Zucchini Flowers Stuffed with Ricotta and Tuna from Jeff Michaud, EATING ITALY
Before award-winning chef Jeff Michaud ever opened the doors of his acclaimed Philadelphia restaurants, he spent three years in northern Italy as a culinary apprentice to master butchers and chefs, immersing himself in the culture and cuisine of the old country. It is safe to say that he never anticipated the romance that would ensue. Eating Italy is a delicious, funny, and mesmerizing spin through the boot, teaching true heirloom techniques and telling Jeff’s culinary and personal love story (he met his wife when she came into the restaurant one night for dinner, and to this day, he hasn’t forgotten what she ordered).
Part inventive cookbook, part travel narrative, each chapter of Eating Italy explores a village or town in northern Italy, unveiling the unique culinary and cultural experience it has to offer. The reader experiences his journey from “Paladina: The Butcher’s Apprentice” to “Trescore Balneario: Our Big Italian Wedding” in dishes like Apricot and Chanterelle Salad, Swordfish Pancetta with Fennel Zeppole, Pheasant Lasagne, and Blood Orange Crostata with Bitter Chocolate. Each authentic recipe serves to mark his professional growth, learning from some of the most skilled chefs in Italy. Vivid photography of Italian culture, people, and landscapes are dispersed throughout, allowing the reader a glimpse of northern Italia from a kitchen far away.
Eating Italy is a northern Italian cookbook but it is also much more than that. It is a memoir, a travel book that talks about places to eat, sleep and visit. It captures a fairytale story (at least Jeff thinks it does) about falling in love, getting married and opening award winning restaurants.
"In late spring 2004, I spent more and more of my time off at Claudia’s house in Cene, eating, cooking and getting to know the family. Her mother had an amazing garden filled with zucchini flowers. Those orange and green trumpets bloomed right up until the summer heat started to hit. At some point, Pina started stuffing the blossoms with tuna and ricotta. The filling was a mixture she’d been using for years; she typically breaded and fried it like meatballs. Then she thought, “Why not stuff it into all these zucchini blossoms?” She baked the stuffed zucchini blossoms with little tomatoes from her garden and it became this famous dish in town. Everyone wanted the recipe because it was so easy and so good." Jeff Michaud, EATING ITALY
Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
Drain the oil from the tuna into a small bowl. Brush any dirt from the zucchini blossoms with a paper towel, but don’t wash the blossoms or they’ll get soggy. Gently twist and pull out the stamens from the centers of the blossoms, using tweezers, if necessary.
Add the tuna, ricotta cheese, and mint to the breadcrumbs, stirring until combined; taste and season with salt and pepper. Spoon the filling into a resealable plastic bag (the filling can be refrigerated at this point for up to 2 days). Cut off a corner of the bag and pipe the filling into the zucchini blossoms, leaving some room for the blossom to close at the end. Arrange the stuffed blossoms in a 2- quart (2-L) shallow baking dish or on a baking sheet, and top each blossom with tomato half, cut-side down. Arrange the sliced baby zucchini around the edge of the baking dish.
Bake until the filling is set, 12 to 15 minutes. If the tomatoes are still firm, run the dish under the broiler until they wilt a little. Drizzle with a little olive oil and serve.
Recipe reprinted with permission from EATING ITALY © 2013 by Jeff Michaud with David Joachim, Running Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group.
|Yield:||MAKES 4 TO 6 SERVINGS|
1 (8 ounce/227 g) can Italian tuna in olive oil
12 zucchini blossoms
12 ounces (340 g) fresh whole-milk ricotta cheese (11?2 cups)
2 tablespoons (7 g) chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons (30 ml) plain, dry breadcrumbs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
4 baby zucchini, sliced
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
to you by Amy Tobin
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