Grated Zucchini Sauteed in Olive Oil

This is a simple and elegant vegetable dish; I think of it as the “little black dress” in my food repertoire, perfect for any occasion.

The recipe comes from Mireille Johnston’s The Cuisine of the Sun, a classic, yet little-known, book of French cooking from Nice and Provence, published in 1976.  I loved cooking from this book in my teens, when I was just learning about food and classic techniques, and I have been making this particular dish ever since.

Courgettes Rapees is nothing more than a few zucchini that are grated, salted, and squeezed dry of liquid, and then sautéed in a few glugs of olive oil with a bit of minced parsley and a dusting of salt and pepper. The result is a vibrant and silky, coarse mash of squash that lightly glistens with oil, making it look just a little bit fancy.  Serve it warm as a side to virtually any protein -- fish, pork, beef, or lamb -- or keep things vegetarian, offering it up with something like a bowl of steamed rice topped with freshly sliced tomatoes and summer corn.

When doing your shopping, be sure to choose the best zucchini you can find -- the firmer and smoother they are, the less watery and more flavorful they will be. As Mireille Johnston writes, “All serious cooks consider their trip to the market the most delicate and decisive part of their culinary preparation. In Niçoise and Provencal cooking, the success of the meal depends on the quality of its basic ingredients.” This is great advice to remember in general, but especially with Courgettes Rapees. 

Add this quick dish to your collection, and enjoy it whenever you want something delicious and easy to elevate almost any kind of meal.

Courgettes Rapees (Grated Zucchini Sautéed in Olive Oil)

For 6 people:

8 small zucchini
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup minced parsley or basil
Freshly ground pepper

Scrub and dry the zucchini. Slice off the stems and tips but do not peel them. Grate them coarsely and sprinkle with salt. Drain them on a kitchen towel for 30 minutes, then fold the towel over and squeeze out as much water as possible, or take handfuls of the zucchini and squeeze.

Heat the oil and add the zucchini and parsley.  Sauté over a medium flame for 15 to 20 minutes, tossing gently with a wooden spoon. Add salt and pepper to taste.

This dish can be prepared ahead and quickly reheated before serving.

From The Cuisine of the Sun, by Mireille Johnston