Bonjour à toutes et à tous!
Today, we dive into the world of a humble yet versatile vegetable that has found a cherished place in the heart of French cuisine – the zucchini, or as we fondly call it, ‘la courgette’. Let’s explore the horticultural history of zucchini, its introduction into France, and its esteemed role in our traditional cooking.
L’Histoire Horticulturelle de la Courgette
Zucchini, a member of the squash family, originates from the Americas. However, the version we know today was developed in Italy in the 19th century. It made its way into France where it was welcomed with open arms, or more fittingly, open kitchens! The French terroir, with its rich soil and temperate climate, proved ideal for cultivating this verdant vegetable. Over time, different regions in France began growing their unique varieties, each boasting distinctive flavors and textures.
Courgettes en France
The introduction of la courgette in France marked a significant addition to our vegetable repertoire. Initially viewed as a novelty, it quickly became a staple in French gardens. Its versatility, ease of cultivation, and delicious flavor resonated with French palates. The zucchini blossoms, with their delicate and slightly sweet taste, also became a prized ingredient, often stuffed or fried, showcasing the beauty of French creativity in utilizing every part of the plant.
Son Rôle dans la Cuisine Traditionnelle Française
In traditional French cooking, courgettes are revered for their ability to absorb flavors while retaining a distinct, mildly sweet taste. Sautéed zucchini, or ‘courgettes sautées’, is a classic dish that highlights the vegetable’s subtle yet satisfying flavor. This simple preparation involves slicing the zucchini and sautéing it in butter or olive oil, often with a touch of garlic, herbs like thyme or basil, and a sprinkle of sel et poivre (salt and pepper). The result is a dish that is both rustic and refined, embodying the essence of French cuisine.
Sautéed zucchini is not only a beloved side dish but also a versatile component in many French recipes. It graces our ratatouilles, adds charm to our quiches, and provides a fresh, vegetal balance to heartier dishes. Its ability to blend seamlessly with other ingredients while still standing out is a culinary marvel.
Courgettes, with their understated elegance and culinary flexibility, are more than just a vegetable; they are a symbol of French gastronomic ingenuity. From the gardens where it grows to the tables where it’s savored, sautéed zucchini represents a love for simple, natural flavors – a cornerstone of French cooking.
As we celebrate this delightful green squash, let us remember the words, “C’est dans la simplicité que réside la vraie élégance” – true elegance lies in simplicity.
A bientôt! Et bonne cuisine!
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4 medium zucchini trimmed and cut into ½-inch slices
- 3 cloves garlic pressed
- 10 basil leaves chopped (or 1 tsp dried)
- Salt and pepper
- Preheat the over to 325 ℉.
- Heat half the oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the zucchini and cook until browned on each side , 2 to 3 minutes. Do NOT over cook – the zucchini should be lightly browned but still firm.
- Transfer the zucchini to a shallow, oven-proof baking dish. Scatter the chopped garlic over the zucchini and sprinkle with ¼ of the basil. Drizzle with the remaining oil. Bake in the center of the oven for about 10 minutes, until the zucchini is tender.
- Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the remaining basil. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot or at room temperature.