Celebrate summer, when it shows up, with an ‘Italian-style’ meal of healthy, seasonal deliciousness. The shops are filled with a cheap and plentiful supply of courgettes in July and August, so now is the time to make them into the brilliant, low-carb, pasta substitute popularly dubbed “courgetti”. This fresh, healthy and surprisingly substantial dish accompanied by a selection of the most vibrant of summer fruits - sweet tomatoes - is an amazingly flavourful way to enjoy a taste of Italy without the high-starch hit you get from eating regular pasta.
My eldest daughter Elizabeth provided the inspiration for Primal Plate's tomato salad recipe. Last weekend she served up something very similar at an impromptu family BBQ and it tasted so fresh and looked so colourful that I was reminded how versatile a simply prepared and beautifully presented plate of tomatoes can be. This salad is a great way to lighten-up all manner of dishes, or perhaps to eat on its own with some fresh goat's cheese with grain-free bread to mop up the juices.
Quick, light and super-easy to make, this lovely combo is my idea of summer on a plate!
Ingredients - for the Lemon Courgetti with Summer Vegetables
300ml organic double cream
1 organic lemon, juice and finely grated zest
80g organic full-fat cream cheese
100g Parmesan-style cheese, finely grated
200g frozen peas
200g frozen baby broad beans
200g fresh asparagus tips
4 medium-large, firm, flat (not curved) chunky courgettes - size and shape matters!
small bunch of basil
sea salt and black pepper
Ingredients - for the Tomato Salad
600g ripe vine tomatoes - for interest and sheer good looks, choose from a selection of red or yellow cherry tomatoes, heirloom golden-orange, red and green vine tomatoes, baby plum tomatoes or the beautiful red and green Tigerella varieties
2 tbsp organic cold-pressed olive oil
2 tsp best-quality Balsmanic of Modena vinegar
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
fresh basil leaves - to decorate
Boil a kettle-full of fresh water. Pre-heat 4 individual pasta bowls.
Measure the frozen peas and broad beans into two separate heat-proof jugs or bowls. Pour the boiling water from the kettle equally over the peas and broad beans and allow to stand until they’re defrosted.
Prepare the courgettes by washing them and spiralising into long thin spaghetti-like shreds - alternatively, this can be done with a knife by cutting them into long, thin strips.
Drain the defrosted peas through a sieve and tip them into a clean bowl. When the broad beans have cooled down, drain them too before popping them out of their tough outer skins between your finger and thumb straight into the bowl with the peas.
Trim the bottom of the asparagus tips - it’s not necessary, but I also like to peel the bottom third of the stems with a potato peeler. Boil a second kettle of water.
Heat the cream with the lemon zest in a medium-large saucepan over a medium heat until it comes to the boil. Turn the heat down to simmer and continue cooking for 3 minutes. Cover and set aside.
Meanwhile, pour the boiling water into the bottom of a steamer, then put the asparagus tips into the steamer basket, cover and steam for just 1 minute. Remove the asparagus tips from the steamer with a slotted spoon into a bowl of cold water (or put into a sieve and run under the cold tap) to ‘set’ their bright green colour. Drain and dry on kitchen paper. Cut the asparagus into 3 centimetre pieces (or in half) and then add them to the bowl of peas and broad beans.
Reserve 4 sprigs of basil then strip the leaves off the rest of the basil stems and tear them into small pieces. Set aside.
Whisk the cream cheese, 80g of Parmesan and 30ml of lemon juice into the lemon infused cream and then over a medium heat bring the sauce back to just below boiling point. Taste, then season with sea salt and a good grinding of black pepper. Taste again and add a little more lemon juice if you think it needs it.
Add the asparagus, broad beans and peas to the cream sauce and then over a low/medium heat, allow the vegetables to gently warm through - make sure the sauce gets nice and hot but don't let it boil.
Bring the water in the steamer back to the boil, add the courgetti to the steamer basket, cover and steam for just 1½ minutes - no longer. They need to cook just long enough to lose their raw-edge and get hot but not so long that they become limp and soggy.
Immediately tip the courgetti out of the steamer basket onto a dry, clean tea-towel. Wrap them up in the tea towel to absorb as much water as possible.
Divide the drained courgetti equally between the 4 pre-heated serving dishes. Stir the torn basil leaves into the cream sauce and vegetables then ladle or spoon this on top of the courgetti - distributing the vegetables and sauce evenly. Sprinkle the rest of the grated Parmesan-style cheese over each serving and finish with a good grinding of black pepper and a sprig of fresh basil.
Serve immediately with tomato salad.
Instructions - to make Tomato Salad
No need to peel or remove the seeds from the tomatoes. Wash and slice the larger tomatoes, removing the core at the stem end by cutting out a small ‘v’ at the centre of the bigger slices with the point of a small, sharp knife. Halve the cherry tomatoes.
Layer all the tomatoes attractively on a large platter. Lightly season with sea salt and then drizzle over the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Add a grinding of freshly ground black pepper and decorate with green and/or purple basil leaves.
Serve at room temperature for a simply delicious way to enjoy all the nutritional benefits of sweet, fragrant tomatoes. Yum!
If you prefer, you can substitute the frozen vegetables with 500 grams each of fresh peas and broad beans (weight before podding). Pod them, then cook in boiling water (or steam) for 3 minutes before draining well and adding to the cream sauce to keep warm.
Carbohydrate 14g Protein 19g - per serving of lemon courgetti with summer vegetables
Carbohydrate 7g Protein 1g - per serving of tomato salad