At this very moment, as I sit at my kitchen table and type this, I am eating a giant bowl of zucchini.
Sounds enticing, doesn’t it?
But this is no ordinary zucchini. This zucchini is curvy, voluptuous, bright, and complex. Her name is Costata Romanesco and I am in love.
It wasn’t love at first sight, though. When I took her out of my CSA box and placed her on the counter, I was confused. She looked like a cross between a deformed cucumber and a bumpy, deflated watermelon. Her skin was rough with thick ridges running from end to end–not an appealing look, even for a summer squash.
With little hope for a future romance, I perused google for a useful recipe. To my surprise, gardeners and food bloggers extolled her virtues far and wide over the tangles of the interwebs. Her buttery texture and nutty flavor are revered, making her superior to all other zucchini varieties. Intrigued, I printed off a recipe in hopes of having some success.
She began to grow on me as I prepared her for the oven. When sliced, she rewarded me with whimsical shapes, a bright white center, and clean, herbacious aromas. The love bubble began to form.
And I’m still in it. I’m holding this bowl tight as the combination of fennel seeds, red pepper, cumin, and mint combine with the light but nutty taste of Costata Romanesco to create unexpected balance and interesting flavors. I believe this is the beginning of a life-long zucchini passion.
Roasted Costata Romanesco Zucchini with Ricotta and Mint
(adapted from Food and Wine)
3 large Costata Romanseco zucchini (about 2 pounds), cut into 3/4 inch dice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
Juice of half a lemon
Fresh ricotta (a couple dollops)
Mint leaves, for garnish
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spread the diced zuchini on a large rimmed baking pan. Drizzle with the olive oil and season with the salt and black pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes until the zucchini is browned a bit (don’t crowd the pan and the zucchini will brown nicely). Remove from oven and sprinkle with red pepper, cumin, and fennel seeds. Roast until fragrant, a couple minutes longer.
Place zucchini in a serving bowl and toss with the lemon juice. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if necessary (I didn’t add any more at this point). Dollop the ricotta alongside and garnish with mint leaves. Fall in love.
So tell me, have you ever fallen in love with a summer vegetable or fruit? How did you cope once the weather cooled and the garden dried up?