As autumn nights grow cooler, I visit my kitchen garden every morning and look, wistfully, at the courgette (zucchini) flowers, knowing that soon they will be no more. They are one of the seasonal delights of the warmer months. Plucking the last of the delicate golden buds, I am keen to celebrate them with a suitable dish.
I know that my fellow cooks in the northern hemisphere will be enjoying zucchini flowers in the not-too-distant future, so I have chosen a rather divine recipe from Luca's Seasonal Journey, a cookbook that arrived recently for my review.
What a treasure of a first book from international chef, Luca Ciano, who was born and raised in Milan, Italy, and started cooking with his mother and grandmother at the tender age of eight. He says this experience helped him to take his first few steps in the direction of becoming a chef.
Offering 'Italian cooking at its best', recipes in the book are divided across the four seasons: spring, summer, autumn, and winter. Chef Ciano says he chose to write a cookbook around the four seasons simply because he grew up in Italy with the four seasons affecting his eating habits - each with its own special time for different foods and experiences.
The recipe I'm showcasing here is among the standouts in what is a beautiful cook book, although if I am to be perfectly honest, there isn't a single dish that I would not like to try.
Visit your greengrocer, pop some courgette flowers into your market basket this weekend, and enjoy them in this recipe.
STUFFED COURGETTE FLOWERS WITH TALEGGIO, COURGETTE PESTO AND TOASTED ALMONDS
150 g (5 oz) Taleggio (cheese), diced (1cm/. in)
100 g (3. oz) fresh ricotta
4 anchovies in oil, drained, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
12 courgette (zucchini) flowers
salt and pepper
30 g (1 oz) flaked almonds, toasted
12 small courgette (zucchini), from flowers
10 large basil leaves
1 tablespoon pine nuts
½ garlic clove
125 ml (4 fl oz) olive oil
40 g (1. oz) Grana Padano, grated
½ lemon, juice
Mix together Taleggio, ricotta, anchovies and 1 tablespoon of the oil until smooth. Season to taste.
Remove the flowers from the courgette.
To make the courgette pesto, chop courgette and place in a food processor with basil, pine nuts and garlic. Pulse until finely chopped.
Add remaining oil and process until smooth. Add grana padano and lemon juice and pulse to combine. Season to taste.
Split open one side of the courgette flowers and, using fingertips, gently remove stamens. Fill flowers with ricotta mixture and gently twist ends to enclose.
Place the courgette flowers into a bamboo steamer. Cover and steam over a pan of gently simmering water for 2–3 minutes, until filling is firm.
To serve, place 2–3 tablespoons of courgette pesto onto each serving plate. Top with courgette flowers and scatter with toasted almonds.
Serves 4. Preparation time 20 minutes. Cooking time 5 minutes.
Luca's Seasonal Journey - Italian Cooking at its best by Luca Ciano, $49.99, New Holland Publishers. This is one that you simply must add to your bookshelves, dear readers.
Thank you kindly to the publicity team at New Holland Publishers, and Luca Ciano, for giving me the opportunity to review this title. Images and recipe appear with the kind courtesy of New Holland Publishers
Tell me, do you enjoy Italian cooking? And would you like to try this delightful recipe?
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