VEGETARIAN FOR ANOTHER DAY. |
Baby Marrows for a change.
Many a time whilst scouring the restaurants of London and the Costa del Sol for alternatives to the usual stuff, I almost gave up in my search. I looked for the closest I could get to filling, sumptuous, vegetarian main courses that had made my mouth water at home.
Spain does have some very interesting and tasty vegetarian dishes, except that you cannot find them in any good restaurant – mainly because they are elaborate peasant fare and devoid of expensive meat protein. The same limitations apply throughout the tourist laden Mediterranean coast which stick to easily prepared dishes for the low income visitors who patronize these shores. Those who want the other end of the scale with tons of meat and not so much of the carbohydrates are also served the meat or fish fare with vegetables either braised or boiled and being more decorative than appetizing. I found the same problem in London except that like in all bustling cities you can find practically anything if you spend enough time looking for them. There was everything there you could think of and of excellent quality - the same in Barcelona, but looking for vegetable dishes and time consuming home fare lovingly prepared through the decades, was impossible. I used to go for the Greek delicacies in London before they were superseded by the mesmerizing Kebabs turning slowly against the flames and which, in my estimation were critically inclined to go sour after heating and cooling throughout the day. To me, this was a recipe for disaster since the core without doubt would, at the end of the day, be packed with every cosseted bacteria in the market. These things, against popular understanding, have to be prepared, grilled and eaten within a short period of time. A very busy restaurant may get away with it but not one during which opening hours the cuttings are placed in drawers and the heater switched off. They unfortunately took over, as all fast food do, from the huge variety of carefully prepared meses – the Greek and Turkish tapas - which did justice to the succulent vegetarian cuisine of these nations. Today, you are simply eating raw cabbage, tomatoes and lettuce with the odd capsicum and which mercifully are placed in refrigerated glass cabinets and serve d with the Doner Kebab. Sometimes, a bit of Houmous (chickpea base) and perhaps Taramasalata (fish paste) find there way to the public eye. For the wide variety of colourful and tasty Meses, you have to go to upmarket , Greek or Turkish restaurants.
Everybody knows about the simple aubergine dishes like Mousaka from Greek cuisine, but few know about the long list of others like baby marrows which are often confused with the gourgettes of the French dishes. They are basically of the same family, but for this recipe, which comes from Spain, only baby marrows will do.
This simple recipe is therefore a tribute to those light green, striped vegetables whose pulp added to a host of ingredients, create an irresistible dish that can be eaten hot or cold one day after the other.
The baby marrows should be no larger than a cricket ball and slightly elongated. They have to be boiled in salted water first to soften the pulp and it is not advisable to prick the skins with forks when done, because they can split it and make it difficult to fill them properly with the right quantity of mixture.
Cut the stems down to a knob or even remove them completely. They taste bitter and therefore not to be enjoyed with the rest of the plant. It does however help to keep the marrow firm for the filling and can therefore be removed just before serving.
Boil them for about ten minutes in salted water on medium heat and preferably prick with a skewer to determine how soft the inside is. To enable the inside to be scooped out, the skins should feel firm to the skewer and prod through to the other side without effort. Allow the boiled marrows to cool before cutting into two halves lengthwise to look like boat hulls. Place them alongside each other in a large dish. Scoop the inside with a pointed soup spoon and place all the pulp in a deep pan. Avoid going too far towards the outer skin when scooping to avoid tearing or bringing the skin into the filling about to be blended.
Make the filling.
The pulp which has been scooped out has to be blended with chopped tomatoes, onions, garlic if possible, parsley, marjoram, grated parmesan cheese, packet bread crumbs and at least two raw eggs. Blend together gently and use enough of each ingredient to arrive at a firm filling that will sit in the spoon without dribbling out. If you need to add more bread crumbs, do so. The pulp will be watery and if you want to do with less breadcrumbs to soak it up, then put the pulp into a colander to let the excess water out. Do not pat dry to achieve the same purpose because it will stick to the tissue paper.
Fry them golden brown.
Put some olive oil in a frying pan and place the empty skins there on their backs. Put on low heat to prevent this particularly tasty but soft oil from burning. Now gently scoop and fill the baby marrows to the brim generously whilst in the pan and cover with a lid to help thicken the mixture so that once the backs have friend gently to a darker colour the whole vegetable can be turned over without any mixture spilling out and making it difficult for a fresh lot to be fried in the same oil.
When done, remove them without breaking and place on kitchen paper to absorb external oil. Cut the stubby stem off with a sharp knife and serve warm - not hot, with a plain side salad. Keep away from anything that will detract from the rich taste of the marrows. Eat the whole plant - skin and all. When fried the skin gets much darker and very tasty. There is no bitterness left. They can be served cold on subsequent days since they retain their delicious, unique flavor.
If you do not find them appetizing, you need help.
For a quick resume. Boil baby marrows for ten minutes.
Let them cool before cutting lengthwise in two halves. Scoop the inside – drain this in a colander to get rid of excess water and put into a deep pan.
Add, chopped tomatoes, parsley, garlic if you want to, two fresh eggs, marjoram if you can find it, grated parmesan or dry mature chedder, and blend roughly with a fork so that it is a bit lumpy and not just a creamy paste. Do not use the blender.
Fry the skins on their backs and fill them with the mixture gently without dropping any in the oil. No harm will result, except that it will cause the oil to absorb the paste and spoil it for the next run.
Fry golden and turn over when the filling has hardened enough.
Serve warm or cold.
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