To prepare our readers for summer and in celebration of Zamalek’s successful return to relative normalcy, TBE is today offering a special program of food, Zamalek shopping tips, and music.
Zucchini Sauce with Basil and Egg Yolk from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, parenthetically annotated by TBE.
1 pound fresh zucchini
Vegetable oil for frying (You need a lot of vegetable oil. Thankfully it’s extremely cheap.)
3 tablespoons butter (According to TBE’s calculations, 1 tablespoon of butter equals about 13 grams. Lurpak and other butters available in Egypt have measuring lines on the packaging for 20 gram segments, so this is approximately 2 segments.)
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour, dissolved in 1/3 cup milk
1 egg yolk, beaten lightly with a fork
½ cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
¼ cup freshly grated romano cheese (TBE uses only the parmigiano. It sells for about LE100 per kilo at Alfa.)
2/3 cup fresh basil leaves torn by hand into several pieces or equal amount chopped parsley (TBE has never done it with parsley. Better to stick with basil. See below for a surefire place to find basil in Zamalek.)
1 pound pasta
The clinging zucchini strips and the creamy consistency of the sauce make it particularly suitable for curly shapes, such as both kinds of fusilli – the short, stubby ones and the long, corkscrew strands. (Even though TBE has in the past questioned Marcella’s pastadoxy, this time we think she’s right.)
- Soak the zucchini for at least 20 minutes in cold water, then wash it free of all grit. Drain it, trim away both ends, and cut the zucchini into sticks about 3 inches long and 1/8 inch thick. (With the short, stubby zucchini’s currently in markets you should get about 10-12 sticks per zucchini.) Pat them thoroughly dry with paper towels. (TBE neglected this step the first time we made the recipe. It was a mistake.)
- Put enough oil in a frying pan to come ½ inch up the sides of the pan, and turn the heat on to medium high. (Very important note: If you, like TBE, have a galley kitchen or one in which opening the window is liable to create a wind tunnel that will blow out the burners, wear old clothes or ones you plan to wash soon, because they will become imbued with the not altogether pleasant scent of vegetable oil.) When the oil is hot enough that a zucchini strip sizzles when dropped in, put in as many strips at one time as will fit without being crowded. (TBE crowds them in to get them all done at once, with no apparent adverse effects.) Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. (The zucchini-frying will take some time, so you should mix the flour and milk, grate the cheese and tear the basil while it’s happening.)
You can fry the zucchini in advance.
- When the pasta is nearly ready to drain and toss, pour out the oil from the frying pan, wipe it clean and dry with paper towel, put in 2 tablespoons of the butter, and turn on the heat to medium. When the butter foam begins to subside, turn the heat down to medium low, and stir in the flour-and-milk mixture, a little bit at a time. Cook, stirring constantly, for half a minute (or maybe a little longer, until it’s creamy but not pasty). Add a pinch of salt, all the fried zucchini strips, and cook for about one minute, turning the zucchini over to coat thoroughly.
- Off heat, vigorously swirl in the remaining tablespoon of butter and the egg yolk.
- Toss the cooked drained pasta with the sauce, add both grated cheeses (or the one you’re using), toss thoroughly once again, add the torn up basil leaves, toss once more, then serve immediately.
ZAMALEK SHOPPING TIPS:
Below please find a Google map of the best herb and vegetable outlets in Zamalek. The vegetable shops on 26 July sometimes have basil, but are inconsistent. “The Herb Factory aka Greens Only,” as TBE calls it for lack of a better name, sells only greens, as its name would suggest, including fresh basil for LE3 a bunch. For all you arugula heads, they sell it for the low, low price of 25 piasters per bunch. “The Vegetable Spot” is better known but from afar or just walking past one might think it’s just your average vegetable shop. In fact, it’s far above the mean in terms of quality and selection.
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