Thursday, June 17, 2010

Got Squash in your Garden? Cook it Italian Style--

Got too much zucchini? Eat the flowers. The blooms of this easy to grow summer squash are a seasonal delicacy in Italy where they are eaten raw or fried.

Titina loves them--And this time of year, the Capri Flavors Chef often has a colander of zucchini flowers on the kitchen counter--ready for prep.

Freshness is important. The blossoms are delicate and need to be eaten the day they are picked.

This is easy in Italy where these popular flowers fill outdoor markets this time of year.

If you can't find them locally, it's worth planting a few zucchini plants in your garden or making friends with a local farmer. This is a really good dish--

First Titina lightly washes the flowers under cool running water, drains and pats them dry.

She removes the flower pistil and stuffs each flower with a small ball of mozzarella cheese. (You can use a toothpick to close the blossom for easier handling.)

The blooms are then dipped in a simple flour, egg and olive oil batter. (The batter should be runny, add water if need be. )

Deep Fry the blossoms in hot olive oil until lightly brown. Drain on paper towels and serve hot.

Here's a link to more instructions--with great pictures of the process--at It's a wonderful source for Italian recipes. If you haven't discovered it, do check it out.

And from a favorite Italian recipe source, super-easy instructions for fried squash blossoms with bread crumbs (as translated by Google). Give it a try, too. Because if you have squash--you have a lot of it.

Zucchini flowers should be picked in the morning because they are open and can be cleaned better. Removing the pistil gently without breaking the stem and you remove those little green growths that are the base of the flower cup. Wash them well with great delicacy, dry them and dip in beaten egg and then in bread crumbs. Fry in deep oil a few at a time. Fry them fairly quickly, I use tongs and put them on paper towel to drain, then salt.

Monday, June 7, 2010

What's in Season? Titina Goes Shopping--

This week in Titina's kitchen--bags from the State Farmers Market. Like most Italian cooks, Titina builds her meals around fresh, local ingredients. And as summer produce begins to fill the North Carolina Farmers Market in Raleigh, she's there several times a week.

What's this seasoned (and very picky) Italian chef buying this week? Ripe peaches, tomatoes and eggplants.

Titina loves eggplants. Brought to Italy centuries ago by the Arabs, this purple skinned vegetable is prized in the cooking of Southern Italy where the climate suites it perfectly.

"Use fresh," says Titina. Her eggplants never sit around in the frig. She salts and drains them for several hours--then whips them into something delicious.

Here's the link to her popular Eggplant Parmesan Recipe. Another cooking class favorite is Titina's Peperoni Saltati--a combination of summer eggplant, peppers, tomatoes and sprinkle of fresh basil. Here's the recipe.

Peperoni Saltati
Bell Pepper Saute

2 large eggplants
3 red bell peppers (or 1 jar roasted peppers)
1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 cloves garlic
1 ½ lb. tomatoes; peeled and chopped or 1 can Cherry tomatoes
2 sprigs fresh basil; chopped
1 Tbsp. capers
8 pitted black olives; roughly chopped
1 cup croutons
Salt and pepper to taste

Serves 4; Preparation: 20 minutes; Cooking: 1 ½ hours; Level of difficulty: Medium

Cut the eggplant into cubes and the peppers into strips. Sprinkle with salt and place on a slanted cutting board to drain for 30 minutes.
Sauté the garlic in 3 Tbsp. olive oil over medium heat until garlic is a pale gold color. Add the tomatoes, basil, salt, pepper, capers, and olives. Cook over medium heat until the tomatoes start to separate.
Dry the eggplant and peppers with paper towels. Place the remaining olive oil in a large skillet and fry the eggplant and peppers a little at a time until golden brown. Once all of the eggplant and peppers are fried, place everything, including the tomato mixture back into the frying oil. Stir in the croutons and sprinkle with fresh basil.