Jessica Freeman-Slade is an Assistant Editor at Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House. She got her start blogging about Julia Child’s boeuf bourguignon, and goes weak in the knees whenever a major cooking challenge presents itself. In the cold months she hoards away squashes, beets, and dark leafy greens, and in the summer runs with open arms to her local CSA for the best tomatoes and corn she can find. And she will never stop telling you how good Jim Lahey’s bread, Ina Garten’s roast chicken, and Hugh Acheson’s Hoppin’ John can be.
Here’s the latest installment of our brand-new feature on The Recipe Club: What’s In Season, a fresh way to take the fruits and vegetables just reaching your farmer’s market and put them to use with recipes from our new cookbooks. Finally, it feels like summer—and we’re celebrating with a yummy vegetarian side, Zucchini and Lemon Pesto, from Frances Mayes and Edward Mayes’ great new Italian cookbook, The Tuscan Sun Cookbook (Clarkson Potter, March 2012).
Zucchini is a great summer food—the hotter your garden, the bigger your squash crop will be—but all the winter rain is sure to make for juicy zucchini, perfect for steaming with some onions as a light yet satisfying side dish. Americans first got a taste of zucchini due to Italian immigrants bringing it over from Tuscany, and so it’s only right that this Italian dish makes the most of its light, buttery flavor. When tossed in Mayes’ great pesto, made from a blend of pungent lemon and garlic, crunchy hazelnuts, and sweet basil, the zucchini can be the centerpiece of the evening.
Once you add that final dash of Parmigiano-Reggiano, the finishing touch of all great Italian dishes, you may forget just how healthy zucchini can be, low in calories and loaded with vitamin A and potassium. You can eat it as I did, served up next to a far less healthy bowl of spaghetti carbonara, or you can enjoy it all on its own, scoop it up with a knob of crusty focaccia. Either way, this is a great new take on zucchini, finally making its way back into our kitchens. Enjoy!
Recipe for Zucchini with Lemon Pesto
From The Tuscan Sun Cookbook:
8 to 10 slender zucchini, grated or finely sliced
3 to 4 spring onions, minced
For the lemon pesto:
Juice and zest of 2 lemons
1 handful of basil leaves, torn
5 to 6 garlic cloves
¼ cup hazelnuts, toasted
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup (1 ounce) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
If the zucchini are grated, squeeze out some of the liquid. Steam the zucchini and onions in a steamer basket until they are just done, about 4 minutes.
Make the lemon pesto. In a mortar or food processor, combine the lemon juice and zest, basil, garlic, hazelnuts, olive oil, salt, and pepper and blend well, until the consistency of regular pesto. Work in the cheese only at the end. Combine the pesto with the vegetables in a large skillet and heat through on medium low, about 5 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.