An unsuitable dinner for winter, but nice all the same

It’s been quite some time since I’ve actually looked in a cook book. It’s not stopped my buying cook books though, and other books, but somehow I don’t seem to have found the time to look in them in recent weeks as there always seems to be something that needs more immediate attention. But this week I did look at one, and I was really inspired. I found myself thumbing through the pages of the River Cafe books on my shelves, and was drawn chiefly to River Cafe Two Easy. Three evenings in a row I made dinners inspired by it’s contents which reminded me that meals needn’t be complicated, and don’t need a huge list of ingredients.

Creamy Courgette Sauce
The first night I cooked a sauce made with nothing more than courgettes, onions, garlic, olive oil and herbs. It was superb. Rich, flavoursome, creamy, intense. The method so simple. Pour a really generous amount of olive oil into a heavy based pan and add to it some sliced onion (one large or two small) which you cook for a good ten minutes before adding garlic (two cloves) and sliced courgette (four large ones). Then let it cook and cook and cook. Stir it every now and then. The courgette will eventually brown and start to catch on the bottom of the pan, but this might take up to forty minutes depending on how fierce the heat is). When it does add half a cup of boiling water and stir away getting all the brown bits off the pan and incorporated into the sauce. Let it reduce until the liquid has almost evaporated and you’ll be left with a silky mass of dissolved alliums with barely identifiable courgette remnants. Stir in a handful of herbs. I used dill, parsley and mint. We had it on grilled polenta (just that pre made stuff you can buy in a block, sliced oiled and left on the griddle for 5 minutes on each side). Really tasty.

Courgettes with Pasta and Ricotta
The second night I did courgettes again. And simple again too. Almost the same ingredients but a different method. The onion and garlic were stir fried almost on a higher heat for less time, and the courgettes, this time cut into penne-sized spears, were stir fried too until just cooked. Similar herbs were added and then the whole lot stirred through some cooked pasta. One in the bowls little nuggets of ricotta were dropped randomly in and gentle folded through so as not to disturb them too much. Parmesan, olive oil, a squeeze of lemon and plenty of black pepper. Another simple triumph.

Mozzerella, Fennel, Courgette and a Simple Salad (see photo)
On night three we had polenta again, just griddled. A ball of mozzarella (one per person) just torn in half and placed on the plate and dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, dill and coarse salt. A simple salad of sliced beetroot, tomato, capers and red wine vinegar. Grilled fennel (thinly sliced, tossed with olive oil, chopped dill, salt and pepper and then grilled on both sides until it starts to brown), and slices of courgette done the same way, only for slightly longer as there was more moisture in them. As I said in the blog title, it was very summery for a winter evening, but where’s the harm in that?

Three days that reminded me that I don’t need to go overboard and that simple is good.


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