Produce report October 15: Fruit and vege buys of the week
New season courgettes have been in supermarkets for a few weeks now, their prices starting to drop as supply increases. It pays to know what to do with these mellow, slightly nutty veges because not only are they versatile, but they will be around until May.
All the courgettes in New World stores at this time of year are locally grown, New World Fresh Expert Brigit Corson says. “Mostly they come from the mid to upper North Island region. The season is looking great so far and you can expect to see more plentiful courgettes as the weather warms up."
Because they are so mild, courgettes, or zucchinis, are happy to take on other flavours. They work well with fresh herbs like basil, thyme and oregano and with chilli and lemon and they adore dairy. Avoid boiling them — they have enough water of their own but they bake, grill and barbecue very well and become a great salad option when shaved with a vegetable peeler or mandolin and dropped raw into a lemony vinaigrette.
Choose small, firm courgettes, 16-20cm long, which will have the best flavour. Soft watery ones, obviously, will have less.
To barbecue courgettes, slice lengthways, in half if small or into long thick strips if you have larger ones, coat in oil, season and put them on the hot grill, turning after 2-3 minutes. Add a squeeze of lemon or balsamic afterwards, strew with fresh herbs, and a few chilli flakes if you feel like a bit of heat.
When grating courgettes to add to fritters or a frittata you will need to squeeze them in a thin tea towel or cloth to remove the juice so you don’t end up with a soggy mess. Alternatively, you could grate or slice them then salt and drain in a colander (after leaving for 10 minutes in a bowl, stirring often). This method will add salt to your dish though, so be aware of that.
These days we are all being especially mindful of waste and this extends to the squeezed-out courgette juice which is too good to be tipped down the sink. Add it in place of some of the milk if the recipe includes a sauce. Make up the rest of the quantity needed with milk, or cream if you like things richer — you will be rewarded with more flavour and nutrition too. Courgettes are an excellent source of vitamin C and also contain a good amount of potassium, folate and fibre.
Courgette noodles (zoodles) are extra appealing in summer. Use them raw or lightly blanched (put the noodles into a colander and pour boiling water over them to remove a little of the rawness) and add like pasta to a sauce, soup (use in Asian soups and noodle salads too), stir into pesto or dress with vinaigrette. Opt for small courgettes, again to avoid a puddle of juice in the bottom of your bowl. After spiralising, zucchini noodles can also be heated in a little olive oil in a frying pan. Cook and toss for a few minutes but do not overcook. They should still have bite and hold their shape. No spiraliser? Use a vegetable peeler to make thin strips and cut those into noodles.
With courgettes come courgette flowers but, because they are so perishable, the flowers should be eaten on the day of purchase/picking. Female courgette flowers have small courgettes still attached (eat those too) and the male flowers, just a long stem. We’re not sexist. Both are divine and impressive stuffed with goat’s cheese or ricotta and parmesan, then dipped into a light batter for frying. See recipes here.
Before stuffing, carefully open the flowers, remove the stamens and check for bugs. Raw courgette flowers can be added to salads and risottos. Like the carrot, the courgette works well in loaves, muffins and baked cakes (see Allyson Gofton's spiced courgette chocolate cake below).
New World has your spring salads covered this week with good buys in locally grown tomatoes (see salad below), lettuce, telegraph cucumbers and fresh capsicum and look for standout fruit buys: oranges, watermelon and everyone’s favourite, bananas.