Courgettes are the best loved of all the
squashes as they are so versatile. They are quick and easy to cook and
are succulent and tender with a delicate, unassuming flavor. Unlike
other squashes, they are available all year round. Vegetables taste best
when eaten immediately after they have been picked, and this
particularly applies to courgettes. They have a long season and are good
to grow since the more you cut, the more the plants produce. Left
unchecked, they turn into marrows.
Courgette is classified as a summer squash,
cucurbita pepo, along with marrows and pattypan squashes.
Sometimes called zucchini, courgettes are basically immature marrows.
The word is a diminutive of the French courge, meaning marrow,
and similarly zucchini means miniature zucca, Italian for gourd.
Courgettes have a deep green skin, with firm pale flesh. The seeds and
pith found in marrows have yet to form but are visible in more mature
courgetes. Conversely, the prized baby courgettes have no suggestion of
seeds or pith and the flesh is completely firm.
Buying and Storing : Courgettes
should be firm with a glossy healthy looking skin. Avoid any that feel
squashy or generally look limp, as they will be dry and not worth using.
Choose small courgettes whenever possible and buy in small quantities as
Preparing : The tiny young courgettes
need no preparation at all, and if they still have their flowers, so
much the better. Other courgettes should be topped and tailed and then
prepared according to the recipe, either sliced or slit for stuffing.
Cooking : Baby courgettes need little
or no cooking. Steam them whole or just blanch them. Sliced larger
courgettes can be steamed or boiled but take care that they do not
overcook as they go soggy very quickly. Alternatively, grill, roast or
fry them. Try dipping slices in a light batter and then shallow frying
in a blend of olive and sunflower oil. To roast, place them in a
ovenproof dish, scatter with crushed garlic and a few torn basil leaves
and sprinkle with olive oil. Then bake in a very hot oven until tender,
turning the slices occasionally.