Appetizer or main course? When it comes to vegetables, we think about them as appetizers, and – more often – as side dishes.
I had a bunch of zucchini romanesche at home (with their flowers) and before I was off for vacations, I had to make use of them. Since I usually prepare zucchini with pasta or simply as a side dish, I wanted to come up with a main course (with zucchini as “main” ingredient). I thought it was a good idea because zucchinis are fresh and in season, and a meat course would have been heavy with the high temperatures we got in Rome.
In this recipe called “Zucchini Variations”, I used about 3 zucchinis per serving of about 130 gr and 15 cm each. If you are thinking that 450 grams of zucchinis for a main course is too much, what about those 500 gr of red meat we eat when we decide to go for a serious steak? Don’t get me wrong, I love meat, but zucchinis can also be a satisfying alternative as a main course.
The following 3 recipes – plated into one dish – were made using three zucchinis, so the serving size is 1.
This can also be a bountiful, delicious appetizer. You choose!!!
Zucchini cream with marinated red onions and concassé tomatoes
- 1 zucchini
- 1 small ripe plum tomato
- 4-6 tablespoons of buttermilk
- 2 slices of red onion
- 1 tablespoon of grated Pecorino cheese
- 3-4 tablespoons of lemon juice
- some basil leaves
- about 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste.
- Dice zucchini and add salt. In a skillet heat extra virgin olive oil over medium-high heat and lightly brown zucchini. Let it cool.
- Using a hand mixer, blend cooked zucchini with buttermilk, Pecorino cheese, olive oil, some basil leaves. Blend it until you get a creamy consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Meanwhile marinate red onions in lemon juice for 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- To prepare concassé tomatoes, cut an X in the bottom of the tomato and place it in boiling water for 30 seconds. Place tomato into water and ice bowl to stop the heating process. Peel tomato and dice it finely. Add some olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Here is a link on how to prepare concassé tomatoes with step by step pictures.
Using a small jar or glass, pour zucchini cream, place marinated red onion slices on top and finish it with the diced concassé tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil and place a large basil leave for garnish.
Zucchini rolls with ricotta, pine nuts, chives and cinnamon filling
- 1 zucchini
- 2-3 zucchini flowers
- 4 -5 tablespoons of fresh ricotta cheese
- 1 pinch of cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon of pine nuts
- Some chives and 4 more for garnish
- extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- Cut off the ends of the zucchini. Slice very thinly lengthwise. If you have mandolin, use it to cut the slices. Discard (or use it for another recipe) the first and last slice since is the skin. I usually get about 4- 5 slices per zucchini.
- Add salt to zucchini strips and let it stand for 30 minutes. This will soften the zucchini strips for an easier rolling.
- Using a mortar and pestle mix together the ricotta, pine nuts, cinnamon, and chives.
- After the zucchini have softened place about 1 tablespoon of the cheese mixture at one end of the strip and roll up. Wrap each roll with a chive an tie.
- In a skillet heat extra virgin olive oil over medium-low heat and add zucchini flowers cut into petals. Add salt to taste.
Arrange flower petals onto a dish simulating a flower, and place the rolls filling side up, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with some fresh ground black pepper.
Zucchini alla Scapece with red pepper chunky sauce.
This is a traditional Southern Italian dish that consists of marinating vegetables in vinegar and/0r herbs and spices. Since Southern Italy was under Spanish rule around the 700s, making vegetables alla scapece (or in Spanish escabeche), is a cooking method Italians inherited under the Spaniards’ ruling.
- 1 zucchini
- fresh mint
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- about 30-40 ml vinegar
- about 30-40 ml water
- olive oil for frying
- 1 small red pepper (you are going to have leftovers for further recipes)
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- salt & pepper to taste
To prepare zucchini alla scapece
- Slice the zucchini, salt them, and fry them in olive oil. Drain the slices using paper towels.
- Place the zucchini into a bowl by layering them with fresh ground pepper and mint leaves
- Combine vinegar and water, and garlic and place them in a small pot until and bring to a boil. Add one tablespoon of frying oil to this mixture.
- Pour the liquids into the zucchini and cover it with plastic wrap.
- Chill for 24 hours in the refrigerator, and serve.
To prepare roasted red peppers chunky sauce.
- Preheat oven to 200° C (400 °F) for 15 minutes. Place red peppers and broil for about 30 minutes or until skins are blackened.
- Transfer peppers to plastic wrap or bag. Close the bag or seal with plastic wrap, and let peppers steam and cool.
- Unwrap peppers. Pull off and discard skins. This step can be done under running water.
- Cut peppers into strips and the dice them.
- Add mint, sugar and extra virgin olive oil and combine.
Using an expresso coffee cup or another small cup, cover the inside with plastic wrap and place zucchinis that previoulsy have been drained form all liquids. Press the mixture with a spoon to firm it up and place the zucchini cup upside down into a plate and gently pull the cup and plastic wrap up. Using a serving spoon (I used a ceramic one), place red pepper sauce besides the zucchini.