When Jeanne of Cook Sister! announced this month's theme for the ever-so-popular event "Waiter! There's something in my..." which she, SpittoonExtra's Andrew and myself have alternately been hosting for almost two years, I was wrecking my brain over what to make for a few very busy days only to browse through my picture folder this morning and realise that the answer had been right in front of me all this time... I had tried out some canapés for a cocktail party I am catering in two weeks' time and these beauties not only were an absolute winner, but also fall smack bang within the category of Cucurbitaceae!
Crispy croustades (find Rahm's mini croustades in your local supermarket like Sainsbury's and Waitrose here in the UK, order online or pick them up on your next trip - advance commiserations! - to Ikea) filled with "caviar de courgettes" - a moist and herby "ragout", for want of a better word, of zucchini seasoned with thyme, topped with a velvety cream of parmesan - this is perfect finger food for vegetarians, easily prepared and the individual components keep for days in the fridge, minimising the headache on the big day. This also works really well without the croustades, especially when served in shot glasses as a stylish amuse-bouche. If you opt for the latter, omit the parmesan shavings and you might want to thin out the cream (with milk) just a little to allow for frothing just before you assemble - they will look like gorgeous little cappucchino's (at least to the colour blind ;-))
And don't forget you've got a couple more days to participate in this month's round of "Waiter, there's something in my..." where the theme is cucurbitaceae. Details for participation here.
More recipes featuring members of the cucurbitaceae family on thepassionatecook:
Courgette flowers stuffed with goat's cheese, drizzled with honey (Sept 2005)
Pumpkin, coconut & blood orange soup (Nov 2006)
Pumpkin & chestnut strudel with taleggio and sage (Oct 2006)
Pumpkin quiche with blue cheese & thyme (Oct 2006)
Pumpkin & gorgonzola tarte (Sept 2006)
Roast butternut squash bites with pumpkin seed pesto (Oct 2005)
Chestnut risotto baked in kabocha squash (Nov 2005)
Melon & prosciutto salad (June 2004)
Cucumber canapés with smoked trout mousse (Oct 2005)
Sesame-crusted tuna carpaccio with cucumber & mooli salad (June 2004)
Courgette & thyme croustades with parmesan cream*
24 Rahm's mini croustades**
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp thyme leaves to taste
1 generous pinch ground caraway seeds
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice (optional)
thyme tips to decorate
parmesan shavings to decorate
For the parmesan cream:
200 ml double cream
100 g fresh parmesan (finely grated)
white pepper to taste
Cut the courgettes into 1 cm rounds, then preferrably steam until soft, but still holding their shape (2-5 minutes). Alternatively, you can pop them under a hot grill until just browning.
Peel and chop the onion and garlic finely, heat a pan on the stove, add the oil and fry the onion and garlic until browning. Meanwhile, chop the courgettes thinly and add to the pan, throw in the thyme leaves and season to your liking with the caraway, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Cook for as long as needed until the courgette "caviar" is sufficiently dry. (You don't want the croustades to get soggy). Reserve and keep in the fridge for a couple of days, if needed - make sure you allow it to get to room temperature before serving.
Now prepare the sauce.
(This can also be done up to 12 hours in advance and kept in the fridge, then gently re-heated)
Gently heat the cream and pour over the finely grated parmsan. Stir until smooth - if you feel it's too lumpy, you can smooth it further with a hand-held blender. Season to taste.
When ready to serve, gently re-heat the parmesan cream. Fill the croustades with the courgette caviar, top with a teaspoon full of parmesan cream, top with the parmesan shaving and the tip of a thyme sprig.
* This is based on a recipe published in "Food & Glas" by José Maréchal - the German version is available through Christian Verlag, the French original, "Verrines. Classiques, Chic, Exotiques, Gourmandes" was published by Marabout.
** In the UK, you can find them at Waitrose (Ocado), Sainsbury's and Ikea. For international online orders try this source.