Super-Soft Zucchini with Harissa and Lemon

Source: Yotam Ottolenghi, Ixta Belfrage, and Tara Wigley, Ottolenghi Flavor

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Zucchini, strictly speaking, aren’t controversial, but they do tend to get a pretty lukewarm reaction from many, including, regrettably, two of our test-kitchen colleagues. The reason for this is probably zucchini’s high water content, which tends to make them, well, watery. There are plenty of ways to combat this—frying and grilling are two examples—but we actually use it to our advantage here, cooking the zucchini slowly in their own juices, making them fantastically soft and enhancing their flavor by a long soak with fried garlic. (And in the process, we also managed to win over our two zucchini-iffy colleagues, we’re happy to announce.)

The zucchini are very good hot, but are better after 15 minutes or so, or even at room temperature, once the flavors have had a chance to get to know each other. Make them a day in advance, if you want to get ahead; just hold off on adding the basil until you’re ready to serve.

Serves 4 as a side or as part of a mezze spread


1⁄3 cup/80ml olive oil
6 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 tbsp rose harissa (adjust according to the brand you are using; see page 20)
1 red chile, finely chopped
½ preserved lemon, finely chopped, discarding any seeds (1 tbsp)
4½ tsp lemon juice
2 lb 2 oz/1kg zucchini, finely sliced
table salt
½ cup/10g basil leaves, roughly torn


1. Place a large, nonstick sauté pan on medium-high heat and add the olive oil and garlic. Fry gently for 4 minutes, stirring often, until soft, golden, and aromatic. You don’t want the garlic to become at all browned or crispy, so decrease the heat if necessary. Remove 3 tbsp oil, along with half the garlic, and transfer to a small bowl. Add the harissa, chile, preserved lemon, and lemon juice to the bowl; stir together; and set aside.

2. Return the pan to high heat and add the zucchini and 1¼ tsp salt. Cook for about 18 minutes, stirring often, until the zucchini are very soft but still mostly holding their shape (you don’t want the zucchini to brown, so decrease the heat if necessary). Stir in half the basil and transfer to a platter. Spoon the harissa mixture over the zucchini. Let sit for 15 minutes, then sprinkle with a pinch of salt and finish with the remaining basil before serving.

Reprinted with permission from Ottolenghi Flavor: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi, Ixta Belfrage, and Tara Wigley, copyright © 2020. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Photography copyright: Jonathan Lovekin © 2020.

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