Category Archives: ZUCCHINI

RICE AND ZUCCHINI PATTIES WITH A BALSAMIC REDUCTION

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Zucchini season means being creative if you are fortunate to have tons in your garden or as gifts from people you know who have a bumper crop.  You may be enticed by a fresh looking display in your farmers market or food store.  However you get your zucchini the possibilities are endless as to what you can make with them. Here’s an idea that builds on the Mediterranean tradition of mixing eggs, a starch, cheese, and a vegetable into a little fried morsel.  Southern European countries are brimming with these types of fritters and really a few well made ones can be the main event at a meal.  I love rice and always cook extra with something to be made the next day in mind.  Something about leftover rice, it just makes for nice fritters, like Arancini (Riceballs) or these patties we will now cook.  The key here is leftover rice.  Results will NOT be the same if you the rice the same day you’ve cooked it.  Please note that you have been warned, lol.  Pulling from a lifetime of eating Southern Italian food I put together this patty one day when I had some leftover rice in the fridge.  A little fresh basil, onion, and a finishing touch of Balsamic make for a really nice plate.

For approx. 14 patties       Time: (using leftover rice) 1 hour

1 3/4 CUPS LEFTOVER COOKED RICE (STRESSING THE LEFTOVER PART !!)

2 MEDIUM ZUCCHINI SHREDDED, THEN BETWEEN TOWELS OR PAPER TOWELS, SQUEEZE ALL THE MOISTURE OUT OF THEM.

2 LARGE BEATEN EGGS

1 CUP BREADCRUMBS

1/4 CUP GRATED PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO CHEESE

1/4 TSP CHOPPED FRESH THYME

1 MEDIUM ONION, FINELY DICE

1 TBS. CHOPPED PARSLEY

1/2 TSP. FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER

SALT TO TASTE

1/4 CUP GOOD BALSAMIC VINEGAR, SLOWLY REDUCED TO LESS THAN 1/2 IT’S ORIGINAL VOLUME)

Mix all the ingredients till they all will stick together.  Heat about 2 tbs. olive oil or canola oil in a pan.  Make a small test patty, roll some of the mix into a walnut size ball then flatten, make sure there’s a nice sizzle when you add it to the pan.  Let the patty get nicely browned on both sides, then drain on paper towels..TASTE THIS, of course after it’s cooled off.  If you are happy with the seasoning form 14 equal sized patties, about 2 inches wide, no more than 1 inch thick.  If it’s not seasoned enough add more salt and blend well.  Add  a little more olive oil to the pan and without crowding them in the pan cook them in batches over medium heat.  Don’t rush this…why?  You want the eggs in the mix to bind with the breadcrumbs, cheese and other ingredients to hold the patties together.  Heat that’s too high will cause the outsides to burn and then leave the insides uncooked.  Slower cooking also will ensure the vegetables cook nicely.  When you have a nice golden brown color on one side flip them and let the other side get to the same color.  Transfer to a platter and tent them with tin foil and place them in the oven just to stay warm until the entire batch is done.  Arrange them  on a platter over baby arugula and drizzle the balsamic over the patties.  Great party or dinner platter..you can even make them smaller and serve as appetizers.  Take the recipe and go with it!!  And the Balsamic sauce is a winner with simply reducing it.  HAPPY COOKING!! Enjoy Zucchini while it’s in season!!!

 

 

 

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ZUCCHINE CON PESTO…ZUCCHINI WITH BASIL PESTO

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Yeah I know, Summer is over, what’s this Zucchine con Pesto out of season nonsense…ahh..certainly this dish will be at it’s best in the peak of the Summer growing season..but Zucchini are in the markets all year long, possibly not as sweet as the local summer grown, but they are still delicious.  Old school types refuse to believe that there are good vegetables to be had through the winter…some better than others.  I’ve found that most Fall thru Spring Zucchini have been a breath of fresh air from the earthy flavors of the seasonal root and cruciferous vegetables.  Pesto, if you make it in the summer you can freeze it in various forms, or pack it into olive oil sealed containers, or buy a decent brand in a store, frozen or jarred.  Where did this recipe come from?  It came from necessity.  Opening the fridge one night after work and having to come up with dinner in a hurry meant slicing the zucchini in the fridge into disks.  It meant thinking, what to do that would be delicious yet quick?  Well, on the door of the fridge was a jar of CENTO PESTO, imported from Italy.  All season long i make my own pesto.  I won this jar and 7 others! in a contest on Instagram.  Yay me!!! I then thought…wow, that pesto is packed with flavor, made of good stuff..hmmm. i’ll pan saute’ the zucchini cut in rounds till they blister in olive oil…then. add some garlic to the pan, then some peperoncino…THEN when the zucchini is tender move off the flame and stir in the pesto..not much…it’s not tasty when it’s over done..Just enough to create a “sauce” and coat the cooked zucchini.  Here’s the thing…unless you’re going to add it to a soup or sauce at the end..Pesto should not be cooked.  So…off the flame the pan went and 5 minutes late i stirred a spoon of pesto into the pan. Perfection reached!!

