My friend Emanuela has a knack for choosing little gifts that she knows I will really appreciate, she manages to find me the best kind of present in my view: anything that is not strictly necessary. I am always reminded of Voltaire’s motto “le superflu, chose si nécessaire” – i.e. the superfluous is such a necessary thing. Shakespeare would have agreed with Voltaire entirely with his:
“O, reason not the need! Our basest beggars
Are in the poorest thing superfluous.
Allow not nature more than nature needs,
Man’s life is cheap as beast’s.”
Well, let me tell you, my ‘nature’ is very high maintenance and I am the opposite of ‘minimalist’. One has to be very rich or very poor to be a true minimalist so, being neither, it has been my lot to weigh in where surroundings and ‘things’ have to convey an element of beauty over and above utility.
Emanuela bought me a huge pencil sharpener which of course isn’t a pencil sharpener at all. It’s a cheep and cheerful gadget, bought at a Tiger store in Rome, that can peel any vegetable small enough to fit into it. I was delighted with it! And today’s post is about my first foray with it.
I used the pencil, whether rightly or wrongly, it didn’t come with instructions, to ‘sharpen’ some courgettes (zucchine). That was easy enough to do. The shaved courgettes looked very pretty. But what was I to do with them? Now what? I picked up my glass of wine.
I walked out onto our balcony. It was that time of day. Perhaps, my favourite time of day. As I watched the sun go down, I decided that there was one recipe with which I simply could not go wrong. The Fried-Food-Fanatic in me was gleefully clapping her hands at the prospect of a ‘new’ frying jaunt. Back to the kitchen, firm of intent this time, a spring in my step.
Flour, dried oregano, sweet paprika, and an egg. I added water and a serving spoon of grappa. A wee dribble of olive oil. And hey presto! the batter was made.
I placed the courgettes with the batter in the fridge.
I had some saltwort to sort out too. Saltwort goes by the name of “agretti” or “barba di frate” in Italian. I blanched it briefly, then drained it.
I decided to toss it in a pan with plenty of guanciale.
This photo is of the finished dish which I repeated a few days later (I didn’t manage to take one of the agretti /barba di frate that evening), it was that worth it. But back to the courgettes, which I now took out of the fridge.
Once fried, I put them over some kitchen paper.
And it was then that I had the inspiration to draw on some grated pecorino cheese for a bit of ‘ooomph’.
I like sprinkling grated cheese over foods … I wonder why.
I went to the balcony, to say arrivederci to the sun and finish my glass of wine.
And then it was time to eat.
You see? Without that ‘superfluous’ pencil sharpener, I would never have come up with this recipe !