When days are long and dinner is still in the works, I like to serve something to nibble on. This can be as simple as cheese or nuts, but if I’m feeling creative, this can range all the way up to savory pastries or a selection of dips.
I had a few zucchini looking somewhat forlorn in the kitchen and some hungry kids waiting for dinner, so a dip was the obvious answer. This is a summery, roasted zucchini dip, which is both luxurious and easy to make, inspired somewhat by that famous dip called 'Baba Ganoush', the famous smoky roasted eggplant (aubergine) dip of Levantine origin, which happens to be one of my favorite dips to serve in summer and which I like to make with a bit of a chunky texture.
This zucchini (courgette) dip is a breeze to make, provided you can be organized. The one thing to remember is that it really is best done the day before, but this is something I would happily also eat the same day it was made - I have also made it the same day, and it still tastes really good.
Once the dip is done, put it in a bowl and serve it with the freshest August produce you can find. Go with carrot batons, baby corn, fresh multi-colored cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, celery sticks. Big fat olives. Toasted bread slices. Or both. Or all.
As I visited the farmers market in the beautiful city of Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle/Germany) the other day, I came across some gorgeous organic produce, a selection of peppers, including black ones and an assortment of chilis - the farmer told me that they have specialized in growing a variety of chilis with different levels of heat - I happily bought a selection of both the paprikas and the chilis and served them alongside the dip and toasted slices of baguette.
As far as the herbs that I use for the dip are concerned, I use so-called hard herbs for roasting the veggies to infuse them with their herbal flavors. Hard herbs often grow through the winter and have woody stems. They include bay, rosemary, thyme and sage. These herbs are hardier and keep their flavor throughout prolonged cooking or roasting. They are the herbs that are added at the beginning of cooking.
After roasting, I remove the hard herbs and I add so-called soft herbs just before serving. These usually include herbs such as basil, coriander, thyme, tarragon, dill, marjoram and parsley. They are added at the end of cooking to finish off the dish. And for this dish, I like to use multi-colored (and flavored) basil with their blossoms. Sometimes I have a few tender arugula (rocket) leaves and will add them as well. Just go with what you like and what is available to you.
- 3 zucchini (courgette) or more (depending on the size you use), washed, dried and cubed
- 6 garlic cloves - do not peel them (you can omit garlic if you prefer)
- 2 tbsp olive oil (suitable for cooking)
- sea salt to taste
- fresh garden herbs (I suggest rosemary, thyme, oregano, lemon thyme, sage – go with what you have on hand and what you like)
- freshly ground black pepper
- freshly squeezed lemon juice from 1 lemon (or more, depending on the size of the lemon you use)
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- fresh basil or arugula (rocket) to serve
- Pre-heat your oven to 180°C (356°F).
- In a large bowl, toss together the prepared zucchini, garlic cloves (unpeeled), olive oil, salt and herbs.
- Place the zucchini mix on a parchment lined baking sheet and roast it in a hot oven for about 60 minutes at 180°C (356°F) or until the zucchini is cooked through and has some lovely brown spots from roasting.
- Once cooked allow to cool to room temperature.
- Remove the herbs and the garlic cloves from the roasted zucchini mix. Discard the herbs. Keep the garlic cloves and squeeze them from their skin.
- Then transfer the zucchini to your work surface and using the tines of a fork, squash the zuchhini well. If you are unable to squash some of the zucchini pieces (because the skin might be a bit too tough), use a knife to cut them.
- Next, scoop the flesh into a bowl and add the garlic, freshly ground black pepper, lemon juice, and salt to taste and mix well.
- Leave overnight in the fridge to set and allow the flavors to develop.
- The next day, taste the dip and season to taste with more pepper, salt and lemon juice. Serve cold or at room temperature with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil olive and finish with torn basil leaves or arugula. Accompany with toasted bread and veggies.
This dip is a very tasty way to use some of the glut of zucchini that is available just about now. And, personally, I believe it's a very nice change from the dips that I usually serve this time of year. I like that it is still a bit chunky and that the fresh lemon juice makes for a wonderful flavor balance to the natural sweetness that August zucchini have. Enjoy.