TIME:  about 40 minutes      SERVES: 4

5 small to medium ZUCCHINI (not the big ones..too much seed, too big for this recipe)

3 tbs. OLIVE OIL

3 sliced CLOVES OF GARLIC

KOSHER SALT

1/2 TSP PEPERONCINO (the Italian word for crushed dried hot red pepper/chile)

2 TBS. PESTO

 

Slice the zucchini in no more than 1/4 inch thick rounds.  Heat 1 1/2 tbs. olive oil in a wide pan and add as many slices as you can without them overlapping.  You may have to do them in two or three batches.  Leave the heat on medium or you will burn the exterior of the zucchini before the inside cooks.  I’d give them at least 8 minutes on one side.  Turn one over and if it’s blistered, you’re ready to turn them. Lightly salt them each time you add raw zucchini to the pan.  Let the other side blister as well, blistering meaning taking on nice color without burning.  Remove to a platter or dish and keep covered with foil as you finish the next batches.  Add more Olive Oil as necessary. Taste a zucchini, make sure it’s tender and seasoned. When you are done with the zucchini, in the pan you just cooked the zucchini in, add the garlic and peperoncino and let this  get fragrant, only takes about 1 minute to 1 1/2 minutes..do not let the garlic burn. Remove from the heat.   Now add the pesto and blend well with the oil being careful not to splatter yourself or all over the stove.  Now gently add the zucchini back into the pan and coat all the rounds with the “sauce”. This is one of my examples of LA DOLCE FAR NIENTE, real Italian style…the sweet joy and bliss of doing nothing..meaning..lazily hanging around enjoying good company and good food.  A plate of this zucchini does not have to be PIPING HOT..it can stay out at room temperature and infact, I think it taste better at room temperature.  Have  a table set with lots of these types of dishes and you can enjoy your guests and family instead of running back and forth into the kitchen.  A family style platter of this on the table or side board is perfect. It can be part of an antipasto or a “contorno” or side dish for a full meal.  However you serve it do not fuss..bring that LA DOLCE FAR NIENTE into your home.  Cooking is only a job if you get paid for it.  When you are home..enjoy!

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Imagine yourself along a canal off of the Venetian Lagoon…like this wonderful one in Burano outside of Venice…imagine a long table. lots of seafood and meats, vegetables, pasta and fruits…breads, antipasti..grilled…and  THAT is what I think of with a platter of this zucchini.  Did you notice I spelled it ZUCCHINE in the title?  That’s my inner Italian coming out…in Italian the word is ZUCCHINE (plural for ZUCCHINA, which means small squash, which is a ZUCCA, and they come in all shapes and sizes and colors.  In English we use the word ZUCCHINI) I’ve given you a vegetable dish AND a small Italian Grammar lesson.  Most importantly I’m giving you the permission to enjoy LA DOLCE FAR NIENTE..now go find it for yourself !! Happy Cooking!!

TURN SOUP PASTA SHAPES INTO A SIDE OR MAIN DISH, TUBETTINI WITH PROSCIUTTO AND ZUCCHINI

atubettiniprosciutto  Pasta comes in many shapes and sizes and there are special ones made to be used in soups.  Tubettini, Tubetti, Orzo, Acini di Pepe, Stelline, Pastina, Seme di Melone, Funghetti, Ditalini, Farfalline are just some of the names and shapes that are created to go in Minestre or Zuppe.  The Pasta part of Pasta e Fagioli uses any of these shapes as one of it’s star ingredients.  I love using these shapes the same way one would use rice, couscous, barley, farro, etc.  Mixing it with a few ingredients will give you a hearty side dish, or a substantial main dish.  Your choice.  Here’s a recipe I developed and the family loved it so I have to blog it for you.  I think you’ll like it too.

