When you hear the word “vegetable” you don’t exactly think “sexy,” do you? I mean, fruit is sexy. Ripe berries, bursting with juice. A plump peach, floral and fragrant. Icy, refreshing hunks of melon. Sexy.
Veggies? Not so much. Well, maybe a juicy slice of tomato…oh wait. Tomato is technically a fruit. One could argue for beets, based on color alone, but beets taste like shit, so they’re out of the running.
The poor veggie needs an image makeover. The veg gets about as much respect as that whackjob chick from The Hills.
Zucchini, in particular, is un-sexy. Nobody craves zucchini. Nobody waits, with bated breath, for zucchini season to roll around. Hell, zucchini doesn’t even get lunchbox cred like mini-carrots and celery. Do you think the other veggies let zucchini join in any Vegetable Games? I picture zucchini and brussel sprouts standing on the sidelines, morosely cursing their fate.
But no more. Zucchini redemption has arrived. This appetizer, featuring the humble green rod, is sex-a-licious. A quick turn on the grill, a rich, gooey filling, a kick of red pepper flakes and a snap of fresh basil turns zucchini into George Clooney. It’s good lookin’, goes down easy, and with that tiny kick of spice, won’t be easily forgotten.
Serve this appetizer at your next shindig and watch the zucchini naysayers eat their words.
C’mon, you know you wanted another photo of these sexy beasties!
Grilled Zucchini Roll-Ups with Herbs and Cheese
slightly adapted from Ellie Krieger’s The Food You Crave
3 small zucchini (about 1/2 pound each), cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices*
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1 1/2 ounces fresh goat cheese, softened
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
2 ounces baby spinach leaves (2 cups lightly packed)
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
Preheat a grill pan over medium heat.
Discard the outermost slices of zucchini and brush the rest with oil on both sides. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Grill until tender, about 4 minutes per side. You can make the grilled zucchini a day ahead and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
In a small bowl, combine the goat cheese, parsley, lemon juice, red pepper flakes and a dash of salt and pepper, mashing them together with a fork. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
Put 1/2 teaspoon of the cheese mixture about 1/2 inch from the end of a zucchini slice. Top with a few spinach leaves and a sprig or two of basil. Roll up and place seam side down on a platter. Repeat with the rest of the zucchini slices. You can make these up to a day before you are ready to serve them and store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Serve at room temperature.
*If you are as untalented as I am at slicing zucchini this thinly, you might want to pick up a few extra. Just sayin.’