Golden Nuggets, and the confounding courgette
These mysterious orange friends turned up in our CSA box. They look like miniature, North American halloween, pumpkins; they’re a variety of winter squash called golden nugget.
Cute as they are, squashes, pumpkins, zucchinis, courgettes, and the rest of the gang have confounded me since I started reading cookbooks. Here in Australia, we generally use the term ‘pumpkin’ to describe hard skinned, long-keeping varietals of the gourds – JAP/kent pumpkins, butternuts, types of blue pumpkins (grown in the East of Australia) and Jarrahdales (from the exotic and foreign Western Australia). Zucchini are the delicious, juicy and (culinarily) adaptable dark green, fragile skinned, cylindrical staples of the kitchen. Squash are their less common but similarly textured, squat, bright yellow, sea-star shaped mate.
The trouble is, these definitions are somewhat at odds with other parts of the world. Many of my cookbooks are from US or UK authors, to whom ‘squash’ often is a broad term capturing all of these: pumpkins, zucchini and squash. Then, the squashes are divided into winter and summer squash. Winter squash are the hard-skinned, long keeping varietals that we generally call pumpkins, though at least to folk in the US, pumpkin is a type of winter squash (the halloween pumpkin). Butternut pumpkins are butternut squash (as a type of winter squash), and if our Jap and Kent pumpkins were available in the US, I am fairly sure they would be considered Jap squash and Kent squash.
Summer squash are the soft skinned varietals; our zucchinis and squashes (sometimes also known as pattypan squashes). Zucchini and courgette are interchangeable, though one term comes from Italy and the other from France (try saying them with Italian and French accents and you’ll work out which is which). We also can enjoy yellow summer squash, yellow crookneck squash, a round pale green varietal (I can’t find out a specific name for this one!), as well as a twin of the standard zucchini, though with mottled, pale green skin.
I envy the range from which our northern hemisphere friends can choose, and the contradictory terms can be a bit vexing. But I think that there is something quite lovely about the differences from across the oceans – a bit of chaotic fun once you know where to start with the translation.
Our golden nuggets are likely to be roasted up along side some dutch cream potatoes (a nice, floury potato) and some hierloom carrots in the River Cottage style, but in the meantime, here’s my method of the moment for tasty zucchini/courgette/ pattypan/ summer squash…
Easy white wine vinegar fried zucchini
Zucchini or other summer squash
A glug of oil
White wine vinegar (approx. 1-2 tbsp)
1. Slice the zucchini into generous half discs. I aim for discs 2cm in width, then chop the discs into hemispheres.
2. If you have the time, place the half-discs into a colander and salt for 20-30 mins. This releases the water from the zucchini to encourage absorption of other flavours.
3. Heat the oil in a frying or saute pan, on low-medium heat.
4. Place the zucchini in the heated oil, flat side down so that they look like a half-set sun (I find starting on this side helps with fitting in the half-discs and turning, but it’s not critical).
5. Fry the half-discs on their flat side until golden, then gently turn and fry on the two remaining flat sides until all three sides are golden. (The curved, outer skin side will become cooked during this time.) It will take a few minutes for each side.
6. Once all sides are looking deliciously golden, sprinkle the vinegar evenly across the pan. Take care, as it will sizzle and spit.
7. Fry with the vinegar for a few more minutes, gently tossing the zucchini half-discs to avoid sticking and encourage absorption of the vinegar.
8. Remove from the pan, sprinkle with salt and serve hot.