I did not hate vegetables when I was a kid. But I was not really fond of them either. I just did not have any special feeling about them. They were just there in every meals, as an essential dish in a traditional Chinese meal. And the ways that they were cooked by my mom were very similar; stir-fry plain by itself or with some meats, adding some soy sauce or oyster for seasoning, or adding salt only. Sometimes, my mom also liked to boil, not steam, the vegetables in some flavored broth or salted water. When they were tendered, just poured some soy sauce or oyster sauce on top. That is the quickest and easiest way to make cooked veggies Chinese style.
Not until the time that I lived by myself in Canada because my parents sometimes went back to their homeland to stay for an extended period of time that I started to cook for myself. I was so busy and lazy at that time that I skipped the veggie dish sometimes. But I found out very quickly that there was something missing in my diet. I felt that I did not have a full meal. When I started to make vegetable dish again, I realized how important it was. The natural sweetness from the juice of the vegetables are magical. They help me to feel refreshed and revitalized my body. From then on, I hardly ever skipped my vegetable dish again.
Even though I like almost all types of vegetables, zucchini is never my favorite kind. I do not like to eat them raw as salad and if making stir-fry with it, the flavor get buried with all the sauce and the meats. They are never the star of the dish. But once I explored outside Asian cooking, I began to like it more and more. The followings are two of my favorite zucchini recipes. Simple but delicious, with zucchini as the star of the dish.
The first one is a Mexican flavored Zucchini and Corn Saute. The cumin and cilantro greatly enhance the flavor of the zucchini, accompanying by sweet corns, every bite is filled with the sweetness and juiciness of these two vegetables. You can use frozen corns if you want to make it quicker. But fresh corn really makes a difference in the taste of this dish.
Recipe: Corn and Zucchini Saute
Adapted from Gourmet, September 2004
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup sliced shallots (you can replaced it with scallions or onion)
1/2 tsp minced garlic
2 cups corn *
2 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1/4″ thick pieces
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Heat oil in a 12″ heavy skillet over moderate heat until hot but not smoking. Add shallots, stir and cook until softened, about 3 mins. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 sec.Add zucchini and 1/4 tsp salt, stir and cook until zucchini is half cooked, about 4 mins, Add corn, cumin and cayenne, stir and continue to cook until zucchini are softened to a degree that you prefer, about 1 to 2 mins longer. Stir in cilantro. Adjust taste with salt and pepper.
*If using fresh corn, you can rinse the corn with water and wrap them in saran wrap. Microwave for 2 to 3 mins. Then cut out the corn.
The second dish is even more easier. It is a great side dish for meat or fish. The recipe is originally from Martha Stewart Everyday Food magazine but I forgot which issue it is. As with lots of other recipes in this magazine, you follow the instruction once and then do not need the recipe anymore. Here is my adaptation of the recipe.
Recipe: Zucchini and Dill
Adapted from Martha Stewart Everyday Food
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium zucchini, cut crosswise into 2 halves; cut lengthwise into strips of about 1/2″ wide
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp or more fresh dills, chopped
Heat oil in a 10″ skillet over medium heat. Add zucchini strips and a pinch of salt, cook until golden brown on all sides, flip occasionally, about 6 to 8 mins.
Add lemon juice and fresh dills, toss a cook for another minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste. I usually add quite a bit of salt to balance the lemony taste.