Stuffed Zucchini Flowers

15 07 2008

My coworker was reminiscing the other day about her father frying up some zucchini flowers with a bit of olive oil and garlic.  I was intrigued, because I had never hear of such a thing, but I loved the fact that you could eat zucchini flowers.  (I’m a big fan of using the most you can of both vegetables and animals.)  So I was delighted to come across a vendor at the market on Saturday that was selling the flowers by themselves!  Instead of just frying them up, however, I wanted to make something with a little more sustenance, so I stuffed them, similar to stuffed peppers.

Stuffed Zucchini Flowers

  • Zucchini flowers (I worked with about 10 of them)
  • 1 whole zucchini
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 lb. ground beef
  • 1/4 c. shredded Italian cheese (I had leftover ParmigianoReggiano)
  • 1 c. marinara sauce (I was lazy and used store bought, or you can learn how to make your own here.)
  1. Wash and cut your zucchini in half lengthwise, then into 1/2-in. pieces.  Place them on a foil lined cookie sheet and drizzle the olive oil over them.  Season with salt and pepper, and broil both sides until softened and slightly browned.  
  2. Put the zucchini pieces in a skillet and mash them up the best you can.  Add the ground beef and cook on medium heat until browned.           
  3. Wash the zucchini flower, both inside and out.  The petals are delicate, so be gentle.  You can remove the pistils and the stamens from the inside, but I let mine in.  Stuff the zucchini flowers with the beef and mashed zucchini mixture.  Place the stuffed flowers in a baking dish and cover each flower with the shredded cheese.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake the flowers for about 10 minutes.                                                 
  4. While the stuffed flowers are baking, heat up the sauce.  I put some leftover zucchini and ground beef in for flavoring.                                 
  5. When the cheese is golden brown and bubbling, take the baking pan out of the oven.  Serve the stuffed flowers with the marinara sauce.

   

I thought this was a great and slightly unusual dish.  There are a lot of variations you could do – I’ve read about zucchini flowers in soups, stir fries and salads.  I can wait to incorporate this into my meals more often!

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Italian Night

14 03 2008

A couple of days ago, I decided I wanted to have a dinner party, and wanted to make a lot of food for not a lot of money.  I decided to make my grandmother’s red sauce and pasta, which takes a few hours to make, but not a lot of work.  I spent more money on the meatballs and braciole than I usually would, but in the end, I fed eight people for about $40, so I figure a good Italian meal for $5 a person is pretty good.  The great thing about this meal, especially for those who rarely cook or are just starting to be home chefs, is that it doesn’t take too much skill to pull off, just time and the ability to watch a pot.

Red Sauce

  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 c. sliced mushrooms
  • 1 c. chopped onions 
  • 3 15-oz can tomato puree
  • 1 1/2 6-oz can tomato paste
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a large stock pot, cover bottom with olive oil.  Saute garlic, onions, and mushrooms until softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the tomato puree and one full can of water.  (You can add another half can full of water to get the consistency you want.)  Mix well.
  3. Add the tomato paste and one full can of water.  Mix well.
  4. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat.  Simmer, covered, for at least two hours, with the meatballs and braciole.
  5. About a half an hour before serving, add the butter to the sauce and stir until melted.

 Serves: 12 (8 hungry adults with seconds)  Total prep time: 2-4 hours (The longer you let simmer, the more flavorful.)   Calories: 123  Total Fat: 6.6g  Saturated Fat: 2.3 g  Cholesterol: 7.8 mg  Sodium: 676.4 mg  Carbohydrates: 15.8 g  Fiber: 3.4 g  Protein: 3.1 g

Meatballs

  • 2/3 lb ground beef
  • 2/3 lb ground pork
  • 2/3 lb ground veal
  • 1 c. seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 2 Tbsp grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  1. Mix ground meats together in large bowl.  Add the breadcrumbs and cheese and mix well.
  2. Form meatballs from mixture.  Brown on all sides in a skillet.
  3. When the meatballs have been browned on the outside, add to sauce and cook all the way through.

Serves:12 (2 medium-sized meatballs per serving) Total prep time: 15 minutes (plus cooking time)  Calories: 206  Total Fat: 12.5g  Saturated Fat: 4.8 g Cholesterol: 57 mg  Sodium: 331.8 mg  Carbohydrates: 7.1 g  Fiber: .4 g  Protein: 15.1 g

Braciole

  • Pre-cut braciole pieces (found in Italian markets) or flank steak pounded thinly
  • 1/4 c. seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 4 Tbsp Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Fresh oregano to taste
  1. Rinse and dry meat with paper towels.
  2. Spread breadcrumbs, cheese and oregano on braciole.  Roll meat up like a jelly roll and tie with twine every couple of inches.
  3. Cut meat into 2 inch sections between twine.  Brown on all sides in a skillet.  Add to sauce and cook all the way through.

Serves: 12  Total prep time: 15 minute (plus cooking time)  Calories: 133  Total Fat: 7.4 g  Saturated Fat: 3.2 g  Cholesterol: 34.8 mg  Sodium: 142.7 mg  Carbohydrates: 2.1 g  Fiber: .3 g  Protein: 13.704 g

I ended up serving this with some rosemary bread I got from my local grocery store and specialty olive oil for an appetizer, then made a quick salad with baby lettuces, tomatoes, and a balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing.  Friends brought over more bread (a very carbo-licious meal) and a lemon cake for dessert.

Oh yeah, and of course multitudes of wine and beer.

This is a really easy meal to make, and you can make the sauce in smaller quantities, or you can make a lot and freeze it for later dates.  This is a great basic red sauce recipe and it allows you to play around with extra ingredients to make it your own.