Memories, travel memories to be exact, are often (if not always) punctuated by food for me. Whether it be walking through a market square gazing at the incredible fresh produce on offer, wandering through a back street and encountering the most delicious smell (which of course you track and follow , resulting in an amazing, not planned for meal) or something you’ve ‘taken a chance’ on at a street vendor selling tasty little morsels…. These memories pin a location, a point in time and feeling into my brain like nothing else on earth.
It was one of these delicious memories that has been sitting on the peripherals of my consciousness that flew to mind when I encountered some tasty little Lebanese courgettes at the local produce store.
It was the start of summer, we had been in Florence for a few days, and walked tirelessly, searching out hidden gems and cultural attractions, but there was one particular little deli come corner store that I just kept missing. We had been past many times, the window highlighting a smorgasbord of treats, but sadly every time we went past, they had either been closed or we didn’t have enough time to stop.
It was an absolutely golden moment when we finally made it inside; an absolute sight for sore eyes! There was a long bench enclosed with glass featuring tray upon tray of different vegetables. They were stuffed, fried, laden with oil, herbs, cheese…. it was seriously food nirvana!
We were overwhelmed with choice, so, naturally, we asked for a little of everything. We then stuffed them into our bags, and made our way up to Piazzale Michelangelo.
Once there, we found a free bench, set out our spoils and feasted like kings as the most glorious sunset dipped below the incredible cityscape of Firenze.
Fast forward to the here and now, and I have to be honest. These herby, stuffed Lebanese courgettes are not entirely like the ones we feasted on at Florence, but instead a bit of a flavour mash-up from our time spent in the Mediterranean. Rest assured however, the essence of them and the memories that they provoke are directly linked to that incredible evening and that magical moment at Piazzale Michelangelo.
So, as I sit here and take a bite of my memory filled courgette, I’ll be dreaming of sunsets, terracotta roofs, and Mediterranean adventures filled with food. Mangia!
HERBY PANGRATTATO STUFFED LEBANESE COURGETTES
5 Lebanese courgettes
1 onion, finely diced
4 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried mint
1/2 tsp dried dill
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup gluten free breadcrumbs
1/4 cup fresh dill
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1/8 cup fresh mint
1/8 cup fresh basil
* Extra olive oil to drizzle over before serving – optional
1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees celsius and oil a casserole dish with 1 tbsp olive oil.
2. Place 2 tbsp olive oil, finely diced onion and garlic in a fry pan and cook on a medium heat for 5 minutes, or until the onions become translucent.
3. While the onions are frying, slice the Lebanese courgettes in half length ways and scoop out the flesh without piercing the skin, creating a nice little well to hold your filling.
4. Add the scooped out courgette flesh to the frying onion and garlic and add the dried mint, dried dill, onion powder, salt & pepper and continue to fry for a further two minutes.
5. Add the gluten free breadcrumbs to the frying mixture and turn up the heat. Keep mixing/stirring the mixture while the breadcrumbs are toasting into the mixture. Fry on high for two minutes then remove from the heat.
6. Finely shred the dill, parsley, mint and basil and add to the fried mixture. Squeeze over 1 tbsp lemon juice and mix everything together well.
7. Spoon the mixture into the halves of the Lebanese courgettes, pressing the mixture firmly in and mounding it up a little. Arrange the Lebanese courgettes in the oiled casserole dish with the filled side facing up. Drizzle over 1 tbsp olive oil and place in the oven.
8. Bake at 190 degrees celsius for 35 – 40 minutes, or until the courgettes are soft and the filling is golden. Remove from the oven, drizzle with a little extra olive oil and enjoy!