Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Girls Gone Wild in Val Chisone or just wild about Filled Baked Zucchini Flowers

Ok, so it's a misleading title. None of us are really girls and nobody really went wild.

Although when you get a group of women together it can be a little wild at times. We had friends of friends who visited recently and they were from my old stomping grounds of southern Illinois when I was a girl and perhaps went a little wild, back in the day. Although I didn't know any of them before they arrived, I felt we had known each other a very long time, as I do with many and most of our guests.  They all live or once lived in the small town of Olney (Home of the White Squirrels) a rival to even smaller Lawrenceville, where I lived for the all important "Wonder Years". They were recommended by a childhood neighbor that I  reconnected with on Facebook and so wish she had gotten to come along with them, but that will have to be another trip.
Women of Olney, Illinois
We had so much fun sharing what our part of Italy has to offer and catching up on people and places out of my somewhat distant past as we knew mutual people and they were also related to some of my classmates. We enjoyed a lot of laughs. When it was our time to share, we took them on our Pinerolo market tour and came home and cooked up a storm together.
Hard at work filling the pasta
The intriguing dish of the day, as it is for many people that happen to be here when zucchini flowers are in full force, were the flowers. The most popular way Italians usually will prepare them is filled with cheese or meat, dipped in batter and fried. Yes indeed, they are delicious, but I have been preparing them in a few ways to get around the heaviness of the deep fat frying. We really like them  and have found they eaten with great enthusiasm. We have been filling the flowers mainly with local cheese or sausage and vegetable mixtures. Really and savory mixture of your favorite fillings will work great. We made some the other night with a savory rice mixture that worked out great, so I thought I would share that recipe with you. Use this basic recipe as a starting point to create your own favorite filled zucchini flowers that just might become your signature dish during what can seem like, the never ending zucchini season.


Rice filled Zucchini  Squash Blossoms
Fiori di zucchine ripiene con riso

½ c cooked rice ( 1c/100g dry arborio rice and had extra for later use)
2 sprigs of lemon sage
olive oil, small amount, 1-2 T
1 shallot, diced
1 slice of pancetta or bacon, diced or cut into small pieces
1 small zucchini diced small
2 sprigs of fesh thyme, or ½-1 t dry
1-2 T  white wine
4 walnut halves, toasted and chopped (I pan toast them)
a few sprigs of spearmint if desired, chopped
salt and pepper
4-6 slices of prosciutto crudo
8-12 large zucchini squash blossoms, washed with pistil and stamens removed
(figure 2 flowers per person, depending on their size, maybe more)

Cook the 100g/1c rice in 2c lightly salted water with  2 sprigs of lemon sage.
You could use vegetable or chicken stock for part of the water for a flavor boost.
In a small heated saute pan, add a small amount of oil, the shallots and pancetta.
As they begin to soften  add the diced zucchini and fresh or dried thyme.
Saute a few minutes more.
Add the white wine and cook until the zucchini is soft and the white wine evaporated. I like to leave my zuchine somewhat al dente.
In a mixing bowl combine the 1/2c cooked rice, sauted vegetables, and chopped walnuts. Season with salt and pepper. A couple of tablespoons of choped frsh spearmint is a nice touch  if you like it. I don ‘t care for pepermint as I feel it overpowers.
With a spoon fill your flowers with a goodly amount trying to divide your filling evenly amounts your flowers so that they all have filling.
Once filled, take a lengthwise half slice of prosciutto crudo and wrap around the flowers bulk. Lay on a sheet tray with baking paper for an easy cleanup and no stick properties. Lightly drizzle all the filled flowers with olive oil and pop into a preheated moderate oven(180*C/350*F) for about 15 minutes, so the filling is warmed through and the flower is wilted.
Serve immediately.
Pairs nicely with a crisp white or dry rose wine.


Coooks Notes : Add a small amount of grated parmesan for a touch of salt and pizzaz if desired, although it is very good without.
Cheese variation, I have used so many varieties using up bits of  various cheese, trying to make a mixture of mild and stronger flavors cut through with some  cooked spinach, or wild greens like stinging nettle, borage, fresh herbs, chives, thyme, basil and small bits of prosciutto crudo, sausage, ham, bacon, pancetta and usually some grana padano or parmigiano to tie it all together. Whatever strikes your fancy.
I sometimes rewarm them on the stove in a pan, which works just fine, without having to turn on the oven for just a rewarm.

This is an appetizer, so you don’t need to overly fill the flowers. It could however be a part of a light luncheon course with a salad, so then you might increase, maybe even double your filling amounts for heartier servings.

3 comments:

Adri said...

I love it! Girls gone wild. Too funny! And what a smart way to treat the flowers. I, like you, am always pleased to find an alternative to frying. This is one VERY good idea. And again, thank you so much for including me on your blog list. What an honor!

Bella Baita View said...

Adri, you are too kind, your blog is awesome. I am looking forward to taking a few of your recipes for a spin. Thank you for stopping by. Enjoy the flowers, they are so versatile and fun to fill.

Chef Chuck said...

Hello Girls Gone Wild!! I like that...
Thank you for enjoying my recipes. Happy to do the same.
All the best, Chef Chuck

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