Sometimes, some recipes are just so simple that I do not bother writing about them, but then I buy a new cookbook and notice that simple recipes are what we like and want…and besides, not everybody grew up in an Italian household and they may not be familiar with this style of cooking.
One simple way of cooking some vegetables, for example eggplants, zucchini or mushrooms is afunghettoinbianco ortrifolate.
A funghetto, translates asmushroom, i.e.in the style or method of how you would cook mushrooms – simply sautéed in extra virgin olive oil with garlic and parsley.
Inbianco translates as inwhite, i.e. without tomatoes. Photo above is of king mushrooms cooked afunghetto.
This style of cooking is a common way to cook either of these three vegetables throughout Italy, but it is typical of the Veneto. I grew up in Trieste, so I identify with this style of cooking very much.
Once again,I will write this recipe as an Italian – no measurements. The recipe is so simple, and the photos tell the story so who needs measurements!
eggplants/aubergines, cut into cubes
extra virgin olive oil,
cloves of garlic, chopped (to taste)
pepper and salt
extra virgin olive oil
Use gentle to medium heat throughout the cooking – the ingredients are not fried, they are sautéed till softened.
Heat a splash of oil in a frypan (I like to use a frypan with a heavy base).Add the garlic and stir it around for a very short time so that it begins to soften.
Add the eggplants and stir often until they have softened and have coloured. Add pepper and salt.
Add the chopped parsley and keep on stirring through for about 30 seconds…and I hate to say it…until it has softened.
Eat hot or cold – fabulous as a starter, side dish….as a dressing for pasta?
I do not buy prawns very often but when I do they have to be as sustainable.
Having lived in South Australia (before moving to Melbourne) I am always attracted to prawns from the Spencer Gulf, Prawn Trawl Fishery in South Australia and in December were some available at the Queen Victoria Market, but I had to search for these. Around the same time and much to my delight, I discovered T.O.M.S Sustainable Seafood stall at the South Melbourne Market. This small stall has limited produce but all of the fish is certified MSC (marine stewardship council) and FOS (friend of the sea) seafood.Here I bought sustainable prawns from Queensland.
I buy both cooked prawns in their shells and green peeled prawns to cook. One favourite and easy summer dish is spaghetti, prawns and zucchini.
Last year I bought a spiralizer – this turns zucchini into strands like spaghetti. I need to admit that I really enjoyed using this gadget the first one or two times and then the novelty wore off (it is stored in cupboard in spare room = out of sight, out of mind). Before I had this gadget, I used sliced zucchini – same taste, different appearance.
Before I had this gadget, I used sliced zucchini. The taste is the same, the appearance is different and when I use the spiralizer, rather than short pasta I use spaghetti to compliment the long strands of zucchini.
What makes this pasta and zucchini dish ultra special is the topping of toasted breadcrumbs – an embellished “mollica” or “pan grattato” – breadcrumbs made with day old bread and made golden in a hot frypan in olive oil. To this I add pine nuts, a little cinnamon, sugar and grated lemon peel – flavours of Sicily.
For fried breadcrumbs (often called mollica or pangrattato in Italian) use 1-3 day old good quality white bread (crusty bread, sourdough or pasta dura).
The term for breadcrumbs, in Italianispane grattugiato/ grattato – it means grated bread. Mollica is the white inside part of the bread.
Remove crust, break into pieces, place into a food processor and make into coarse crumbs. They can also be crumbled with fingertips or grated. You will need about 1 cup.
Heat about ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan and add breadcrumbs . Stir continuously on low temperature until they are just beginning to colour.
Add 1/2 cup pf pine nuts and 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, stir until the nuts and breadcrumbs are an even, light golden brown.
Add 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and grated peel of one small lemon.
Remove from the pan when they are ready otherwise they will continue to cook; set aside until you wish to use them. they can be made and stored in a glass jar with a lid in the fridge up to a week.
