Sunday, April 28, 2013

Zucchini and za'atar dip

Here is a variation of shredded zucchini dip, this time with za'atar, which has proven the most popular version with my guests.  In an earlier recipe, Tunisian-style with caraway, I suggested skipping the salting.  I am back to salting.  I have found that doing it very lightly helps get rid of the moisture very effective and adds to the savor of the dish.  It is really up to weather or not you want to salt and drain.  If you are preparing several dishes, it works well to salt the zucchini and let it sit for 30 minutes to an hour while you do other things.  The cooking will go faster, and it will taste better.  

Za'atar  refers to a number of different Levantine herbs of the oregano family, as well as mixtures containing this herb along with sesame, sumac and other similar herbs.  I use Galil brand.  It will be good whatever you use.

This recipe is an adaptation of a recipe for zucchini with mint from Lebanese Mountain Cookery, by Mary Laird Hamady.  This is one of THE great cookbooks and is worth seeking out.  

Zucchini and za'atar dip

  • 2 pounds zucchini
  • 1-4 tablespoons olive oil, holding back a teaspoon or so (the more the better but it's up to you)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or 1/2 teaspoon regular salt
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon za'atar
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • juice of one lemon, or more to taste
  1. Wash the zucchini well.  Zucchini often has a lot of grit embedded in its skin, and the best way to deal with this is to soak it for about 15 minutes.  Then run it under cold water, and scrape away any parts which are still gritty.  If it is a hopeless case, just peel it, it won't hurt the dish too much.
  2. Grate the zucchini on the large holes of a box grater or in a food processor.  I generally go with the grater here,  and find that the few minutes more grating is less that the effort involved in cleaning the processor.  
  3. Put the  zucchini shreds in a bowl and stir in the salt.  Leave it for 30 minutes to an hour, weighted down lightly if you can.  (I use a small plate topped by a can or my mortar.)
  4. Take the zucchini out by the handful, squeezing out the water, and set in another bowl.  This is more fun than it sounds.  Taste it.  If it is very salty (this is highly unlikely), you will need to rinse the shreds in a colander and drain well. 
  5. Heat the olive oil on medium high in a very large nonstick skillet and add the zucchini shreds.  
  6. Cook  on a high flame for about 15 minutes, until the squash is well-cooked.  You will be left with about 2 cups.
  7. Meanwhile, smash the garlic, peel it, and mash to a paste with some salt using the side and edge of a broad knife.
  8. Move the zucchini over to the size and add about a teaspoon more oil.  While stirring, add garlic and saute around 30 seconds, add the caraway for 30 seconds more,  then the za'atar for 30 seconds more.  Then incorporate the seasonings into the cooked squash.
  9. Cook a few minutes more, stirring occasionally.  Add the lemon juice and pepper, taste for salt and correct seasoning.  Some people may like more lemon juice.
  10. Makes around 2 cups. Serve with crackers, bread or raw vegetables as an appetizer spread to 4-8 people, depending on what else is being served.  It is also good eaten with a spoon.  

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