 

TIME:   30 minutes                SERVES: 4-6

1 lb. TUBETTINI (COOKED AL DENTE, ACCORDING TO THE PACKAGE DIRECTIONS)

2 TBS. OLIVE OIL

2 MEDIUM ZUCCHINI, SMALL DICE

1/4 LB. SLICED PROSCIUTTO, THEN DICED, FOR THIS SMALL PASTA YOU WANT THE PROSCIUTTO TO BE SAME SIZE AS THE PASTA

2 SLICED GARLIC CLOVES

KOSHER SALT, CRACKED BLACK PEPPER

1/8 CUP GRATED PECORINO ROMANO OR PARMIGIANO REGGIANO, MORE FOR ADDING WHEN SERVED

 

Let’s start out with noting the absence of an herb here.  It’s superfluous.  You will loose the nuance of the prosciutto here, so let the cheese be the additional flavor with the garlic and oil.  Sometimes American Italian food is over “greened” with unnecessary herbs, especially that parsley garnish. Want to cook more “Italian”? Let’s start with the less is more approach.  Cook the pasta according to the package directions.  While that is happening in a wide heavy skillet/pan, add the olive oil and heat it on medium.  Add the zucchini, sprinkle with some salt and let this cook for a good 10 minutes.   Shake the pan a few times to move the zucchini around to cook on all sides.  Then add the prosciutto.  Make sure you’ve taken care to cook the pasta only to the Al Dente point, then drain, reserve 3 tbs of the starchy cooking water.  Cook the prosciutto for about 5 minutes, then add the garlic, cooking another 3 minutes. Now Add the drained Tubettini and coat well with the zucchini and prosciutto, Add the reserved water and cook for only 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.  Add 1/8 cup of the grated cheese now.  Blend well.  TASTE now and see if any more salt is necessary, If so, lightly add more, and add the black pepper as well.  Toss well.  We are ready to eat!  You may want to add just a drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil over the top…and more grated cheese.  That’s what I would do.. You do as you like and I hope you like this visit with me in my kitchen.  Happy Cooking!

 

 

 

STUFATO DI ZUCCHINE, ZUCCHINI STEW WITH TOMATOES

004  I hope that colorful picture conjures up all sorts of warm weather things in your mind because it’s doing that to me. When the weather in my area is not to my liking (as in the entire Winter) I can “retreat” to the warmer temps by cooking something that has a bit of Summer sunshine in every bite.  Take this STUFATO DI ZUCCHINE, or ZUCCHINI STEW.  A simple melange of Olive oil, onions, Tomatoes and Zucchini that is enormously satisfying and pretty straighforwad in how it’s made.  By the time November rolls around people in my region (the American North East coast)have run out of ideas for their prolific annual harvest of home grown zucchini.  Agreed, that’s the best time to make this according to Mother Nature. Did you always listen to everything your mother said?  Combine zucchini that you can still find (it’s in season somewhere else in the world when it’s not inseason in my neck o’the woods) and just make sure it’s not beat up, limp, blistered.  Clearly, those are really old and tired and should be avoided. BUT, if you can find something like this:003 well then it’s time to made Zucchini Stew.  For you types out there that love to correct online mistakes I did not mess up the title of this blog post.  ZUCCHINE is the proper Italian word for the plural ZUCCHINA which means little or smaller squash (which is termed ZUCCA).  Here in the US we use the term ZUCCHINI so before there’s a screaming match between my US friends and my Italian Friends, I’ve placed both into the title.  I’m the UN…everybody is right!! It’s a crap shoot in the Winter months to find decent Zucchini but you can tell by their look and feel that they will perk up the dark winter of root vegetables and roasted meats with a ray of sunshine.  Certainly the tomatoes will not be of the fresh variety,really need to wait for the season for that but a good can of Italian Plum Tomatoes ( I use the San Marzano DOP tomatoes) that are generally picked at the height of their season will make this Stufato di Zucchine a welcome dish in any season.  Let’s cook!

 

SERVES: 4 people                                                      TIME: 40 minutes

 

4 firm unblemished ZUCCHINI, sliced and diced into cubes, try to keep the size somewhat the same, it helps with more even cooking.

1 large diced onion

2 tbs.Extra Virgin Olive Oil

kosher salt, peperoncino

3 fresh basil leaves or pinch of oregano

1 28oz can of Italian Plum Tomatoes (San Marzanos are my preference) crushed

In a saucepan heat 2 tbs of Olive Oil adding the zucchini when the oil is hot.  Sprinkle some salt over this and make sure you CAREFULLY stir the zucchini so all cubes are covered in the oil.  Let this cook for 7 minutes stirring frequently but carefully.  Now add the onion, stir, and let this cook for12 minutes,slowly, stirring.  Add 2 tbs of water and cook until it’s evaporated.  when the onions and zucchini are soft add a pinch of peperoncino, and the oregano if that’s the herb you’ve chosen. Pinch of salt.  Now add the tomatoes and continue to cook until the zucchini and onions are sweet and soft, about 20 minutes.Finish with a drizzle of olive oil. At this point your dish should look like this:002  If you are using the basil, add the leaves now and stir.  Let this sit for at least 1/2 hour before serving.

