Thursday, 19 April 2012

Quick, quick, quick...meals

Courgettes are now in season

I am back, after a short break. I’m still pretty much on the go, with a hectic life at the moment. Yesterday, for instance, I needed to prepare a very quick bite to eat as I had to run out of the door to pick up my brother and sister-in-law who are arriving from Brazil.

I remembered a conversation I had with my friends Guilherme and Solange about their visit to Gabrielle Hamilton’s restaurant, Prune, in New York. One of Gabrielle’s recipes is part of my repertoire of touch-and-go dishes. I mentioned to them how I was having a bit of a cook’s block, as a result of having been very tired and uninspired in the past month.

The problem is that, on top of everything, cooking, which is one of my biggest pleasures, was starting to wear me out and become a chore. (I can almost hear some of you saying or thinking “yes, I know the feeling”).

I think the way to deal with this is not to put too much pressure on oneself and just make the quickest, most delicious and nutritious meals possible. Eventually, I will have the time and pleasure again to spend long hours in the kitchen.

For now, folks, it’s all about embracing the fast (not junk or ready-bought) meals.

So, a quick courgette meal inspired by Gabrielle and a chat with my friends it will be!

The ingredients minus the lemon that didn't make to the shoot
Harissa paste
You will need a pot with water and any steamer
Place the bamboo steamer on the top of the pot
Don't let the courgettes become too soft
Combine lemon juice, harissa paste, olive oil and garlic
Whisk them well
Add the courgettes to the serving bowl and gently toss
Add the olive, feta and parsley. The salad is ready!
And enjoy it warm with a nice piece of sourdough bread!

Courgette with Harissa, Olives and Feta
Serves 4 as a side dish or 2 as a light lunch

This dish is a great source of fibre, protein and omega 9. The heat from the chilli ingredient can help improve your blood circulation. A good option to treat your heart.

INGREDIENTS

Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons harissa* paste
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled
4 courgettes, thick slices
Handful pitted Kalamata olives
1/2 cup coarsely crumbled feta
Small handful parsley leaves, chopped

METHOD

You will need a steam rack (or a bamboo steamer) and a pot. Bring an inch or two of water to the boil. Place the courgettes inside the steamer and cover. Steam them until they are done, about 5 to 7 minutes. They should not be too soft or falling apart.

Combine the lemon juice, harissa, olive oil and crushed garlic in the bowl and whisk well.

Add the courgettes to the serving bowl and gently toss with the harissa dressing while still warm.

Add the olives, feta, and parsley.

Enjoy this salad while still warm with a nice piece of sourdough bread or as a side dish.

*You can find harissa paste in nearly every supermarket in London these days.The recipes vary according to the region. Some of the variations include cumin, red peppers, coriander, lemon juice and garlic. If you want to prepare your own harissa paste, here is one version and here is another.  

Some of the ingredients and their functional properties 

Courgette or zucchini (Cucurbita pepo): has a cooling and refreshing property. It is also diuretic, helps to reduce constipation and can be protective against colon cancer. It contains B vitamins, potassium, zinc and bioflavonoids. It helps reduce blood pressure by counteracting the effects of sodium. Its skin is a good source of dietary fibre.

Feta cheese: a very good source of protein, calcium, vitamins B2 and B12. Cheese is not only nutritious but a very enjoyable food. Do choose a traditional feta made with sheep’s or goat’s milk. Feta is a salty cheese and, if you are worried about its salt content, soak it in water for a few minutes and then rinse thoroughly before using it.

Olive (olea europaea): is a source of many beneficial plant compounds, including tocopherols, flavonoids, sterols, anthocyanins and polyphenols. Polyphenols have anti-inflammatory activity, improve immune function, help preventing damage to DNA and protect the cardiovascular system. Olives contain the monounsaturated fat oleic acid which has been associated with great levels of HDL (“good cholesterol”). To sum up, research has shown that olives can prevent atherosclerosis, ischemic heart diseases; stimulate the secretion of bile, lower blood cholesterol, and have antioxidant properties.

Till next week! 

2 comments:

  1. this dish looks very appetising. The colours are lovely. And the recipe suits us busy people (it seems very easy to make). Very good tip, thanks!

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  2. Thanks Helena! It is indeed very easy to make. Let me know what you think when you make it yourself. x

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