My Odessa: How much are your courgettes?
Maria Kalenska is a third generation Odessite, currently living in London. Having made a career in the corporate world, she has now exchanged her business suit for a kitchen apron. Maria currently writes for gastronomic and travel publications, along with organising culinary master classes and exclusive enogastronomic tours and pop-up dinners.
Her heart forever belongs to Odessa, but in London she has an important mission – to promote Ukrainian and Odessa cuisine!
There are some vegetable representatives in Odessa cuisine, towards which we feel condescending. Once it has grown, we should take it at the market and cook.
And if it is three hundred times healthy and eight hundred times tasty – but no, this sad little vegetable does not deserve a separate affectionate name. Just a courgette.
Well, yes, pancakes are made of it – those that even capricious children eat.
To dress them up, they cut and add it in vegetable and meat stews or fry it (cut in circles) and sandwich with a tomato.
It can be stewed in sour cream with a large bunch of dill. They marinate it for the winter. Still, courgettes are slightly neglected.
The only exception is “caviar” made of courgettes. Well, at least something. Well, let it be. And for me, there is one more difficulty with courgettes, and this is caviar.
Cooking it as our grandmothers did is a crime against the liver and physical form. But to ignore it is almost culinary apostasy. Sighing, I will nevertheless tell about how my grandmother went to the bazaar.
Brought home several courgette renegades. Laid out on the table.
And sighed – not for the same reason I sigh. And only after several new garlic heads, a bunch of dill and tomato were laid out (not one, but five medium ones) – she stopped sighing. It’s time to do caviar, and it takes half a day, and then you are tired, and family members will turn their noses, but if with good oil made of market seed, it goes with chicken, potatoes or gobies.
Another way to cook courgettes is to take three or four medium-sized ones, not very wide. Then cut into circles, fry with a lot of fresh bazaar oil, then use the same oil to fry grated carrots and chopped onions.
Carrots and onions go to the cauldron; also peeled grated tomatoes (middle-sized, sweet, and freshly picked ones). Then it gurgles, seasoned with salt, a bit of sugar, peppercorn, and clove. While it simmers on the stove, let's get on with courgettes.
They can be cut in tiny pieces. Then this coarse fraction goes to the cauldron and lets it stew — well, maybe for an hour, perhaps half more.
And after an hour or so, the main thing begins, for which all that caviar was. Peel one head of young garlic, who loves spicier – maybe two heads, and chop finely – and now it smells like caviar, not just courgette fried in bazaar oil.
Chopped garlic is carefully put into a cauldron; caviar is stirred and stays under the lid on the turned-off stove.
By the evening, some cream butter is put in the caviar. Some soft butter. Then caviar goes to the refrigerator. For as long as anyone can remember.
As there is some chicken, baby potatoes, fresh gobies.
In the evening, it all goes with brown bread and a shot of tormentil liqueur…
Are you serious? You want to talk about diets and fitness? About fried and stewed? So talk – but until you try. When no one sees. Anyway, the bright aroma of summer southern garlic, mildly fragrant, can tell how delicious it was to you.