The weather forecast is promising a perfect English summer weekend: 21°C and blue skies. For some that might not be quite hot enough but it’s just right for me; it’s the sort of weather that allows you to sit outside, without getting sunburnt, and to travel about a city without collapsing. And I’m hoping that this is a sign that July, unlike June, won’t be a washout.
It’s borderline weather in food terms: not quite the weather for a salad, since there is always the risk of a cold breeze, but not ideal for anything long-winded either, since I want to be out enjoying the light, not in the kitchen. I have a pile of courgettes, tons of cheap feta from Lidl, a couple of lemons and plenty of basil (home-grown no less; okay, not from seed…) and a quick trawl of my cook books and magazines suggests the following options: a) fritters with lemon aïoli; b) grilled courgette bruschetta with basil and lemon; c) roasted courgettes with chilli. In the end I make a mishmash of them all: I want the courgettes warm, but don’t want to turn on the oven so I grill them and throw on some feta when they’re just done; I want a lemony dressing so make some lemon aïoli and, when that doesn’t feel quite enough I toast some bread to go with it (call it bruschetta if you prefer). It is just enough effort to make me feel like I’ve cooked but without the faff. Perfect for eating outside, even if I have to keep a fleece on the back of my chair…
Feta and basil courgettes with lemon aïoli
For two you will need:
Cupboard (or things you may already have)
olive oil, about 75-100ml
salt and pepper
garlic, 2 cloves
courgettes: a couple of medium ones should be enough (but if you’re extra hungry make more and just bump up the amount of cheese)
half a lemon
some good bread
fresh basil leaves, a handful
1. First make the aïoli. Peel and chop the garlic, zest and juice the ½ lemon and separate the egg yolk from the white (you can freeze the leftover egg white). Rinse the basil leaves (if necessary) and chop/tear into small pieces. Put the garlic, lemon zest and yolk in a large bowl or, if you prefer, a food processor or blender with a little salt and pepper and whisk/blend until mixed together. Now add the olive oil a drop at a time, mixing each addition in well before adding another drop. Keep adding drops of oil and mixing them in until you have a mayonnaise-thick sauce (you may not need all the oil). Finally stir in the lemon juice. half the chopped basil and season.
2. Wash and top and tail the courgettes then cut them into thin slices lengthways. Chop the feta up into cubes.
3. Heat a little olive oil in a frying or griddle pan then add the courgettes. Fry/grill them on both sides, turning them every so often, until just coloured and soft.
4. Whilst the courgettes are cooking, toast some slices of bread and keep warm.
5. Put a slice of toast on each plate and cover it with a layer of courgettes, half the chopped feta and the remaining basil. Spoon over some of the aïoli, season and serve the rest of the aïoli on the side.