A suggestion

As I write this, I’m thinking about my sister Rosie and my brother-in-law Paul, who thanks to Paul’s metamorphosis into a veritable Monty Don, have a vegetable patch brimming with the most lovely, pale-green courgettes, each one crowned, like a Las Vegas show girl, with a golden-yellow flower. They’re excellent courgettes, quite unlike the dark-green spongy fleshed specimens you find in English supermarkets. As a matter of fact, they’re very like the courgettes, le zucchine romane, we find here in Rome, sweet, with tender flesh and an almost creamy texture when cooked.

Hardy surprisingly, there have been rather a lot of courgettes consumed in a certain house in West London this summer. When I visited a couple of weeks ago, Rosie and Paul were still enjoying their home-grown bounty, there was soup I think, pasta with buttery courgettes, courgette fritters, courgette carbonara, delicious stuff all of it. But there were also telling signs: a look, a sigh, a slightly weary ‘Oh really, again, lovely’. Saturation point was clearly not far off. After I left, courgette plants thriving, the situation assumed slightly comic proportions as Paul – who has taken on all garden and cooking duties since their little girl arrived – trapped in a sort of courgette groundhog day, continued to produce a succession of courgette themed suppers until eventually – we’d seen the signs – my sister snapped. The inevitable courgette meltdown. I can’t be sure, but I fear long green vegetables may have been sacrificed. A break from homegrown produce, and a real holiday, ensued.

I’m glad to report that it was only a temporary courgette hiatus, and that Rosie, Paul and Beattie are now back home with renewed enthusiasm for their garden bounty. So this is for them, a suggestion, a large open faced Italian omelette with vegetables and cheese: a Courgette and Ricotta Frittata. I was all set to E mail my sister, but then it occurred to me that some of you might like this recipe. It’s hardly groundbreaking I know, but it’s a useful and tasty one. It also crossed my mind that I’m in the middle of an extremely long and rambling post about tomatoes which I’m not sure anyone is actually going to read and that this might provide some light relief before I press publish on that tomato epic.

We make a frittata of one sort or another most weeks: Onion and potato, Leek and goats cheese, Asparagus, Salt cod -I must write about this frittata one day because it’s delicious, Pea, potato and spring onion (any more than three ingredients in a frittata and Vincenzo looks puzzled) and now this, a discovery this summer, Courgette and ricotta frittata. I’ve made various courgette frittatas in the past, but I’ve always found them to be rather watery, even when I’ve sautéed the courgette slowly and patiently to try and evaporate some of the water away.

This recipe was, this recipe is, a little revelation: you grate the courgette into a clean teatowel or cheese cloth and then you squeeze out – really squeeze – as much water as you can. This means the courgette is drier when you saute it, more flavoursome and more inclined to absorb the butter infused with savory spring onion. In short, it makes for a much tastier frittata. The addition of ricotta – the soft, white, granular cheese made by re-cooking the watery residue left over from cheese making – makes for a nice addition to proceedings. The slightly tart sheep’s milk ricotta  – ricotta di pecora is especially good if you can find it. We like this ricotta on hot toast with chestnut honey.

Back to the fittata. It’s all very straightforward, I’m sure you know how to make a frittata, but just in case: you soften the spring onion in butter and olive oil, then you add the grated courgette and saute it gently until it’s wilted, tender, and any water that wasn’t squeezed away has evaporated. Now you mix the courgette and onion mixture with beaten eggs and ricotta. Now you pour the mixture back into the frying pan and cook the frittata gently over a low flame until it is nearly set. You finish the fritatta under the grill (if you don’t have a grill you can invert in onto a plate and then slide it back into the pan.

Now as much as I like carefully made frittata/ frittate – pesky plurals, I do tend to think of them rather dismissively; a kitchen standby, a Tuesday lunch, oh that old thing. Well. I did. A month or so ago we went to a pretty formal celebration lunch where, amongst other things, we were served a fantastic antipasti, simple, delicious and in such good taste. There were plates of bruschetta di pomodori -  toasted bread rubbed with garlic, topped with chopped cuore di bue tomatoes, basil and extra virgin olive oil, vast platters of home cured prosciutto and last but not least, six Courgette and sheep’s milk ricotta frittate  – deep, yellow circles flecked with green – punctuating the long tables. Delicious stuff. We helped ourselves to a slice of bruschetta, a curl of prosciutto, a wedge of frittata. I made a mental note: do not underestimate the frittata.

Last thing, I’m sure you know, it’s really important you season this frittata properly,  both the courgettes and the ricotta are mild tasting: they need seasoning. A good pinch of salt in with the courgettes when they are cooking with the spring onions, and another generous pinch – along with a good grind of black pepper – to the egg and ricotta mixture. Remember, ‘Where would we be without salt.’ James Beard.

Courgette and ricotta frittata

  • 200g courgettes – the pale, slim zucchine romane are particularly good
  • 3 or 4 (about 150g) spring onions
  • knob of butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 7 large free range eggs
  • 120g of ricotta (sheep’s milk ricotta is ideal but cow’s milk ricotta is fine)
  • more butter for cooking the frittata

Wash the courgettes really throughly – they have a habit of collecting grit in the ridges, Then top and tail them saving the flowers for a salad or to fry in batter. Now grate the courgette on the coarse side of your grater into a very clean, linen teatowel.

Now twist the ends of the tea towel, creating a ball of courgette and squeeze as much liquid as you can out of the courgettes into a bowl. I think some people might recommend drinking this disturbing green juice, advocating its heath giving properties, I didn’t.

