With Summer comes, of course, outdoor-food season! Garden parties, picknicks, impromptu gatherings at a fireplace of one sort of another – most of the time, there’s hot coals, cold drinks and lots of meat involved. Good times~!
A while ago, a party of the impromptu kind caught me completely off guard. I had just settled in front of my screen for a cozy round of GW2 after the weekend’s kitchen-work was done, contentedly leaning back in my seat while watching Lion’s Arch’s loading screen, when my phone rang. “BBQ. Now. Can you bring something other than meat? Oh and, can you be here an hour ago?” Talk about being Shanghai’ed… Well, how does the saying go… “The difficult, I can do immediately. The impossible might take a few minutes.”? I filed the time-travel issue under “to do” and tackled the task of conjuring up something edible that wouldn’t take much more than a few minutes to make, would travel well – or could be easily assembled over there – and would be easy to eat while converging into a bubble around the BBQ. Since I was already there, so to speak, I decided to have a quick look at the Chef’s Guilds ingredient list before I logged off again – and what I found gave me an idea the measly sunday-afternoon contents of my fridge wholeheartedly agreed with: The humble Zucchini – one of my favorite non-meaty BBQ yummies. Now, this little snack is something I often whip up for a movie night spread or similar comfy get-togethers, but it works deliciously well as a starter or as part of a fingerfood tray. Here we go~!
The Lemony Grilled Zucchini & Smoked Salmon Bites
2-3 Zucchinis – get 1 more just to be on the safe side – topped, tailed and lengthwise sliced into 12 thin ribbons – you can use a mandoline or a veggie peeler if you have one wide enough for the zucchini
150g Smoked Salmon or 6 thin slices, halved lengthwise
1 Lemon, Zest and Juice
3-4 leafy Sprigs of Thyme, leaves picked
1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2-3 Tbsp of Pine Nuts, lightly toasted
Salt and Pepper to taste
1) Add the ricotta, most of the thyme leaves – keep a few to decorate the bites later – the lemon zest, about 1 tsp of the juice and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper to a small mixing bowl.
2) Stir the lot until the creamy mixture is well combined.
3) Pop the bowl into the fridge for about 30 mins to give the aromas some time to develop properly while the ricotta firms up a bit again.
4) Meanwhile, set a griddle onto high heat and combine 1 tbsp of lemon juice with the oil in a small bowl. Just in case you’re going to open-fire-town with this one, I’d recommend using one of those aluminum roasting trays – slapping the zucchini right onto the grill will end up in a sticky, burning mess on the coals.
5) Brush the zucchini ribbons with a few drops of your lemon & oil mixture, sprinkle them with a bit of salt and gently lay them into the griddle once it’s at its max temperature.
6) Give them just enough time to mark up, flip them over for a minute, then move them to a plate lined with baking parchment. Make sure not to overcook them, you won’t be able to roll them up if they end up on the too-wobbly side of things.
7) Cover them with a paper towel and set them aside to cool off.
8) Once they’re ready, smooth the ribbons out on your worksurface. To make rolling them up easier, arrange them in a way that the thinner ends of the ribbons, your starting points, point towards you.
9) Carefully fit the slices of salmon to your zucchini strips – the sides should line up, the tip of the zucchini should be uncovered for about ½ a cm, the thicker end needs about 2 cm of salmon-free zone in order to make the roll close up nicely. To fit the sides of the salmon to the zucchini’s shape, simply fold it in on itself rather than cutting off loose bits – the propped up roll looks prettier that way.
10) Neatly roll the ribbons up around 2 of your fingers – acting as placeholders for the filling. Once you reach the other side, gently press the loose ends to the curled-up zucchini – they should stick to the rolls on their own. In case they don’t, use chives to tie them up or nail them into place with a toothpick.
11) Place the little zucchini barrels, propped upright, on a serving plate.
12) Have a taste of your filling and adjust the seasoning with more salt, pepper and lemon juice if necessary.
13) Move the lot into a piping bag and get to work, filling the rolls with the creamy mixture up to the rims. Depending on how much lemon juice your tastebuds needed – and the resulting changes in consistency – you could even top them off with a pretty cupcake’esque piping-bag-flourish.
14) Place the plate in the fridge to allow the filling to set again until you’re ready to serve.
15) Once the time to dig in has come, sprinkle the bites with a couple of thyme leaves and the pine nuts and serve~