For 6 people
extra-virgin olive oil
4 green zucchini, use spiralizer or sliced thinly
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
600g green prawns, peeled
a large handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped finely
salt and pepper to taste
Add some olive oil in a large frying pan on high heat. Add the zucchini, salt and pepper and cook until slightly softened. Remove from the pan and place them aside. If the zucchini have released liquid drain the liquid and set aside.
Add more olive oil to the same pan and on high heat add the garlic and prawns. Toss them around until they begin to colour. Add the parsley, a little salt and pepper and cook until the prawns are cooked and the parsley has wilted.
Cook the pasta.
Sometimes the prawns release liquid. If this is the case remove the prawns and set them aside and evaporate the liquid to concentrate the flavours. The zucchini juice can also be added to be evaporated.
Once the juice has been reduced, add the prawns and zucchini and heat through.
Dress the drained pasta.
Serve with the pangrattato sprinkled on top. Add torn basil or mint leaves for visual effect and a fresh taste.
Another simple pasta and zucchini recipe (posted in 2009):
You really cannot beat a plate of grilled vegetables, especially when eggplants and peppers are so prolific at this time of year.
Zucchini, although not in this selection are also a good choice. Grilled vegetables are perfect as an antipasto but they can just as easily be part of a main course.
The vegetables can be grilled on a BBQ or Grill press or in the oven.
To the array, throw in some of the cooked green beans, asparagus or broccolini (that perhaps are left over from the night before), add a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil, some chopped garlic, a little parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice.
You could also add to the cooked vegetables different textures with a bit of crunch – some of that celery, fennel, cucumbers and apples that are probably in your fridge. Or it could be tomatoes, celery, spring onions and fresh basil leaves, once again a drizzle of that good olive oil that will add fragrance as well as taste.
So easy, so simple.
Just recently, in two different restaurants I ordered versions of grilled vegetables and they both were presented with Romesco sauce dolloped separately on the side of the vegetables. In one of the restaurant it was grilled asparagus, topped with fried breadcrumbs. In the other it was eggplant. This had been grilled and rather than presenting it in slices it was pulped to a medium texture. Bread is a perfect accompaniment for scooping up the eggplant and the Romesco sauce. A drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil is a must.
In this version of this sauce almonds are added to the the vegetables (garlic, peppers and tomatoes). These are roasted/chargrilled on a BBQ or Grill press:
Roast/chargrill the peppers whole, peel, remove seeds and break them into strips. If using fresh tomatoes cut them into pieces. If you are roasting / chargrilling the peppers do them at the same time.
*Click on above link to see a list of ingredients and how to make it.
A different Recipe for Romesco sauce made with hazelnuts
This recipe uses hazelnuts instead of almonds. Also the vegetables are roasted. in the oven rather than grilled.
Use the same ingredients as the recipe above, substitute the hazelnuts for the almonds, but roast the vegetables:
Place the tomatoes, peppers and a whole head of garlic in a roasting tray with a little oil and roast in a 190C oven. Take the vegetables out as they become soft, i.e. the tomatoes will take about 10 minutes, the peppers and the garlic could take about 30-40 minutes..
I have a tendency to always cook too much food and there are leftovers, but I enjoy transforming cooked ingredients into something different. You could say that I am being frugal.
This time I had some cooked mussels in their shells in some of their broth and I thought that I would use these ingredients to make a soup by adding red tomatoes; I also added a lot of basil and some grated zucchini and the results were a thick, fragrant and highly flavoured soup.
This made a soup for 4 people.
If you do not have ready cooked mussels, this is what you can do:
Stage1: The mussels
Clean the mussels in their shells (about 500gm; remove beards, wash or scrub the mussels under running water.
In a saucepan, heat two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and add 2 spring onions chopped finely; sauté for 1 minute. Add mussels in their shells, 2 tablespoon chopped parsley and about ¾ cup of white wine. Cover, cook on high heat and bring to a boil. Toss them around now and again until the shells open.
Once cool keep the juice (this is the broth) and remove the mussel meat from the shells. Keep a few in their shell for decoration.
