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Filtering by Tag: zucchini

Pasta con crema di zucchine

Rosetta

Here is one more recipe for you to use up all your zucchini. I created it back in the summer of 1983 for the first Zucchini Festival in Hayward, California. I knew that my pasta with zucchini and ricotta salata wouldn't be a good choice so I came up with a recipe made with pureed zucchini. It almost looks like a pesto sauce.

The recipe was so good that it won first place in the main dish category. Everybody loves this dish and it is especially popular with kids - they eat it not knowing that it is made with zucchini.

The puree is so lush that most people think it contains butter and cream. It has neither. My original recipe did include butter, as an attempt to appeal to Americans, but over the years I dropped it and the dish remains sufficiently rich. You can make it several hours ahead and it also freezes well.

It is an easy recipe to make; the sauce has only zucchini, onion, garlic, parsley, basil and a bouillon cube that gives it its very rich taste.

In the 80s it was very popular in Italy to throw a bouillon cube into everything--that's how I happened to put it in this sauce. I tried making the dish without it once and the taste just wasn't the same. I use the Knorr chicken bouillon cubes, butyou can use their vegetable flavor if you prefer .

Saute the onion and garlic until soft:

Add the zucchini, parsley, basil and crumbled bouillon cube:

Cook at low heat until it is very soft and smashes easily:

Then puree it in a blender until you have a smooth sauce:

Put the sauce in a skillet, add some cheese and add the drained pasta to the sauce.  Toss the pasta until well coated.

Let me know what you think of it.

Pasta con crema di zucchine

(Pasta with zucchini and herb puree)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 small onion, coarsely chopped

3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

1 pound zucchini, halved or quartered lengthwise, then sliced about 1/4 inch thick

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

1 chicken bouillon cube (preferably Knorr brand), crushed

2 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, plus more for passing

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 lb of Rigatoni, Penne or other type of short pasta

Grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese to taste

1. In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil.  When the oil is hot, add the onion and garlic and sauté until translucent. Add the zucchini, basil, parsley and the crumbled bouillon cubes.

2. Cook, uncovered, over low heat for about 20 minutes, until the zucchini are fully cooked and soft. If the zucchini seem dry, add a small amount of water to continue cooking until soft. It should look like a mush of zucchini. Taste for salt. If needed add salt to taste. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste.

3. When the zucchini are cooked, place the mixture in a blender and puree until you have a smooth sauce.

4.  Bring the water for the pasta to a boil, add salt to taste, and cook the pasta until al dente.

5. While the pasta is cooking, place the sauce in a large sauté pan, and add the grated cheese. Mix well.

6.  When the pasta is ready, drain, and add to the sauce, raising the heat and stirring until the pasta is well coated. Sprinkle with more cheese and serve at once.

Serves 6

Copyright 2005, Rosetta Costantino. All rights reserved.

Pasta con Zucchine e Ricotta Salata

Rosetta

Here is  another recipe where you can put your zucchini to use. We made this pasta dish at the all-zucchini cooking class on Saturday.

You can prepare everything while the pasta cooks. The key ingredients are zucchini and a flurry of grated ricotta salata. I was lucky to have a nice ricotta affumicata that my parents brought back from Calabria, but either will work well with this dish. Even fresh ricotta will make this dish flavorful.

My aunt used to prepare this dish; the ricotta salata melts when it hits the pasta, and by adding a little hot water from the pasta pot, you can create an almost creamy sauce. Some people prefer to sauté the zucchini, but I think the fried zucchini have more flavor. And some would say peperoncini (hot peppers)  are optional, but not  in my house!

Slice the zucchini in 1/8 inch rounds:

Sprinkle them with  a teaspoon of salt and toss. Fry the zucchini slices in batches until golden on both sides.

Leave a couple of tablespoons of oil in the pan when you are done frying the zucchini slices and add the garlic, fried zucchini slices and chopped basil.  Cook for few minutes to infuse the flavors.

Drain the pasta and add it to the pot with the zucchini. Toss well and add the ricotta salata.  Add some pasta water to make a creamy sauce.

Pasta with Zucchini and Ricotta Salata

1-1/2 pounds zucchini, sliced into 1/8-inch-thick rounds

Kosher salt

Extra virgin olive oil for frying

1 pound spaghetti or bucatini

4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or minced

1 or 2 small fresh green or red chilies, minced (optional)

1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil

1/2 cup finely grated ricotta salata cheese, plus more for garnish

Put the sliced zucchini in a bowl and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt. Toss to coat.

