Friday, December 3, 2010

The rosemary thief, zucchini ribbons

Spilling over the footpaths through wrought-iron fences, overgrown with Austin roses and lavender: rosemary. It is unkempt, scraggly, rough, woody, never pruned or disciplined or watered. This time of year is filled with the scent of jasmine and honeysuckle and roses and the sharp, piney smell of crushed rosemary, oils released on the wind and as you brush past and step on the ambushing bushes.

Grown first on the Mediterranean coast, the name rosmarinus means dew (ros) of the sea (marinus)*. This refers to the fact that rosemary can get by on the smell of an oily rag**, that is, the moisture carried from the sea spray to the sandy soils it spreads its roots into.

Set against a backdrop of artful and not so artful graffiti and aerosol art, bluestone gutters, warehouse conversions and factories and done-up and not-done-up terrace houses, the square mile that is mine is a mixture of old bones and new money and no money, designer and vintage and plain old second-hand. Cottage gardens and lace curtains and polished floorboards and discarded syringes and nightclubs and a brothel on the corner. And in the tiny front gardens of rental houses and trendy laneway offices, the plants that thrive on neglect, that have been in the ground since Federation (or maybe the sixties or seventies) have become wild, the wiry odd drought loving plants of the Mediterranean. Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.

Clad for a break-and-enter or maybe just random street violence, I execute my vaudeville burglar impersonation. The conspiratorial glance over the shoulder. The nonchalant sidle against the corner of the apartment block. The overly innocent stroll ten, twenty metres down the street***. The exaggerated feigned dropped item. Then, quick as a flash, the snicker-snack. The mass of forest green reduced by inches. The softest, newest tips slipped deep into the pocket of an apron or handbag, or in one brazen instance of daylight robbery, discreted up inside the sleeve of my anorak.

* Ian Hempil, Spice Notes p. 338. I am slightly disappointed with the Larousse entry on rosemary which indicates the etymology of rosmarinus to be ‘rose of the sea’. I am hoping that some enterprising Classics scholar (cough,νωοφ, you know who you are) may adjudicate on the matter.
** This is a particularly, and quintessentially, Australian saying. To say that something runs on the smell of an oily rag means it can survive on a bare minimum. One could use the phrase to describe a particularly fuel efficient ute, for example.
*** I would innocently whistle, but alas, I am incapable. Of whistling. Not of innocence.

Rosemary zucchini ribbons

Serves four as a side

3 tbsp olive oil
2 anchovy fillets in oil (or more to taste)
1 tbsp garlic, finely chopped (about 4 cloves)
1 tbsp fresh rosemary finely chopped
3 medium sized zucchini (courgettes) sliced lengthways into thin ribbons (about 400 gm zucchini)
Sea salt
1 tsp soft tips of rosemary to serve

Heat the oil in a large fry pan. Add anchovy fillets and stir until dissolved. Add garlic and rosemary and stir until garlic is soft.

Lay the ribbons of zucchini in the pan, cover with a lid and cook for about 3 minutes, or until the ribbons are starting to brown. Turn over, and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Taste, and add sea salt if necessary.

Scatter with rosemary tips to serve. Good hot and at room temperature.

No comments:

Post a Comment