Dining Features

Simple Art of Cooking: Enjoy Some More Zucchini

Frico came into my life a number of years ago at a Florida restaurant. This delectable cheese crisp is nothing more than grated cheese, preferably Reggiano Parmigiano or Montasio. A recipe for Parmesan cheese crisps appeared on these pages before as dollops of grated cheese are baked in the oven until the oils in the cheese, melt, bubble and crisp. I can almost sink my teeth into them and taste their sweet cheesy goodness as I write.

With gleaming dark green zucchini at the farmers markets, I took frico to another level by browning the zucchini in a bit of oil then sprinkling them with the grated cheese until the cheese coated zucchini looked lacy and translucent. The zucchini frico makes a great cocktail nibble if you can resist eating them as they are retrieved from the hot skillet.

To continue the zucchini theme I sliced and sautéed zucchini with garlic, seasoned with lemon juice and fresh parsley to toss with pasta, an easy and quick go-to summer pasta dish.

Frico is simply a cheese crisp using grated Parmesan or Montasio cheese. Here it is taken to another level incorporating locally grown zucchini. 

Yield about 6 hors d’oeuvres servings

2 slim fresh zucchini
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan, about 4 ounces
1 dozen clean basil leaves,  stacked and sliced into ribbons
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Scrub zucchini clean and cut off and discard ends. Slice into 1/4-inch rounds and set aside.

2. Heat oil in a large sturdy non-stick skillet over medium to medium high heat and arrange zucchini slices in a single layer about 3/4 inches apart (do this in batches). Sauté the slices, a batch at a time, for 2 minutes on each side until golden brown. Transfer to a rack to drain as they are done. Can be done ahead to this point and left at room temperature until ready to serve.

3. Return all the zucchini slices to the skillet in one layer over medium heat and sprinkle the cheese over the zucchini and in any spaces in between. Cook until the cheese melts and crisps, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the basil ribbons and freshly ground pepper over the frico “cake.” With a spatula, carefully slide zucchini frico to a platter, cut into wedges and top with any remaining basil and pepper. Serve hot or room temperature.

With the abundance of local zucchini at its peak of flavor, the cheese in the recipe is optional. Don’t forget to ladle some of the pasta cooking water to the vegetable sauce.

Serve 4

2 long slim zucchini, about 3/4 to
1 pound
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
12 ounces (3/4 pound) spaghetti
1/3 to 1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino Romano
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat leaf Italian parsley

1. Scrub zucchini clean, pat dry, then cut off and discard ends. Cut zucchini into 1/4-inch thick

2. Heat oil in large sturdy non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and add the zucchini. Sauté zucchini until golden brown on both sides, about 3 minutes or so, mixing occasionally. Season with salt and pepper to taste and the lemon juice, and keep warm.

3. Meanwhile bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and add 1 to 2 tablespoons kosher salt. Put in the spaghetti all at once and cook at a rolling boil until al dente, about 10 to 12 minutes. Ladle 1/2 cup pasta water to the skillet and stir through the zucchini. Drain the pasta and return to the pot it cooked in. Add the zucchini mixture and toss with cheese, if using. Serve at once on warm pasta plates and garnish with parsley.

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