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courgettes, zucchini

The singular can be zucchina or zucchino.

An Italian favourite, although many never get past the blossom stage (fiori or sciurilli) when they are used in a wide range of dishes. The vegetable itself is actually the swollen ovary of the flower, and as everyone knows, best eaten when tiny.

Gardeners in Naples developed zucchini from thick-skinned squash seeds brought back to the Old World by Colombus, and in the 17th century, proudly sent some to France's famous agricultural scientist Olivier de Serres, who was not impressed, cursing it as 'Naples’s and Spain’s revenge' as he spat it out.

The Italians, in the meantime, developed a number of delicious recipes, to prove de Serres wrong:

zucchini alla montanara: sliced and cooked in butter, with breadcrumbs soaked in milk and grated cheese.

zucchini alla napoletana: baked in the oven with tomato sauce and mozzarrella.

zucchini alla parmiginana: fried zucchini, baked in the oven with tomato sauce and cheese.

zucchini al parmigiano: fried in butter and topped with grated parmesan.

zucchini alla toscana: cooked with minced pork, onion, tomato and topped with grated cheese.

zucchini fritti: dipped in flour or egg and breadcrumb, and fried.

zucchini indorati: ‘gilded’ slices dipped in flour, then in egg and grated cheese and fried.

zucchini in salsa piccante: fried and served room temperature, in a piquant sauce.

zucchini in stufato: stewed with onions in olive oil.

zucchini ripieni: stuffed zucchini.

zucchini ripieni alla napoletana: stuffed with onions and breadcrumbs and herbs, and baked in the oven with tomato sauce and grated cheese.

zucchini ripieni alla siciliana: stuffed with breadcrumbs, anchovies, garlic, and parsley and baked in the oven.

In late June, the fried blossoms are the stars of the Sagra della Zucchina in Fiore in Faleri (Lazio).

Text © Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls

Image by Nachritten