Heat 1/4 inch of oil in a frying pan over moderately high heat until it sizzles when you insert the end of a wooden skewer or chopstick (about 365ºF). Add the zucchini in batches and fry, turning with a fork, until lightly colored in spots. Transfer them as they are done to a plate.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente.

Just before the pasta is done, finish the sauce. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the frying oil and reduce the heat to moderately low. Add the garlic and chilies and cook briefly just to soften them; do not let them burn. Add the basil and zucchini, toss gently, and cook briefly just to infuse the zucchini with the seasonings.

Set aside 1 cup of pasta water, then drain the pasta and return it to the warm pot. Add the zucchini and the cheese and toss well, adding reserved water as needed to moisten the pasta and make a creamy sauce. Serve immediately, topping each portion with a little more grated cheese.

Serves 4 to 6

Copyright 2006, Rosetta Costantino. All rights reserved.

Pitticelle di Zucchine (Zucchini Fritters)

Rosetta

July is the month when my eight zucchini plants produces more zucchini that I can keep up with. I pick quite a few of them each day; as you can see below, each plant produces lots of them.

A typical daily pick of zucchini:

My parents never pick zucchini when they are small. That would be wasteful! Why not wait until they are larger, and thereby get a lot more food out of them? Like good Calabrians, my parents have many ways to preserve zucchini for the winter. In fact two of my favorite recipes that preserve zucchini use only large zucchini. One method is to dry the zukes in the sun during the summer; they are then called cose siccati or seccatini. The other is to cook them with vinegar and preserve them with olive oil, garlic, fresh mint and hot peppers, known as zucchine sott’olio. I love them both and a large portion of my zucchini end up preserved both ways. Both of these recipes are included in the preserves section of my upcoming book.

I love zucchini every which way you can think of and I prepare them in many dishes from appetizer to dessert. I will share more of my zucchini recipes that didn’t make it in my book in the coming weeks. I even started doing a cooking class a couple of years ago where the entire menu is based on zucchini. In fact  this class is coming up on July 24, and if you are interested in attending it there are still some spots available.

Today, the first recipe that I will share  is one that my mom would always make for me as a snack,  and it is now my children's favorite summer snack. They are zucchini fritters: pitticelle di zucchine in Calabrese, or frittelle di zucchine in Italian. My mother would fold some zucchini slices into a simple batter and fry each individual fritter. But when she started making these for my kids she noticed that they  would pull out the zucchini slices and eat just the fried dough. So she started chopping the zucchini and fold them into the batter. This did the trick. I will show you both ways and you decide which way you prefer. Eat them as an appetizer or as a snack. The problem is you can’t stop eating them.

How to make pitticelle di zucchine:

Slice the zucchini into ¼ inch rounds, or dice the entire zucchini.

Prepare the batter by  mixing flour with salt, parsley, basil, grated pecorino cheese, egg and water.

Place the zucchini rounds on top of the batter or fold the diced zucchini into the batter.

Fry the fritters until golden on both sides

Here is what they look like when done. The top photo has fritters with sliced zucchini and the bottom photo fritters with diced zucchini.

Pitticelle di Zucchine

Zucchini Fritters

1 large zucchini (about 1/2 pound), in 1/4-inch-thick rounds or diced

1 teaspoon kosher salt

For the batter:

1 cup  unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon freshly grated pecorino cheese

2 teaspoons minced flat-leaf parsley

1 teaspoon minced fresh basil

3/4 cup cold water

Extra virgin olive oil, for frying

In a bowl, sprinkle the zucchini with salt and toss to coat. Let stand 10 minutes to draw out some of the water.

Make the batter: Mix the flour and salt in a bowl and make a shallow well in the center. Place the beaten egg, cheese and herbs in the well and mix into the flour with a fork. Add the water and beat well until the mixture resembles thick pancake batter. When you lift some batter with the fork, it should fall in a ribbon. If the batter is too thick, add more water, a teaspoon at a time. If too thin, add a little more flour.

Heat 1/4 inch  of olive oil in a frying pan over moderate heat until it sizzles when you insert the end of a wooden skewer or chopstick (about 365ºF).

