Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Zucchini flower spaghetti (Μακαρόνια με κολοκυθοανθούς)

I know what my son will be cooking when he is tall enough to stir a pot and use the gas cooker: plain boiled pasta. Most children love this meal in its plainest form. Pasta, at least in my 'fat' way of thinking, is an alternative to bread, which is why I never bring out bread on the table when we're eating pasta. Plain boiled pasta is one of the most uninviting dishes that I can think of. Spaghetti from a packet, tossed into a pot of boiling water, then drained onto a plate, resembling creamy white worms. My son's quite happy to eat pasta like that, without even a sprinkling of cheese on the dish. No oil, no sauce, no flavour (unless you can call plain boiled pasta a kind of flavour). I can't stand watching my children eat such an unappetising plate.

Before the children came home from school, I jazzed up the 'plain pasta' a little. I know my son's going to ask me "What are those orange things stuck on the spaghetti?" He'll probably have something to say about the bright green bits too, and the tiny white cubes. Eventually, he'll start poking his fork into it. He might pick off the coloured bits. I'll have to make an effort not to look at him while he's doing this. But I think he'll eat it in the end. The only thing I won't be telling him is that I added some flowers to his 'plain' pasta.

The seasonal nature of our cooking means that we often use the same ingredients in our daily meals until their growing season is over. This doesn't mean that we have to eat the same meal every day. We simply use the same substance over and over again, cooked in a different way. The pumpkin flower excess in my neighbour's garden is still g(r)owing strong. I pick nearly 20 flowers a day from the vine. This has led me to find ways of using those beauties more creatively. The recipes I have discovered could easily form another '101 ways to use..." book. So far, I've done the following with zucchini flowers:
My recipe sources are often from the internet these days. This is not necessarily the best or only source of information, but I would like to sing its praises; the internet has helped me to broaden my horizons, while living in a small non-English speaking island community. What would my English-language alternative media choices be in this small town if I didn't have the internet? I'd have to buy magazines and newspapers (from a limited range that offers well-known 'groan' titles like Women's Weekly and The Times), go to the second-hand bookshops in the town (we're lucky to have a couple run by English ladies), or order more books from Amazon (no try-before-you-buy browsing there). We do not have English language lending libraries; the best library in town is the children's library, which of course contains a specific range of books given its target audience. So here's to the internet, which came up with the following novel suggestions for different ways to use zucchini flowers:
which I've cooked today, a simple oil-and-garlic sauce with julienned zucca (pumpkin) flowers and a dash of red pepper. The aroma of the sauce cooking away is enough to intoxicate your senses. I've seen the same sauce served up with very thinly sliced green bell pepper instead of the zucca flowers, in case you can't find them, and it really is a very simple sauce to whip up quickly.

zucchini flower pasta

You need
half a wine glass of olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3-5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
12 large (or 18 small) zucchini flowers - if you can't get these, use very thinly sliced bell pepper slivers as an alternative
red pepper flakes (or ground red pepper)
1 courgette, grated (optional)
250g fine spaghetti, boiled al dente

Heat the oil in a saucepan, and add the onion and garlic. Cook till translucent. Add the zucca flowers, and stir them in till just cooked. If you're using the zucchini as well, add this in at this point too. Season the sauce (I used ground red pepper to avoid 'picky eater syndrome'), and add the drained spaghetti into the saucepan, stirring around till the pasta is well oiled. Serve immediately; this dish can't wait!

This is my entry to Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Amy and Jonny from We Are Never Full.

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