There’s a picture on my wall from a trip a few years ago to visit my grandparents-in-law in southern Italy. I’m in the kitchen, clad in a red-and-white checked apron, holding up a zucchini from their garden that’s twice the size of my head.
It looks comical – fake, even – but about three minutes after the photo was taken, the summer squash was diced and simmering on the stove. As it turned out, the picture was better than the dish. Despite its impressive beauty, the vegetable just didn’t taste like much.
That’s the risk with zucchini – it’s the kind of food that barrels into the markets in all of its abundant glory at this time of year, but often fails to excite in the same way that asparagus, corn and tomatoes do during their “moment.”
But its mild flavor makes it extremely versatile, and because it cooks so quickly, it’s the ideal weeknight vegetable.
With so much of it in my CSA box last weekend, I decided to do something a little different and turn it into a pureed soup.
Fresh leaves of basil and a few spoonfuls of sour cream give it the kick it so desperately needs, and it’s garnished with crispy garlic toasts smeared with cheese. I like burrata on top, but ricotta or tangy fromage blanc work just as well.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the simplest recipes can be some of the most decadent, and the second recipe is no exception.
Florentine-style steak – charred on the grill – can be prepared in about 15 minutes, uses hardly any ingredients, and is festive enough for a party or a special night at home.
Use a bone-in rib-eye steak for this recipe, as the bone acts as a built-in grater. If you rub cut garlic back and forth over it, the friction turns the edge of the garlic into a paste that can be smeared over the meat.
Olive oil, salt and pepper are the only additional ingredients needed to season the steak. The grill will provide the rest of the flavor, with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice on top. Save a little olive oil and lemon juice to drizzle over baby arugula, which can be served alongside.
Traditionally, the “bistecca alla Fiorentina” is shared between two people – in this case, grilling at least two rib-eyes will feed a family of four. Throw baked potatoes or some fingerlings in the oven for a full meal, or, if you have a surplus, a side of zucchini wouldn’t hurt.
To see printable version of the recipes, click on the links below:
WARM olive oil in a small soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and minced garlic, and cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant and the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.
ADD lemon zest and zucchini and saute for about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then cover with broth or water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, and cook about 10 minutes, until the zucchini is softened. Stir in the basil until wilted, and remove the pot from the heat.
POUR soup into a blender, in batches, and puree until smooth. Return all the pureed soup to the pot, and place over low heat. Stir in the sour cream, and season to taste with plenty of salt and pepper, and a squeeze of lemon juice, if desired.
RUB each piece of toast with the cut clove of garlic. Discard the garlic and spread each toast with about 1 1/2 tablespoons cheese; sprinkle with a little salt.
LADLE soup into bowls; top each with a cheese toast and a sprinkling of chopped basil. Serve hot. Yield: 4 servingsPer serving: 259 calories, 10 g protein, 26 g carbohydrates, 14 g fat (3 g saturated), 7 mg cholesterol, 241 mg sodium, 4 g fiber. Florentine-style Rib-eye With Arugula Salad With so few ingredients in this simple recipe, it’s imperative to use the highest-quality meat, olive oil and sea salt. Add a baked potato for a full meal. 2 1/2 pounds bone-in rib-eye steak, about 2 large steaks 1 large garlic clove, peeled and halved 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling on salad Sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste Lemon wedges, for squeezing on steak and salad 5 cups baby arugula Shaved Parmigiano Reggiano, for garnish
PREHEAT a grill to medium-high heat. Grease the grates well.
PLACE steaks on a flat surface. Rub the bone of one of the steaks with the cut side of a garlic clove, so that the friction causes the garlic to form a little bit of paste. Rub the paste over the meat. Repeat with second steak, then flip over and use the other half of the garlic clove to do the same thing on the other sides.
DRIZZLE 3 tablespoons olive oil over both sides of each steak, rubbing it into the meat. Season generously with sea salt and black pepper.
PLACE steaks on the grill, and cook, flipping once, until done to your liking, about 8-10 minutes for medium. Remove from grill and let rest for 5-10 minutes. While the steak is still hot, squeeze lemon juice all over the meat.
PILE arugula onto a platter. Squeeze more lemon juice and drizzle olive oil over the greens, and season with salt and pepper.
SLICE steak into strips and arrange on the platter. Garnish with shaved cheese and serve with more lemons at the table. Yield: 4 servingsPer serving: 460 calories, 46 g protein, 1 g carbohydrates, 29 g fat (10 g saturated), 129 mg cholesterol, 118 mg sodium, 0 g fiber.