Drain the zucchini but do not rinse. Put a half-dozen slices of zucchini on top of the batter and spoon batter over them to coat. Transfer the battered zucchini to the hot oil with the spoon, making sure they are completely coated. Continue adding battered zucchini to the frying pan until it is filled but not crowded. Fry zucchini until golden brown on both sides, turning with a fork halfway through. Transfer with tongs to paper towels to drain. Repeat battering and frying zucchini until done. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

If you choose to make the fritters with the zucchini diced, fold them in the batter and using a spoon transfer a spoonful to the hot oil.  Fry the zucchini fritters until golden on both sides, turning with a fork halfway through.   Transfer the fritters to paper towels to drain.  Repeat until all the batter is used.

Makes 2 dozen, to serve 6 to 8

Copyright 2006, Rosetta Costantino. All rights reserved.

1

My vegetable garden in June

Rosetta

I promised you in May that I would post some pictures of how my vegetable garden looks after a month.  Compare the photos in the previous post to those below to see the difference a mere four weeks make.  It is amazing to see seedlings change into fully grown plants and start producing fresh summer vegetables. The zucchini are producing beautiful blossoms and fruit.  The romano beans have grown to the top of the wood poles and the beans are ready to be picked.

The tomato plants are on their way.  My dad builds the entire trellis with recycled material he has around my garden, like wood poles, metal posts left over from when we built my house, and left over irrigation tubing.  He buys nothing and recycles everything from year to year.

The poles are about 6 - 7 feet high--that's as high as we can reach to tie the tomato stems--and planted about 6 feet apart.  These poles support the horizontal bars, which he makes out of wood sticks or tubing, are placed about 12 inches apart.  When the plants start producing, the trellis looks like a wall of tomatoes. You will have to wait until August to see what I am describing.  In the meantime, if you have planted San Marzano tomatoes and would like to use this time-honored Calabrian technique, please feel free.

Take a look at the picture below to see how my dad ties the tomato stems to the trellis. He uses strips of his old worn shirts!

We always remove all the suckers once the tomato plant is well on its way up the trellis. A tomato sucker, or side shoot, is a growth that appears between a branch and the main stem. Here is a picture of what it looks like:

We leave suckers on the lowest portion of the tomato plant, as many as five or six,  and these become the main branches that will produce tomatoes.  All the other suckers that are produced by these stems will be removed as the tomato stems climb up the trellis.   You want to prune the suckers when they are small, no more than two to four  inches.  Suckers this size can be snapped off with your fingers, but suckers any thicker than a pencil should be cut with a pruner or knife to avoid damaging the plant.

The eggplant and pepper plants are growing well and my two cucumber plants are on their way to producing:

This is the best time of the year in my garden; I get to pick fresh vegetables on a daily basis.

Even my fig trees are ready to produce wonderful sweet figs. They will be ripe enough to eat right off the tree by next week.

I have two large fig plants, a Kadota (green-skinned and golden flesh) and a black mission tree. I'll have more on figs in a future post.

Frittelle di fiori di zucchine (Zucchini blossoms stuffed with mozzarella)

Rosetta

It is that time of the year again, when my prolific zucchini plants start producing beautiful blossoms. I picked the first ones last week and since I planted six plants I pick lots of zucchini blossoms on a daily basis. So far I have enjoyed them stuffed and fried, one of my favorite way to eat them. In Calabria zucchini blossoms are very popular. In fact you can see from the picture below how they are sold at the market: in beautiful bunches, picked in the morning and brought to market that day.

The most common way to eat them in Calabria is coated in a batter and fried, or mixed in with pasta.  Last year while in Calabria at one of my favorite restaurant, Dattilo, I ate them in spaghetti with clams. They are wonderful in a frittata or on top of pizza. I have a recipe for pizza with stuffed zucchini blossoms in my upcoming cookbook.

If you grow your own zucchini, you will notice that the plant produces two types of blossom, a male and a female. The female blossom is attached to the zucchini and falls off as the fruit matures. The male flower, with the long stem, serves no purpose other than fertilization, so these are the ones you'll want to pick and cook.

I pick the male blossoms early in the morning while they are still open and place them in a glass of water if I plan to use them the same day. When I want to make a dish that requires lots of blossoms, I put them in a plastic bag, blow some air into it, and close it tightly. I then store the bag in the refrigerator upright until I collect enough flowers for the dish.

