Here is a French word that comes in handy in summer: la courgette. I think I somewhat “discovered” zucchini when I first came to California some forty years ago. Of course, the slender green vegetable was not unknown in France but, at that time, it fell into the category of regional produce: ubiquitous in Provence, not so much in other areas. My grandfathers, both avid gardeners, never grew zucchini in their potagers and I don’t remember any of their neighbors growing them either. They both lived in the southwestern quadrant of France. At home, my mother loved zucchini; my dad and my sister did not; I was Switzerland… I’ll eat just about anything.
If we wanted to run a popularity contest, zucchini would rank pretty low on the offensive scale. Nevertheless, I was a bit surprised to see how enthusiastic Californians were about this summer vegetable. Zucchini bread? Really? Naturellement, this French girl didn’t think that vegetables belonged in the dessert category. But wait: is bread supposed to be a dessert in these parts? It was all very confusing.
Later on, I realized the reason why Californians devise so many creative preparations for zucchini is because it is such a prolific vegetable: one needs to constantly figure out new ways to use the abundant crop. Or else, you fill your car trunk with bags of zucchini and cajole your coworkers into lightening your load. If your garden is full of zucchini let me give you a bit of advice to nip the problem in the bud, literally: harvest zucchini as they bloom and stuff the blossoms with fresh chèvre instead of allowing the vegetable to reach maturity! These stuffed zucchini blossoms are showy, tasty, and easy to make. Bring them to the next company picnic and everybody will cheer you on for growing courgettes.
Zucchini Blossoms stuffed with Goat Cheese
Fleurs de courgettes farcies au fromage de chèvre
4 oz fresh goat cheese
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
6 basil leaves, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
12 zucchini blossoms
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Separate the eggs. With a fork, mash the goat cheese and mix in the egg yolks, garlic, basil, and pepper. Whip the egg whites with a pinch of salt and fold into the cheese mixture. Carefully open up the zucchini blossoms and fill them with the cheese and egg preparation. Oil an oven-proof dish with 1 Tbsp of olive oil; arrange the stuffed blossoms in the dish and sprinkle with the remaining oil. Bake for 20 minutes. Serve hot.
La courgette: zucchini
Le potager: vegetable garden
Naturellement: of course
La chèvre: goat
Le chèvre: goat cheese