To make this vegan simply prepare as shown.. To enhance the flavor (my preferred style) serve with lots of grated Pecorino Romano cheese.  I also drizzle some EVOO and a pinch of peperoncino on top.     This dish can be a side dish or served over pasta.  For any Gluten Free types the recipe as written is naturally  Gluten  Free.

Now those who are familiar with this type of Italian cooking will say,   make that with sausage, or potatoes, or isn’t this a GIAMBOTTA?  This dish is this dish, a zucchini stew, period.  Now start adding other things and it turns into a Giambotta, also very good, but for me it’s charm is that it’s only a few ingredients with lots of flavor from each of them. I love all the Italian vegetable and potato and meat combos.  So many to chose from..all Vegetable, or a mix.

Happy Cooking!

 

ZUCCHINI WITH RED ONION AND MINT..A SIDE DISH, AN ENTREE, OR WITH PASTA

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“WHAT DO I DO WITH ALL THIS ZUCCHINI FROM MY GARDEN, OR FROM A FRIEND?”..Have you been asking yourself that?  Stop. It’s a very versatile vegetable and lends itself to baking, steaming, braising, sauteeing, frying, stuffing, shredding, etc. etc.  I think most people just wind up grating them into all sorts of zucchini breads which are very delicious but for me there’s zero “zucchini” flavor that you taste in those cakes and breads.  Nothing works as well for me as the vegetable cooked with some supporting ingredients, take my ZUCCHINI with FRESH MINT and RED ONION for example.  What?  Mint?  You just winced a little?  Tastes like candy you think?  Yuck?  Let this blogpost make you a convert.  Mint is strong for sure but used with a little restraint it’s a very Mediterranean and Asian herb that wakes up much of those regions’ cuisines.

Summer is just not summer without a bounty or overload of zucchini.  I get a little misty remembering picking all the zucchini in Dad’s Staten Island NYC garden, especially the blossoms in the early morning..bringing the baskets into the house and into my Mom’s talented Italian-American hands.  What she did with those long and sometimes short lengthed zucchini was kitchen magic.  Nothing overly complicated but she turned them into sautees, stuffed them with meatballs and sausages and cheeses or other vegetables, fried them, stewed them with garlic or onion and tomato sauce (that was a real favorite), parmigiana, even the blossoms which usually were just fried, she would turn those fried blossoms into a Parmigiana as well..the best of the Summer dishes..the zucchini she’d also turn into lots of different types of pasta sauces..a’scapece (fried and marinated in vinegar and oil, peperoncino and garlic), need I go on?  Ok, yes she did, she did take out her box of Bisquik and turn out loaves of Zucchini bread, Zucchini muffins, Zucchini fritters…some found their way into Frittatas…I certainly miss my Mom terribly but I’m never far from her especially in the kitchen.  This recipe I will share now isn’t earth shattering but it certainly is wonderfully fresh tasting and is totally inspired by my Mom’s expertise with the fresh vegetables we ate from Dad’s garden every day.  By the way, those mornings and afternoons harvesting, planting and weeding now that I am being totally honest, were miserable..lol…the mosquitos in Staten Island may have been the most prolific anywhere on the planet.  The slugs that found their way onto your hands and arms were nowhere near as horrific as those swarms of mosquitos.  I miss Mom and Dad and the garden anyway.

FOR 4 PEOPLE                     TIME: about 1/2 hour

4 rinsed and patted dry ZUCCHINI, chopped into a medium dice

1 diced RED ONION

3 tbs. OLIVE OIL

2 stalks of FRESH MINT, leaves removed from stems

KOSHER SALT

FRESH GROUND PEPPER

In a wide pan, skillet or even a dutch oven, heat the olive oil gently, then add the red onion and toss well with the olive oil, 1/2 tsp. salt.  Let this saute’ for about 8 minutes careful not to let the onions brown.  Now add the zucchini and toss with the onions and olive oil, raising the heat slightly.  Add a pinch of salt.  Let this cook for 15 minutes, shaking up the pan from time to time.  The zucchini is done when a fork easily goes through it and it’s tender, so feel free to take a little more time to get it to that point.  Season to taste with a little more salt and some freshly ground black pepper.  Then add the mint leaves which you chop right before you toss into the zucchini.  WOW..the aroma will capture your tastebuds immediately.

Serve.  This mix is also wonderful when tossed together with a short tubed pasta like Zitini, Pennine, Mezze Penne, Tubettini, etc.  Simply cook the pasta according to the package directions till AL DENTE, then drain, drizzle with extra virgin OLIVE OIL, a little salt, black pepper, and a good amount of freshly grated Pecorino or Parmigiano or Caciocavallo or Ricotta Salata…mix, then toss in the zucchini mixture till it’s nicely (but gently) blended. Top with more grated cheese.  Phenomenal.

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Mom and Dad are smiling!