If you are buying them at the farmers' market, look for flowers that are fresh and perky, and avoid the limp or wilted ones. Once they are closed it is very hard to open them (which you need to do to stuff them) without damaging the flower. You can use closed flowers in dishes where they will be chopped or sliced.

Here are the many ways I cook with zucchini blossoms:

  • Stuffed with mozzarella and anchovy, and coated in a batter and fried;
  • Stuffed with ricotta and fresh herbs and baked;
  • Mixed in at the last minute in a risotto;
  • Tossed with pasta;
  • Cut in strips and added to a frittata;
  • Stuffed with goat cheese on top of pizza.

If you are interested, please join me in my July 10 cooking class and we'll prepare the blossoms picked from my garden with the following recipe:

Frittelle di Fiori di Zucchine

Zucchini Blossoms Stuffed with Mozzarella

Batter

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup cold water

Olive oil for frying

12 zucchini blossoms, stems attached if possible

6 ounces whole milk mozzarella

6 salted anchovies filets, cleaned, rinsed and cut in two pieces

For the Batter: Place the flour and salt in a bowl and make a shallow well in the center. Place the beaten egg in the well and mix it into the flour with a fork. Stir in the water, pressing any lumps with the back of the fork to remove. Mix to a consistency that resembles thin pancake batter. When you lift some batter with the fork, it should fall in a ribbon. If the batter is too thick, add more water, a teaspoon at a time. If too thin, add a little more flour. Set aside.

Heat the Oil: Heat about 1 inch of oil in a Dutch oven or frying pan over medium heat until it is hot enough to sizzle the end of a wooden chopstick (about 365 degrees F for olive oil).

Prepare the Blossoms: Just before frying, rinse blossoms, remove the pistil and any insects that might be hiding inside.

Slice the cheese into squares or "logs" small enough to fit deep inside the blossoms so that you can fold over the petals to fully enclose the cheese. Place a piece of anchovy in each blossom along with the cheese cube and fold over the petals to close the opening.

When the oil is hot enough, dip a flower into batter and turn with a large spoon to coat. Using the spoon, transfer the battered blossom to the oil, pouring any batter that accumulates in the bottom of the spoon back atop the frying blossom, making sure it is coated. Fry the blossom on both sides just until the batter is cooked through, about 1 minute total. When done, the batter will be lightly golden, not brown. Drain on paper towels and repeat battering and frying the remaining blossoms 2 or 3 at a time without allowing them to touch each other in the oil. As necessary, regulate the temperature to keep oil at 365 degrees F while frying. Be careful when turning the blossoms as they tend to splatter when any residual water spills into the hot oil.

Serve immediately with a napkin and a salt shaker, if desired. Be careful of the molten cheese inside when you eat these.

Serves 4 (makes 12 blossoms)

Copyright, Rosetta Costantino. All rights reserved.

My vegetable garden in May

Rosetta

While I was in Calabria the first week of May, my parents planted tomato plants in my garden for me: 30 San Marzanos, a couple of  Early Girls and few sweet red 100s, which are cherry tomatoes.  The majority of the San Marzanos will end up canned in jars, although we do eat a few in salads and I bring them to use in my cooking classes when they are at their peak. (The tomatoes, not the classes!). All the other tomatoes we eat fresh off the vines. Following the "from scratch" theme of this blog, my parents always start the tomato seedlings from the seeds they harvest from the tomatoes of the previous season.  The original seeds were the ones they brought from Calabria in the 1970s.

This is what the tomatoes looked like a week after they were planted:

My dad also planted zucchini, peppers (both the Italian sweet and the Calabrian hot), eggplants, and Romano beans.  One of his secret is to give each plant a nice drink of  "manure tea".   Yes, you guessed it:  goat manure steeped in water, truly smelly stuff.  He gives each plant about a quart of this tea and it acts like a booster shot.  It is amazing how they take off.

He always places the seeds of the Romano beans directly into the soil in early April and as you can see from the picture below the plants are already on their way up the poles.  My dad always uses old branches to make poles for the beans to climb on.

Here are pictures of the  zucchini, eggplant, cucumber and pepper plants.

I also have a wonderful lettuce bed of mixed baby greens that are thriving:

And right next to the lettuce bed are some beautiful potatoes planted by my 14-year-old son, who loves to grow his own potatoes as his own little project. He put them in the soil back in March and here is a picture of them in May:

I will give you a garden update next month so you can see how everything is progressing.