Heading to Abruzzo in June, knowing the weather was likely to touch 30 degrees, I didn’t want to have to slave over a hot stove on those rare occasions when it was my turn to cook.
I decided to bring one of my favourite recipe books which is full of tasty ideas that can be put together quickly and easily – Sophie Kooks Quick and Easy Feelgood Food by Sophie Morris. You can check out her website Sophie Kooks here.
The title says it all. Even a culinary dunce like me can produce interesting plates of food with Sophie’s guidance.
I admit I’m not the best cook in the world. I like the end result to taste good, who doesn’t? But I can get frustrated in the kitchen. For some reason I’ve managed to follow Sophie’s recipes without turning into an antichrist. Believe me that’s a huge plus.
So after arriving in Abruzzo, unpacking and settling it I looked for my copy of Sophie Kooks … and sure enough I’d left in behind!
With people coming for dinner a few days away, and with me not being the most inventive in the kitchen, P suggested a couple of options and they triggered my memory of Sophie’s Grilled Courgette and Feta Salad.
There was no shortage of courgettes in the markets and feta was easy to come by.
I was on to a winner.
Not only is it a great starter, but because it is light with a lemony dressing, I find it is perfect once the temperature is higher than Northern Europeans like me are used to.
To verify I had the quantities and general approach right I sent an email to Sophie and she very kindly replied and set me straight with a correction or two.
All was well.
We kept it vegetarian and light on the night with dishes of figs and goats cheese, along with Sophie’s grilled courgette and feta salad, followed by pasta with chickpeas.
Our guests loved every dish, but being a bit biased, I think the grilled courgettes and feta was the winner.
To go along with the food we served a white wine from Le Marche by Ciu Ciu that we picked up in Iper near Pineto. I know it’s not wine from Abruzzo but I think it deserves a mention as it was a bit hit and hey, I bought it in Abruzzo!
I’d love to show you photos of the food but I was too busy enjoying it to think of reaching for my camera.
Instead, maybe a photo of the view we had while eating will suffice? The Majella in all its glory, still with a hint of snow.
Sophie Morris kindly agreed to let me reproduce her recipe below. It tastes great and is so easy to prepare that even I appeared to know what I was doing.
This is a lovely simple salad. I like it as a starter but it’s also a great side dish with grilled white fish or cold roast meats. I love how the thinly sliced courgettes work with the crumbly, milky feta.
Seek out ones [courgettes] that are small and firm: they taste better.
For the dressing
finely grated zest and juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons of olive oil
½ clove of garlic, finely chopped
200g feta, cubed
a handful of basil leaves, torn
a handful of mint leaves, torn
1. Place all the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl. Add a good grinding of black pepper. Mix and set aside.
2. Use a potato peeler to peel the courgettes lengthways into very thin slices. Heat a grill pan or frying pan over a high heat and cook the courgette slices for a few minutes on each side, until slightly charred. (You might need to do tem in batches.)
3. Arrange the charred courgette slices in a single layer on a large serving plate. Scatter the feta cubes over the courgettes, then sprinkle over the basil and mint. Drizzle the dressing evenly over the salad and serve immediately.