Sunday, August 7, 2011

Lou's Most Excellent Smashed Spicy Squash

This was adapted from, I think, an original recipe from Jamie Oliver. I've modified it quite a bit.

You can use this as a dip for crusty baguette or as a side dish. Best part is that it's easy, relatively healthy for you (albeit it's got a shitload of olive oil in it), and pretty much everyone likes it.

I've "twisted" this version a bit. What's written is what I did tonight but I've noted what I usually do. I'm certain that Sichuan peppercorns are not usually found in most home kitchens....

...and these are wonderful things. They have an unusual property of creating a numbing sensation, especially on the lips. They're not hot like a classical hot pepper nor pungetly-sneezy like black pepper. Dare I say it (and risk sounding like an idiot from a TV show hyped up on uppers): they're kind'a fun.

Lookie here though: these lil' bastards can pack a punch that you're not used to and may not be expecting. If not familiar with them I suggest you cut the amount I call for in half or just use red pepper flakes to a level you like. Your lips and tongue will numb up, almost like on Novocaine, but the heat sensation is not blinding. It's there, but different. I suppose there was a reason they were illegal in the US up until a few years ago (really).

[Note: this dish takes about 45 minutes to make. Most of it is just waiting around but for a veggie/side/app, you should know that this isn't very quick.]

1 leek, white part only, thinly chopped
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, coarsely ground (normal: 1 TSP red pepper flakes)
3 garlic cloves, minced (use less if you're not into garlic)
1 tsp Herbs de Provence
4 medium zucchini
1 medium eggplant, peeled (optional - good for stretching)
A lot of extra virgin olive oil
Salt - I've been using sea salt as of late

In a 3 - 4 quart pot (pending if you're using an eggplant or not), add about 3 TBS of olive oil over low heat. Add the leek and sweat it over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes until softened.

Meanwhile, cut the zucchini into big chunks as so:

Cut two in half lengthwise, then into 8 pieces.
Cut one in half lengthwise, then into 4 pieces.
Cut the last into 5 pieces.
Look - do whatever. You need some big pieces and small pieces and that's the deal. If using the eggplant, cut big cubes (say, 2"x1" and some smaller ones that are 1"x1"). I'm certain you'll figure it out. Set aside.

Add the peppercorns and cook for about 2 minutes; the fat from the oil helps release the "heat" from the peppercorns. Add in the garlic and cook for about 1 minute, then the zucchini, eggplant (if using), herbs, and about 2 TBS more oil. Toss to mix, set heat to medium low, cover, and let simmer for about 20 minutes undisturbed.

After about 20 minutes remove the lid and using a flat-ended thinger (this is my favorite tool for doing this - a flat wooden spatula),
smash the shit out of the pieces. Some will stay big, some will not...this is a result of starting with a melange of sizes. The largest pieces remaining should be as big as the smallest you started with (make sense?).
At this point salt to taste and you'll quickly find out if you made it too hot too. If so, there ain't much you can do at this point except Plan B: live up to it or Plan C: go get a bag of frozen broccoli and serve that.

Set heat to simmer and let simmer uncovered for another 20 min.

Serve as you wish....

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