22 June, 2009

Le Zéphyr.

While the wind is (again) too wild to be called a zephyr, this courgette, or summer squash, is delicate enough to have earned the name...Is it just me, or does seeing these beauties make you want to strip down to a bathing suit and break out the barbecue as well? My friendly local organic producer gave me some to try, calling them "delicieux". They are certainly tender and on the smallish side (which in zucchini and summer squash is good, as bigger can get watery, full of seeds and flavorless, or tough). The Zephyr take this season's prize for gorgeousness, in my book. Summer is here.

It's a pity to lose the lovely contrasting colors in a casserole, soup, bread or dessert however. As this type tastes great raw, I would slice it lengthwise rather thinly and serve with crudités et aioli (alhòli in Provencal Occitan)--that is, sliced fresh vegetables (briefly blanched or outright raw carrots, cauliflower, celery, etc.) and their garlic-laced dipping sauce.


You're best off with a decent-sized mortar and pestle; if that's not an option, use a garlic press and a medium-sized mixing bowl. If serving four people, peel about three cloves of garlic. You can also go unorthodox and use mellower "caramelized" oven-roasted garlic as I do, in which case you double the amount of garlic to the equivalent of about six cloves. Crush/press to a paste. Add an egg yolk or two and combine until you again have an even paste. Add a tablespoon--or less--of lemon juice. Using a smaller whisk, very slowly drizzle olive oil (about a cup and a half or so) into the paste while constantly whisking. Season with salt, and some fresh-ground pepper if desired.

If this sounds less than precise, it is because taste preferences vary. Play around, taste and decide for yourself, as somewhere within this range of proportions, you stand a decent chance of finding your bit of Nirvana on earth; if you can, scoop it up with a yellow and green blade of Zephyr.

Cautionary addendum:

Yes, the dish is done as is, which means the eggs aren't cooked. This is the case with any freshly made mayonnaise-type preparation. Homemade mayonnaise, by the way, is a culinary delight that bears but little resemblance to the industrial pap that comes out of plastic squeeze bottles; promise me you'll at least consider trying it.

Because raw eggs are involved in aioli, all preparation tools (including the cook's hands!) must be immaculately clean and the eggs must be as fresh as possible, and if feasible from free-range, organic hens. This will make any risk of salmonella infinitesimal at best--perhaps I mean at worst.

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