Our apparently regular weekend chat

Saturday, June 11th, 2011

I went to the Powerhouse markets with my mum this morning. She likes markets; Ted doesn’t; why didn’t I think of this obvious pairing-up before? Good call mum.

I brought back a lovely wintery haul: cavolo nero, young kale, parsley and dill, a bunch of plumping-up dutch carrots, a potkin pumpkin, Tenterfield apples, a German rye loaf, a boudin noir (plus a couple for Jean and Edwige), and two very large and meaty smoked ham hocks.

I bought the potkin in hopes that it would be something like a kabocha, the pumpkin that stole my heart away from butternut squash when I lived in Dublin. Kabocha (at least in Ireland) have dark green thick but edible skin, and intensely orange flesh that is firm and sweet. The middle-aged couple selling these pumpkins at the Powerhouse markets had two kinds on offer: “These ones are potkins, and these other ones, we don’t know what variety they are so we call them bobkins, after Bob here”. They’d never heard of kabocha but the potkins looked a plausible match so I bought one. (“How much for this little one Bob?” “Oh, about two dollars.”) Once home I checked the interwebs: many sites claim that potkins are a kabocha hybrid. Hurrah, perhaps! But alas, when I split mine, its flesh was much paler than a kabocha’s, and when I quartered, seeded and roasted it the flavour was fine but nothing spectacular. So as you can tell it’s been an emotional whirlwind of a day, pumpkin-wise, and maybe I need to have a sit down and have a glass of wine to settle myself.

Fortunately, lunch gave me something else to think about, which was emptying out various bits and pieces from the fridge so that new bits and pieces could go in. Not that much in the crisper – a few zucchini and some herbs. In the big tupperware that holds the cheese stash, there were several scraps and rinds and forgotten last chunks of various cheeses each wrapped up in paper, one of which was a small piece of Roaring Forties blue cheese that had seen better days. It was very mildly suspicious-looking on one edge, but as regular readers will know, this blog sometimes ought to be subtitled Slightly Dodgy Things I Have Eaten, so after submitting it to the taste-a-tiny-bit-it-won’t-kill-you test, I passed it as edible but for immediate consumption only. Hence this pasta, variants of which we make pretty frequently. I love the way that the zucchini cook down to a sweet, luscious softness, losing about 70% of their original volume. Even after making it a dozen times, I still doubt myself when I see the towering pile of raw zucchini. Don’t – you will regret not having more if you skimp.

Strozzapreti with zucchini, thyme and blue cheese

8 slender zucchini (why bother buying fat, watery zucchini?)
3 large brown shallots
olive oil
sea salt and black pepper
leaves from quite a few sprigs of thyme
a palmful of leaves of flat-leaf parsley
150 g strozzapreti
smallish piece of blue cheese, about 10 x 2 x 2 cm

Slice the zucchini into rounds about 2-3 mm thick. Peel and halve the shallots, and slice very finely. Heat a small glug of olive oil in a non-stick pan over moderate heat, add the zucchini, shallots, thyme, salt and pepper, and cook, stirring more or less frequently, for about 20 minutes. The zucchini will cook down until they are very, very soft. They shouldn’t pick up much, if any, colour though – turn the heat down if they start to brown more than the tiniest bit.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta, then drain it, reserving a cup of the cooking water. Toss the pasta in with the zucchini, loosening the sauce with drizzles of cooking water if needed. Toss through some chopped parsley, then serve with more parsley and crumbled cheese sprinkled on top. Stir through the cheese before eating.

Serves 2.

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