Nigel Slater's Fennel and Olive Salad
Russ Parsons's Braised Zucchini with Mint and Lemon

One Veg, Two Veg


Ooh, let's get the unpleasant stuff out of the way first, shall we? I mean, with a picture like that starting things off, I can hardly expect you to stay around for more than a second or two. So I'll be brief.

Grilled (or broiled, as the case may be, because I'm currently so enamored with my broiler - in the wall! Not low near the floor and close to creepy-crawlies and other horrors! Easy on my back! And therefore my new best friend! - that I am making everything I possibly can in there) radicchio, sliced thinly and dressed with a warm balsamic-honey-mustard dressing, contrary to what you might think, is actually pretty vile. I had such high hopes - I love radicchio and I love slaws, but this? Was a bitter, sweetish, slimy mess that Ben and I took one bite of and then politely shoved to the sides of our plates. I don't know if a different kind of dressing might have helped, or if keeping the radicchio raw could have salvaged this thing, but the fact of the matter is that we threw out the entire dish and I don't mind one bit.

(We had the juiciest, reddest tomatoes, thickly sliced and strewn with flaky salt and a zucchini frittata, cooled to room temperature, to keep us happy. Oh, and the tiniest sugared strawberries (in August still!) that we ate before bed while contemplating our couch situation. It is a situation indeed. The strawberries helped. But we're still nowhere.)


And because, as many of you know, summer wouldn't be anything if there wasn't a constant glut of zucchini clogging your crisper drawers and your shopping bags and your kitchen counters and your stovetop, we've been eating zucchini like they're going out of style - steamed and broiled and raw and frittataed. And even, now, stuffed.

You hollow out several halved zucchini, then fill them with a light and fluffy breadcrumb mixture that's seasoned with anchovies and basil (I did ours with olives and parsley, as Ben's an anchovy-hater and I have sworn up and down never to deceive him with a hidden anchovy, though I am totally convinced that if I did melt a little one here or there into our meal he would never know and would proclaim dinner a delicious, savory success, but I am a good person and an even better girlfriend (well, at times) and so I cannot and would not ever do such a thing, hence the olives). You then lay the stuffed zucchini on a pool of tomato sauce studded with capers and bake them in the oven until the zucchini are tender and juicy and the breadcrumbs are browned (have I impressed upon you the necessity of making your own breadcrumbs? You must. So much easier and better than the storebought, bagged kind.). We ate these last week with our first corn of the year (why have we waited this long? possible insanity) and lamented the fact that there weren't more.

If I may make one little note, it's that I would have packed down the breadcrumbs a little more - Russ says that you shouldn't because they get pasty, but in my estimation that's not necessarily a bad thing. If you leave them too light and airy in the zucchini, they then sort of explode on your plate later, leaving a shower of crispy breadcrumbs all over the place and you with your fork and knife, chasing them down like a rat catcher. But to each his own. Either way, you should probably double this dish, since they'll be gone in no time.

(You might end up with leftover breadcrumbs, so I advise you to keep them around, in the fridge is fine, and when you're in dire need this week of a simple, quick pasta dish, boil up some spaghetti, reserve that starchy pasta water, heat up the crumbs in olive oil and toss them all together, moistening the dish with pasta water and adding some grated Parmigiano for good measure.)

Garlic and Herb-Stuffed Zucchini
Serves 2

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling (optional)
1 onion, minced
4 cloves garlic
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup white wine
3 tablespoons capers (or 12 pitted Nicoise olives)
1/2 pound baguette
1/4 cup loosely packed, coarsely chopped basil leaves (or parsley)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 salted anchovy fillets, rinsed, bones removed and chopped (or 10 pitted Nicoise olives)
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts (or toasted almonds)
3 - 6 (8-inch) zucchini

1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Cook the olive oil and the onion in a large skillet over medium heat until the onion softens, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic; cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, wine, capers or olives and one-half teaspoon salt. Simmer until the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes.

2. Trim the crusts and cut the bread into cubes. Place in a food processor or a blender with the basil or parsley and garlic and grind to fine crumbs. Pour into a bowl and stir in the anchovies and pine nuts, or olives and almonds. Set aside.

3. Cut each zucchini in half lengthwise and use a melonballer to carefully remove some of the flesh from the center to make a "canoe." Leave about one-fourth inch at the sides and ends and a little more at the bottom.

5. Pour the tomato sauce into a lightly oiled 5-quart gratin dish or substitute two smaller gratin dishes. Spoon the breadcrumb mixture into the zucchini, mounding slightly on top. If you don't like pasty breadcrumbs, do not press the breadcrumbs down too much. Arrange the zucchini in the gratin dish. Drizzle with olive oil if desired.

6. Bake until the vegetables have softened and the tops of the breadcrumbs have browned, about 30 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.