Tue Feb 28, 2012
Ok Meatwavers, you're going to have to bear through one or two more posts about...*gasp*...vegetables. No, I'm not over my soul search for the perfect vegetable dish to serve a judge in competition, and I'll be dusting off a few more treasures from the trove until I feel settled. I am making progress though, thinking of using one of my favorite grilled veggies—zucchini. But wait, zucchini is technically a fruit, so does it count? This is my dilemma right now, but I say yes, and this excellent grilled veggie/fruit is easy to make outstanding—like done here, by adding parmesan and chili oil.
The garlic-chili oil topping is a quick and easy condiment I made when first starting up my Sauced column over at Serious Eats. All that's needed is to slowly simmer garlic and crushed red pepper with oil, then strain, and it's ready to go. I found many uses for this: adding flavor to mozzarella, drizzled on pizza, and adorning veggies, just to name a few.
Summer squash have always been my favorite veggies to grill—proof in it being one of the earliest entries on this blog—just a little salt, pepper, and heat is all that's needed to transform them into a mouthful of flavor. I like this equation so much that I rarely deviate from, thinking the most simple is the best in this case.
It's also super quick, as the best way to get that great flavor out of a zucchini is to hit it with very high heat. This browns the flesh, leaving it both delicious and picture perfect.
Normall I cut 1/4-inch slices, brown each side, and done. Since these particular squash were going to stay on the grill longer to let cheese melt—over indirect heat—I merely halved them. The extra depth made sure they wouldn't turn to mush on the grill. In the end, you want a texture that's softened, but still substantial enough that it doesn't fall apart and retains a little crisp.
At the time Parmesan was melted, the zucchini reached the ideal texture, and they would have been great as is, but why stop here? A final drizzle of the garlic-chili oil was added to finish them off..
Despite the additions over my normally minimal squash, the zucchini still took center stage. The Parmesan added a nice nuttiness and the garlic-chili oil gave it just the right kick and hint of garlic, but both were pretty mellow against the fresh and flavorful green squash. With that, I think I'm onto something for a competition recipe, but I'm thinking bigger, better, and fancier to really up my game.
Zucchini with Parmesan and Garlic Chili Oil
- Prep Time:
- 5 Minutes
- Inactive Time:
- 1 Hour
- Cook Time:
- 15 Minutes
- Total Time:
- 1 Hour 20 Minutes
- 4 servings
- For the Chili Oil
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
- 4 medium zucchini, washed and split in half
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- To make the chili oil: Place oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes in a small sauce pan over low heat. Cook until garlic starts to brown and pepper darkens, but doesn't blacken, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature, 1 to 2 hours. Strain oil through a fine mesh strainer into a glass jar.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over entire surface of coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover gill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Brush zucchini all over with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Place on the grill, cut side down, and cook until browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Flip zucchini and top each with Parmesan cheese. Cover grill and continue cooking until zucchini is softened and cheese is melted, 5 to 7 minutes more.
- Remove zucchini to platter. Let cool for 3 to 5 minutes, then drizzle with garlic chili oil and serve.