomatoes in a hurry last week (trying to forget they are out of season because Sylvia loves them). When I got home they were quite bland. Maybe I would have been warned if I had read the label that said that they were “field grown as nature intended” and “no mess”. That seems like having your cake and eating it too. Or like my brother’s shower gel that claims to make you a wildly masculine and moisturise your skin.

Speaking of fickle folk, a new food critic arrived in my life last week. My brother texted everyone on Thursday evening saying that they had been told his wife would probably not have her baby till next week. He then texted on Friday to say that a daughter Ashton was born in the wee hours of the morning.

Enough digressing and back to the salad. While it wasn’t an overall success, I loved the blueberry dressing. It was fruity and tart. Just the sort of clean, crisp flavours I needed. So a few days later I revisited the salad as I was beginning to feel better. This time I kept it simple and just had green leaves and plain chickpeas. I also chopped up the zucchini after grilling it. I served the salad over cheese and spinach tortellini. It was excellent, like a warm pasta salad.

I think my ill health was of benefit to this salad. It prevented me throwing in all sorts of ideas from the maelstrom in my head. Even later I kept thinking maybe it needed a little mint, or feta, or sundried tomato, or fresh tomato, or spring onion and on and on. But in the end I think the salad was better for its simplicity.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: Butterscotch (Cake) and Banner Surprises
This time two years ago: Shamburgers
This time three years ago: Kraut Rock Cupcakes

Zucchini, Greens and Chickpea Salad with Blueberry Dressing
serves 4, as a side dish
  • 4 large (1 kg) zucchini
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1-2 pinches of salt
  • 1 cup cooked or tinned chickpeas
  • 2 handfuls green leaves – I used a mix baby spinach, rocket, watercress
Blueberry dressing:
  • ½ cup blueberries
  • ½ lemon
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • ¼ scant tsp mustard powder
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
Slice the zucchinis lengthwise into 0.5cm thickness. I also cut mine in half because I found them easier to handle but that is not essential. Place on a tray to go under the grill (that is broiler to Americans but they could also be barbecued).

Put a tablespoon of olive oil into a small container – a tea mug will do – and a pinch of salt (add more if needed but I think this is enough of both). Brush zucchini slices with oil and salt. Grill til golden brown and then turn over, brush with a little more oil and grill til second side is golden. I tried to time this but it takes a while – enough time to play with putting shapes in the right hole with a toddler – over 20 minutes on my griller, though I did it on a low heat.

While zucchinis are grilling, make the dressing by sieving the blueberries to get the juice (I discarded the skins) and squeezing the juice from the half lemon. Mix blueberry juice and lemon juice with remaining ingredients and mix well either with a little whisk or by shaking in a jar or even just using a fork and some elbow grease (but don’t add the elbow grease to the dressing).

When zucchinis are cooked and still warm, dice and throw into a medium salad bowl with green leaves and chickpeas . Pour dressing over zucchini mixture and toss to coat. Season to taste. This was excellent served over warm cheese and spinach tortellini but I am sure it can be served many more ways and would keep well overnight in the fridge.

On the stereo:
Sulla Terra: J. Orphic


  1. Don't get me started on supermarket tomatoes :P With the tinned varioties, I've found the Ardmona ones much less watery than other brands and I also like the flavours that they come with.

  2. Sorry to hear you weren't well this week, but by golly gee you're amazing for making/adapting/perfecting a new recipe like this despite a less-than-stellar immune system!

    I very much hope you feel back to 100% soon, and congratulations to your brother and his wife. Happy days and a new playmate for Sylvia! :)

  3. Congratulations on your new niece!

    Sorry to hear you weren't felling well, hope you're feeling much better now and back to cooking and eating - I hate it when I don't feel like eating. The courgette salad looks really lovely, I too really enjoy courgettes.

  4. so, totally about tomatoes. But, i love the idea of blueberry dressing.

  5. Sorry to hear that you have been feeling poorly - I hope that you are now feeling better. I agree about the supermarkets!

  6. Sorry you weren't feeling well! I can't cook either when I'm poorly. But the salad obviously didn't suffer. ;)

    Congrats to your brother and his wife--and yay for a new food critic in your life(and Sylvia's)! :)

  7. Sorry to read that you've been feeling poorly. I sincerely hope that you are feeling much better now.

    The courgette salad looks great. I love the versatility of chickpeas. Sadly I no longer have a greenhouse to grow toms like I did last year, so have to be wise with my choices in purchasing: as you know s fresh ones are bland and tinned ones sometimes very watery. I do have three plants, but I don't know what I'll realistically get from. The odd tom here and there for a sandwich I guess.

    Congratulations on becoming an Aunty Johanna.

  8. This sounds like one good salad, but I'm sorry you felt it was overspiced. I love those purple potatoes. THe color makes me happy.

  9. Hope u feel 100% now. My health has been up and down this year. So cold (it’s Melbourne after all)
    Love this meal btw. And I’m with you about the supermarket stuff. I think the whole system is just not too positive right now… Prefer the market for sure.

  10. Thanks Lorraine - I usually buy the Italian ones because they are the tins with only tomatoes and juice but I notice the difference with some brands.

    Thanks Hannah - not sure I would have embarked on this if I had realised I would be feeling poorly but glad I did as it was easy to throw together when I didn't feel well

    Thanks C - gladly I haven't been so ill that I have not wanted to eat at all but I just needed simple foods - but am feeling better now

    Thanks Maybelle's Mom - I love the blueberry dressing - it is more practical than raspberry dressings I have tried because it is cheaper to buy blueberries

    Thanks Cakelaw - yes feeling better about my health (but not about supermarkets - ha ha)

    Thanks Ricki - I actually wondered if I would have altered the flavours if I had felt better but I suspect I would just have added too much so I hope this recipe is repeatable!

    Thanks Mangocheeks - it is hard to not eat tomatoes at all during winter but I am learning to eat a lot less unless they come in a tin (and even these aren't perfect as I have said)

    Thanks Joanne - I love the purple potatoes - I think they are called royal blue after seeing them in a fruit and veg shop on the weekend

    Thanks Anh - the weather does mess with our health - and re supermarkets - wish I could get to markets more but it is hard to do (esp now we have swimming lessons on Saturday morn for Sylvia)

  11. Mmm I love tortellini in salads! Congratulations on the new addition to your family. :) How exciting!

  12. I thought I had left a comment already, but I can't have. Congrats on the new baby, but don't go getting broody :)

    The salad looks lovely just as it is Johanna. Thanks for submitting it.


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