Yesterday my friend brought over a couple of large courgettes from her garden. I hefted one and wondered what to do with it. I considered adding it to the risotto I was preparing, but I already had asparagus and rocket destined for that.
Then I remembered the menu at a gastro-pub I went to the other day. (This gastro pub had a decided hint of Heston Blumenthal, circa 2008, but I didn't hold that against them.) Among the starters were fried courgette batons with basil cream. I hadn't fried anything in a while, so I figured I was due an indulgence. Or ten. Because once I tasted how exquisite these bites of courgette were—battered, fried, and dipped in creamy basil sauce—I had to eat a few more. And a few more. And finally I cut up more of the humongous courgette and fried more, since I had plenty of basil cream left.
Indulgence? Zero cholesterol basil cream shouldn't be an indulgence, right? In fact, I have some cream left over, so I'm going to find something else to dunk in it. Boiled cabbage, maybe. To make up for my sins.
I used a thin batter based on pakora batter, with gram flour (chickpea flour, available at any supermarket with an Indian section) and rice flour (available at Asian markets, but be sure it's not the sweet kind). The basil cream is based on cashews, which I've raved about before.
Fried Courgette Batons with Basil Cream
1 large courgette, sliced into batons about 2 inches long
1/2 cup gram flour (chickpea flour)
1/4 cup rice flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
vegetable oil for frying (about 1/2 inch deep)
basil salt (optional)
Mix dried ingredients in a shallow bowl. Add enough water to make a thin batter—may be more or less than 1 cup. Mix with a fork until lumps are gone. Dip the courgette pieces into the batter and wait for the oil to heat. (I use a small cast iron skillet, over medium high heat, for almost all my frying.)
When the oil is hot enough to sizzle when a drop of batter is dropped into it, place the courgettes in the hot oil. Turn after a minute or two, and fry the other side. Remove to a plate lined with a paper towel. Sprinkle with basil salt if you have it, or other herbed salt.
3/4 cup cashews
1/2 cup basil leaves
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast, or vegan parmesan if this isn't available
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt to taste
1 cup water, approximately
In a food processor or blender, grind the cashews until they're very finely ground. Add the basil leaves and nutritional yeast and grind until the leaves are pulverized. Add lemon juice and enough water to form a liquid sauce, about 1 cup. Add salt to taste.
Serve the fried courgettes with the basil cream sauce on the side.
Note on ingredients: I use canola oil, or rapeseed oil, depending on the continent. Courgettes are also known as zucchini on other continents. Nutritional yeast is available from health food stores in the US, and perhaps in the UK, and from Amazon.com. Vegan parmesan is readily available in the UK, but is not made from nutritional yeast. Only use it if nutritional yeast is not available, or skip altogether. It adds an aged cheesy taste to the sauce.