Romana courgettes are an Italian favourite and we'll have small, first of the year examples for the next few weeks. These courgettes, unlike later, British examples have firm flesh and a subtle nutty flavour as opposed to the classic, subtle bitterness of the traditional zucchini.
The problem often lies in what to do with such an abundant, but often fairly flavourless, vegetable. Pesto is a firm favourite, especially with the 'courgetti' crowd, but any of the basic ingredients of that delectable green paste work fantastically well too.
Cheese is an obvious place to start. Lots of fresh cheeses are just coming into season and whether you go for a quiet but zesty ricotta or a sightly more complex aged goat's cheese like Stawley or spankingly fresh Tymsboro, their fantastic white, crumbly paste is perfectly at home tossed with raw slices of courgette marinated in lemon juice and olive oil as a side to a late Spring lunch.
Soft herbs such as basil or tarragon are also wonderful either with or without the cheese, perhaps with pine nuts or seeds combined too but when the courgette really comes into it's own is through grilling.
This is best done outside on a coal BBQ but is easily achievable with a ridged griddle pan in the kitchen. It's a classic of the Itailan antipasti platter; simply slice the courgettes longways as thinly as you can - a mandoline is best for this - toss or brush them with enough olive oil to entirely coat them and place them in batches onto the hot grill bars. Once char marks have appeared turn them over until cooked through. Serve at room temperature sprinkled with lemon juice.
It's difficult to explain the depth of flavour that this method imparts to such a humble vegetable. The blackened lines taste of smoke, the flesh smacks of rich, fruity olive oil and the nutty bitterness that was there all along takes on a fresh new tune.