Wash the spring onions and slice them into fine rings. Melt a small knob of butter and a tablespoon of olive oil in your non-stick frying pan and saute the spring onion over a gentle flame until it’s soft and translucent. Add the grated courgette and a pinch of salt and saute gently for about 4 – 6 minutes or until the courgette is soft and very tender. Meanwhile in a large bowl gently beat the 7 large eggs.

Now gently whisk in the ricotta into the eggs – it will be lumpy, this is fine – and generously season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. By now the courgette should be ready, so tip them into the bowl with the egg mixture and stir. Put the frying pan back on the heat – a low flame – add another very small knob of butter and once it has melted roll the melted butter around the pan before pouring in the egg and courgette mixture. Use a fork to even out the surface a little and then allow the frittata to cook gently for 6 – 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the grill. By now the frittata will have set underneath – you can see when you shake the pan from side to side very gently – but will still be runny on top. Put the frittata under the hot grill for about a minute – keep an eagle eye – it will puff up slightly, set firm and turn golden brown on top. Pull the frittata from under the grill and slide it onto a serving plate

Wait at least 15 minutes before serving the frittata so the flavours can settle.

Serve with sliced tomatoes dressed with salt and olive oil or a green salad. We ate the second half of our frittata for lunch with Bruschetta di pomodori.

30 Comments

Filed under courgettes, Eggs, food, Frittate, recipes, summer food, vegetables

30 responses to “A suggestion

  1. Once again I am insanely jealous that you get to call zucchini “courgettes.” So much nicer.

    I love a zucchini frittata or fritter, but zucchini blossom risotto is also a lovely lovely thing.

    • rachel

      I bet it is, zucchini flower risotto is now on my list and will be suggested to my sister (who is still drowning in them) too.

  2. mm i like the idea of that combination- ricotta and zucchini.. i think i used that squeezing trick in a quiche once: squeeze the grated zucc. , mix with an egg, enough salt, bit breadcrumb. Press into dish and prebake as the crust! It’s v. good with tomato quiche.

    but mostly i want to say: Bring on the tomato post! i know i’m going to love it.

  3. Hi Rachel, just have to say I love your site, it warms my heart to read it. As a Glasgow girl living in Australia I totally get all your references to British food. Keep up the beautiful writing and cooking… it truly makes my day, thank you.
    Now I’m off to buy some more eggs and make that lovely frittata. X

    • rachel

      Thanks Liz and it’s great to know that you appreciate the British references, living in Italy and in a world of fantastic but mainly American blogs, I imagine they mostly go amiss. Glasgow – now I have lots of very very happy memories there!

  4. Oh lovely, I made something similar the other night with the few golden courgettes from our disappointing squash harvest but it looked nowhere near as gorgeous as yours. It tasted good though. And, of course we will read your tomato post and it won’t be rambling at all.

    • rachel

      Ah yes, but you made it on an aga and you might well have eaten it in the garden, so that makes for a very nice frittata indeed……

  5. I spotted some gorgeous courgettes the other day at the market but I didn’t get them… I was anxious to get to the fruit and I totally neglected them. Too bad because your frittata looks so good I wish I had some.
    I would love for you to share the salt cod frittata someday. I love salt cod.
    Magda

  6. “…courgette groundhog day…” that made me smile.

    • rachel

      The thought of it makes me really giggle too, a kind of courgette nightmare. My sister on the other hand wasn’t smiling or giggling !

  7. This sounds so yummy, I’m rueing the fact that I didn’t really get hit with the zucchini overabunance this year!
    And I’m dying to hear about the salt cod fritatta; my Dad and I were just in a Portuguese grocery store eyeing the salt cod section and wanting to try it in something…

  8. Your Bother-In-Law Paul

    Thanks for the recipe, it will be put to the test this week. You will be pleased to hear that Cath, Rick, Alex, Ella, and Tom are coming over to Shepherds Bush tonight to use up the latest crop of lovely courgettes and onions in a Pasta Zucchini. What are we going to eat from November til May?

    P n R n B x

    • rachel

      Hooray hooray. You are no bother by the way just the best brother-in-law I could ask for. Advice on autumn suppers coming up kids xx

  9. delicious- both photos and the recipe. x shayma

  10. What a lovely recipe – yummy flavour combination.

    Seeing that everybody has an over abundance of courgettes / zucchinis / marrows at the moment, you may like to have a look at the recipe I posted on 7 July 2010 for a Marrow Quiche http://thecompletecookbook.wordpress.com/2010/07/07/marrow-quiche/
    Enjoy! :-) Mandy

  11. Val

    For some reason the frittata and I only crossed paths very recently. I’m not sure where I was whenever frittata was being served but I clearly wasn’t at the right place. Having now enjoyed my fair share of them I fully agree with you, the frittata should never be underestimated.

    I recently used grated courgettes with feta when I made boreka’s but I love the idea of them together with ricotta. I actaully much prefer cooking courgettes this way. Or rather, its the only way I seem to be able to slyly add them to a meal without my Husband noticing.

    • rachel

      I’ve just been looking at you Boreka’s – wonderful and most definately one to try. A way to slyly add courgettes – yes quite !

  12. your courgettes are a festive line-up of chorus girls, wow. I never find mine, flower adorned.
    I made a similar discovery last summer about squeezing the water out of the zucchinis when making zucchini cakes (sort of like crabcakes, but no crab!) Works wonders.

    In future, I shall be less dismissive of the frittata.

  13. ok ok – i’m making this one tooooooo…

  14. Ally K

    Made this a couple evenings ago with a potato cake – lovely and light. Unfortunately I had plans to top it with an amazing lemon stilton I had left over but, it went bad! Next time.

  15. Pingback: 7 years and lunch | rachel eats

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