Stage 2: The soup
Mussels and their broth, see above,
ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped, 800g
2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
fresh basil leaves, some to cook with and some to add at the end
2 zucchini, grated
1 spring onion
black pepper or fresh chill (sliced thinly)
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, salt to taste (mussel broth could be salty)
Placethe tomatoes in a saucepan add garlic, some of the oil and some basil. Leave uncovered and cook on low-medium heat until thickened (about 15 mins). This results into a tomato salsa which could also be used for dressing pasta.
In a pan that is large enough to take all of the ingredients, heat the rest of the olive oil, add spring onion and zucchini and cook until soft, stirring often.
Add the mussel meat, their broth and more water if necessary and simmer for another 5 minutes until heated through. Add fresh basil and serve.
One of the delights of my childhood was to eat a panino stuffed with slices of fried zucchini. Truly, this tastes amazing.
I found this variety of round shaped zucchini at my favourite vegetable stall in the Queen Victoria Market; last year Gus and Carmel also had this variety and I had seen them previously both in markets in Sicily and in Tuscany.
The method of placing zucchini (or slices of eggplants) on a baking sheet and cooking them in the oven is not used in Italy — grilled means having grill marks, cooked over an open flame or in the home kitchen (on a ferro – a grill pan) and fried means shallow fried in hot extra virgin olive oil.
The fried (and the grilled) zucchini can be placed on a plate of pasta – spaghetti dressed with a simple, summer, tomato salsa made with ripe tomatoes, basil, garlic, a little salt and extra virgin olive oil. They also can serve as part of an antipasto plate or be a contorno (side dish to accompany the main).
Fried zucchini are usually presented at room temperature — this means that they can be cooked well in advance.
Slice the zucchini lengthwise.
Sprinkle the slices with a little salt on one side. Rest for 10 minutes. Pat dry on paper towels (I have a number of tea towels that I use for this purpose) to remove the beads of moisture.
Fry in a little hot extra virgin olive oil. Turn only once.
I presented these fried zucchini with good quality bread, roasted garlic (not an Italian custom, French maybe ) and fresh mint leaves. We each made our own panini, had a terrific time and a great lunch!!
I have some good news.
A few months ago I submitted three family recipes to the SBS Food website as part of a promotion for the upcoming SBS TV series MY FAMILY FEAST, which begins on Thursday, 27 August at 7:30pm on SBS ONE.
MY FAMILY FEAST is a weekly half hour television show that will take us into the lives and cooking traditions of Australian immigrants and their families, as seen through the eyes of award winning chef Sean Connolly.
The three recipes (as called on my web) are:
• SARDE A BECCAFICO (Sardines stuffed with currants, pine nuts, sugar and nutmeg)
• PASTA CON LE SARDE (Pasta with sardines, from Palermo, made with fennel, pine nuts and currants)
• EGGPLANT or ZUCCHINI PARMIGIANA (Milinciani or cucuzzeddi a parmiciana – parmigiana di melenzane or di zucchine).
All three recipes were selected and published on the SBS website. On their website they are called:
• Sardines a beccafico, stuffed with currants and pine nuts
• Eggplant or zucchini Parmigiana
• Pasta with sardines, fennel, pine nuts and currants
I have now been informed (by Shelley Hepworth Editor, SBS Food)
that one of my recipes Sardines a beccafico, stuffed with currants and pine nuts has been cooked by Sean Connolly and will be published as a video on the MY FAMILY FEAST website.
The SBS website is:
You can view the video on the SBS Food website here:
I have reproduced a photo of Sean Connolly from the web, therefore I will acknowledge it.
Executive Chef and restaurateur Sean Connolly poses at the official launch party for Sean’s Kitchen at Star City on September 10, 2008 in Sydney, Australia.
(September 10, 2008 – Photo by Gaye Gerard/Getty Images AsiaPac)
15th October 2009
My Family Feast
I have been overseas and have only had the opportunity to view three episodes of this adventurous, food series. I was very impressed by Sean’s obvious enjoyment and the respect he demonstrated to the people and the ingredients. I particularly enjoyed the informality of the interaction between the cooks and Sean. Congratulations, and I am sorry that I have not viewed them all.
