Monday, September 24, 2012

Zucchini and Feta Dip

I know, I know. The autumnal equinox has come and gone. It’s fall already. Apples. Winter squash. But just allow me one more zucchini recipe for the end of the summer harvest season. Chances are you can find some more zucchini in your garden or your friend’s garden or a farmer’s market. And chances are you can find an occasion to serve this delicious and simple dip.

I got this idea from The Splendid Table radio show. The recipe starts with grilling sliced zucchini, which, as it turns out, is a brilliant way to get flavor into the famously bland vegetable. That grilled zucchini is mashed up and stirred together with feta cheese, lemon juice, sour cream and a bit of fresh oregano.

I think it’s absolutely essential to cook the zucchini on some kind of grill (gas or charcoal, although, I’ll admit, my gas grill ran out of propane last time I made this and I finished my zucchini in a grill pan on the stove). The slightly smoky, charred flavor it brings to the dip is what makes it special. Actually, it’s what makes it delicious. The grill char functions as a secret ingredient. Zucchini on its own would be totally uninteresting. That is not what’s happening here. What’s happening here is tangy sour cream and lemon juice balanced with briny feta and smoky grilled zucchini.

I left this dip pleasantly chunky, requiring a sturdy scooping implement, such as a pita chip. I suppose you could pulse it in the food processor if you wanted something smoother. I liked the tender zucchini and soft feta chunks embedded in the creamy sour cream. I also liked the bit of oregano, but I’m thinking fresh mint or parsley would be a good substitute. (I would use more of each of those than I used oregano in this recipe.) This dip is one of the biggest flavor surprises of the year and has quickly become my favorite application of the end-of-season piles of zucchini.


Grilled Zucchini and Feta Dip
Based on an idea from The Splendid Table

I used an 8-ball zucchini about the size of a softball for this recipe.

1 medium zucchini
olive oil
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely minced fresh oregano
½ cup sour cream

1. Preheat a charcoal or gas grill. Cut the stem from the zucchini.  Cut the zucchini into about ¼-inch slices. If using a long zucchini, slice long-ways so the pieces can be more easily grilled. Brush both sides of the slices with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

2. Place the zucchini slices on the heated grill. Cook until soft and lightly charred on both sides. Remove from the grill and cool slightly.

3. Coarsely chop the cooked zucchini and place in a medium bowl. Briefly mash with a potato masher until still a little chunky. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well to combine. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, pepper or lemon juice as needed. Serve with pita chips, raw vegetables, crackers, etc.

Makes about 2 cups.

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