I consider zucchini a summer vegetable (though botanically speaking, zucchini are a summer fruit, specifically a berry as they’re the swollen ovary of the zucchini blossom, blah, blah, blah). But January is a difficult month for seasonal shoppers. Sometimes out of season zucchini are the best looking green thing in the market. So I’ve taken a summertime staple and given it a winter weather braise. Since I purchased the zucchini at a Mexican market, this version of braised zucchini is stewed with poblanos and those slightly bulbous green onions that I can only find in Latin markets. The kind I’d be tempted to call spring onions if it weren’t the dead of winter.
Braising is not for meat alone. While it’s true that braised zucchini won’t take as long to cook as a pot of short ribs the concept behind braising is the same. You can choose to braise in the oven or on the top of the stove. Braising is a versatile method of cooking. Even specific recipes, like today’s Braised Zucchini with Poblano Peppers and Green Onions, are easily adaptable once you have the technique mastered. With braising there’s always some wiggle room to make the dish your own.
As with meat, the key to success with braised vegetables is to give them plenty of time in the braise. Low-slow cooking allows the fibers to expel their moisture then relax and reabsorb the flavorful braising broth. This process is called osmosis. The long and short of it is that everything re-hydrates and becomes very tender with whatever amazing flavors you put in the braising liquid.
The inspiration for this potful of braised zucchini comes from Prune, a somewhat challenging (but highly rewarding) cookbook by Gabrielle Hamilton. This recipe is one of the most straightforward in the book. It makes a very good starting place in understanding the kind of comfort food that makes Prune Restaurant in NYC a modern classic. GREG
PS I served braised zucchini earlier this month as a side dish to Stewed Pork and Creamed Hominy. Recipes that I also adapted from Prune.