Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Grilled Zucchini, Tomatoes and Fennel with Cannellini Beans

On a lazy, sunny Sunday I had a sudden urge to grill. Lacking an outdoor grill, I turned to my trusty Le Creuset grill pan. When I first purchased this grill pan, I was teased for purchasing yet another kitchen gadget for which my kitchen lacks room to store. It weighs a ton (especially if you also get the nifty panini press that fits inside oh-so-perfectly), but in the summer when I want to grill something and don't have a barbeque to attend, my grill pan comes to the rescue. 

Grilled asparagus? No problem! Panini with gruyere, caramelized onions and a touch of dijon for lunch on Saturday? Yes, please!

And if there is one thing that absolutely justifies my purchase of the grill pan, it is grilled zucchini in the summer.

I generously brushed the zucchini slices with a vinaigrette of red wine vinegar, olive oil, crushed garlic, sea salt and fresh ground pepper and placed them on the grill pan until grill marks formed. I tossed the grilled zucchini with cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced fennel, and fresh oregano. I love the way the sweetness of the fennel complements the grilled flavors of the zucchini. The the fresh oregano adds an earthy, almost peppery, zing to the dish.

I wanted a heartier dish so I added sauteed cannellini beans and folded them into the grilled zucchini, cherry tomatoes and fennel slices. You can omit the beans for a light antipasto or add the beans to make a complete meal with a good amount of protein.

Grilled Zucchini, Cherry tomatoes and Fennel with Cannellini beans
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes
1 small fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced 
2 medium zucchinis, ends trimmed
4 tbsp + 1 tbsp good olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, crushed
sea salt and ground pepper

1 tbsp fresh oregano leaves
1 15oz can of cannellini beans rinsed and drained (or 2 cups cooked cannellini beans)
1 shallot, minced
2-3 dried red chilies (I used chile de arbol)
flakey salt like Maldon
2 tbsp olive oil for cooking

Prepare the vinaigrette. In a small bowl, whisk together 2 tbsp red wine vinegar and 4 tbsp olive oil. Stir in crushed garlic and season with sea salt and ground black pepper. Set aside.

Preheat a grill pan over medium heat until hot.

Using a vegetable peeler or mandoline, slice the zucchini lengthwise and discard first slice. Continue slicing zucchini lengthwise into thin even slices.  Spread slices in a single layer on a plate. Generously brush the zucchini slices on both sides with the vinaigrette. Working in batches, place the zucchini slices in a single layer on the grill until grill marks appear. Turn with tongs and grill on other side until tender. Transfer to plate and continue with other slices.

Remove stems from the cherry tomatoes and slice each in half, transfer to a bowl as you work. Drizzle cherry tomatoes with good olive oil and sprinkle with flakey salt and a few grinds of pepper. Set aside.

In a medium skillet over medium heat, heat 2 tbsp olive oil until shimmering. Add shallot and dried red chiles, fry until edges of shallot start to brown. Add cannellini beans and stir to coat well. Season with flaky salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Cook for 4-5 minutes until golden.

Transfer beans to serving platter, add tomatoes, fennel and zucchini slices in layers, allowing the beans to peak through. Sprinkle with fresh oregano leaves.

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