Sunday, August 7, 2011
Lou's Most Excellent Smashed Spicy Squash
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.
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),
Set heat to simmer and let simmer uncovered for another 20 min.
Serve as you wish....