When I write a column, it’s a careful dance.
Unleashed, I could write the equivalent of a Michener novel each week. But since there needs to be room in the newspaper for everything else, I usually have to cut at least 200 words from the pieces.
Most weeks I include a recipe. There, as well, is an Olga Korbet on the balance beam aspect. I want to give enough information to turn out a successful product, but not so much that instructions on things like how to boil water or melt butter are included. I always start with the assumption that if you’re reading a food column, you at least have a nodding acquaintance with your kitchen.
A while back, I don’t remember exactly when, or frankly, even where, I found a recipe for a zucchini dish that looked really good. It was based on a dish from the French chef, Julia Child. I copied and pasted it into my hard drive.
Petey and I were in the grocery store a few weeks ago, and they had a large pork butt on sale. I bought it (What can I say? I like big butts, and I cannot lie.). When I brought it home I cut it in half and put it in the freezer. Last week, I got one piece out and braised it in a mushroom broth. I let it cook low and slow, and served it for dinner with wild rice and broccoli.
We only ate part of it the first night. I decided to make a new side dish to go with the leftovers. I would try out the zucchini recipe with it.
I pulled up the recipe and studied it. I had one thought — good googa-mooga. The procedure was insanely intricate. Out of curiosity I put it into a word document. This fairly simple dish had 583 words. Five hundred and eighty-three.
I took it in hand, changed some ingredients, vastly simplified the instructions, and cooked it. It was really good.
So here is my recipe, inspired by a recipe which was inspired by a recipe from Julia Child.
Courgettes et de Riz (Zucchini and Rice)
2 lbs. zucchini
½ cup raw white rice
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons flour
1 & ¼ cup whole milk
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese +2 tablespoons
1 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
Salt and pepper
Slice off ends of zucchini, but leave stem end. Using the stem as a handle, grate with large-holed grater. Put grated squash into a colander set over a bowl. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons salt, and mix in.
Put a pot of water with a pinch of salt on to boil. When it comes to a boil, add rice, bring back to boil, and cook 5 minutes. After five minutes, drain rice and set aside.
The salt in the zucchini will make the water start to leach off into the bowl (don’t throw juice away — you’ll need one cup of it). You can squeeze it by the handful to speed it up. When it seems like most of the water is out, spread it onto a clean kitchen towel. Roll it up and squeeze it with all your strength over the sink until no more water comes out.
Separately, gently warm milk, one cup of zucchini water and cayenne. Don’t let it boil.
Heat a large frying pan on medium and add 2 tablespoons oil. Sautee the onions until lightly golden. Add squash. Season with salt and pepper, and cook until it becomes almost tender. Add garlic, and cook until it becomes fragrant.
Stir flour into squash, and cook for 2 minutes.Remove from heat. Carefully pour in liquid. Stir until smooth
Mix in rice and cheese, taste for seasoning, then pour into buttered 8x8 casserole dish. Top with 2 tablespoons Parmesan, and drizzle top with the rest of olive oil.
Bake at 425 for 20 minutes, spin 180 degrees, and cook for 25 more minutes or until golden and bubbly.
I hope you enjoy it. I’d write more, but I am so out of space.
Thanks for your time.
Debbie Matthews lives, writes and cooks in Durham. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.