Those zucchini grow rapidly and before you know it, they become zucche (plural of zucca,) The marrows I am talking about are no longer than 22 cms, still tender and have flavour – any larger than this they become tasteless and dry and are good for the compost. Usually, zucche are stuffed, but these can also be used successfully to make a salad.
I use a mandoline (kitchen utensil used for slicing and cutting) to cut the marrows into matchsticks and then use a method similar to the one for making Italian vegetable preserves.
Sicilians (and southern Italians) are fond of preserves – the most common are made with eggplants or green tomatoes, sliced, salted, squeezed dry (the next day), then placed in vinegar for a day, squeezed dry and finally placed in oil and oregano.
I treat marrows in a similar way, but because I want to eat them fresh it is unnecessary to go through the lengthy process I have described above – the salting process takes about 30 minutes and the rest is completed in no time at all. If I am using zucchini, I slice them long-wise and very thinly (a potato peeler can be good).
The following amounts are for processing 1 marrow…..and not too large or seedy.
salt, 1 teaspoon
white, wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon
extra virgin olive oil, 1/3cup
oregano, ½teaspoon dried is more pungent,
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Cut marrow into half, remove seeds. Cut into match sticks or use a mandoline or a turning slicer which cuts into spirals.
Place in a colander with salt. Leave to drain for at least 30mins. Squeeze dry.
Dress with the oil and vinegar and crushed oregano.
Leave for about 10 minutes for the flavours to infuse.
Sometimes the most simple ingredients make the most sumptuous dish.
My friend and I have just been discussing how fresh, young zucchini can make a great pasta sauce. They can be the long, dark green skinned variety or the newer pale green ones. The round zucchini are becoming more common; these can be dark or pale green in colour and some are variegated.
Often, when guests come, I remind myself that having costly ingredients is not the most important factor. What is fresh, in season, and have they had it before, are far more important factors.
Pasta chi cucuzzeddi fritti (Sicilian), Pasta con zucchinefritte (Italian) is very common all over Sicily and consists of thinly sliced zucchini fried in extra virgin olive oil. Garlic is used to flavour the oil and is then discarded.
It is important to fry the zucchini in plenty of oil in a wide frypan – the zucchini will release liquid if they are overcrowded in the pan and if necessary fry the zucchini in batches.
My partner took some left over zucchini pasta to work and I was amazed when he reported to me that one of his collegues referred to this vegetable as tha blandest vegetable! I think I will need to invite this person to dinner.
Thin spaghetti is the favoured pasta for this dish – a coating of flavoured oil is preferred. Short, tubular or ridged, surfaced pasta may trap too much oil.
Like so many of the vegetable paste sauces it is made in minutes and makes me wonder why takeaways are seen as a quick solution.
spaghettini, 400gzucchini 800g, sliced into approx 10 mm slicesgarlic cloves, 4 squashed with the back of a knifeextra virgin olive oil, 1cup
salt and pepperricotta salata or pecorino pepato, gratedHeat the oil in a wide frypan and add the garlic. When it is golden discard it. Ensure that the oil is very hot and add the zucchini – this will seal the surfaces. You could do this in a couple of batches but keep the oil very hot and add fresh oil to fry each batch. Turn and toss till golden. Place the fried zucchini into a bowl and add salt ( the salt is added at this stage otherwise the zucchini would have released their liquid). Cook the pasta in salted water till al dente and drain. Toss zucchini, oil and pasta together and add plenty of freshly ground pepper. Serve with abundant freshly grated cheese and pepper. VARIATION· After the zucchini have been fried and set aside, reheat the oil (or add more), add about a cup of chopped parsley and 2 cloves of chopped garlic and fry this mixture for a few minutes before adding it to the pasta. · For a favourite summer dish add a dollop of tomato salsa and fresh basil on top. · Add a dollop of ricotta either with or without the tomato salsa. · Chopped mint sprinkled on top of the dressed pasta is probably not traditional, but I like to do it – it accentuates the fresh zucchini taste.
And by the way… the ini at the end of any Italian word (zucchini) means small, those bigger than a finger are zucche (marrows).