Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Roast Globe Zucchini with Fresh Beans Gremolata
Zucchini ripieni – or stuffed zucchini – are roasted and served all over Italy, though each region has decided variations on the theme. One of Lazio's most popular recipes calls for ground veal, ham, and tomato paste, while a typical Lombardian preparation highlights the region's rice. And though Sicilians tend to favor a pecorino, garlic, and parsley seasoning for the breadcrumbs and use the squash innards themselves, sautéed with onion, as the stuffing, Tuscans boast a garlicky ground pork filling – one of my favorite trattoria lunches.
Back in the States, I often fill the squash with fresh or dried beans, depending on the time of year. Here I’ve used a mixture of fresh borlotti beans and cowpeas (also a bean) from Mountain Sweet Berry Farm. The cowpeas in their wine-red pods were simply too sumptuously autumnal to resist, as you can see in the photo below, and they lend a tender-sweet touch to the dish. For the seasoning, a simple mirepoix of onion, celery, and carrots is simple but perfect – all 3 vegetables are at their height right now, which means they are fantastically crisp and full of flavor.
And the only finishing touch that’s needed is a topping of gremolata breadcrumbs to turn toasty brown in the oven. Gremolata – the traditional Italian trio of parsley, garlic, and lemon zest – is most famously used to dress ossobuco. But it’s tremendously versatile, not to mention deliciously fragrant and savory.
These roasted squash are more filling than you’d expect, and they make a lovely autumn supper until the first frost ends the zucchini harvest. Use globe zucchini when you can, though they can be hard to find in the U.S. I’ve been bemoaning this fact all summer - most recently at Rose's 64 Sq Ft Kitchen - but the miraculous Nevia of Yuno's Farm brought some to market last Friday. Their flavor is exactly the same as normal zucchini, which are often used too. You’ll just need to sprinkle on more of the breadcrumbs to cover the filling, and this recipe allows for that. Any leftover breadcrumbs can be stored in the freezer.
A quick note:
Although I will continue to post this week, I won't have much access to the internet. I'm off bridesmaid-ing on the rocky coast of Maine. I look forward to receiving and responding to all of your comments and questions - as well as to catching up on all of your fabulous sites - when I'm back online next Monday. Have a great week!
Serves 4 – 6
Extra virgin olive oil
2 medium yellow or Spanish onions, medium dice
2 ribs celery, sliced to medium thickness
2 medium carrots, peeled if necessary and medium dice
2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
1 lb fresh cowpeas or black-eyed peas (about 8 oz. beans once shucked, or you may use 8 oz. drained canned cow peas or black-eyed peas or 8 oz. soaked dried cow peas or black-eyed peas)
2 lbs fresh borlotti or cranberry beans (about 14 oz. beans once shucked, or you may use 14 oz. drained canned borlotti or cranberry beans or 14 oz. soaked dried borlotti or cranberry beans)
1 bay leaf
1 small sprig fresh rosemary, leaves minced
4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves minced
freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
½ cup white wine
8 medium zucchini, preferably globe-shaped
3 slices country bread
2 cloves garlic, minced or grated on a rasp
½ big bunch parsley, leaves chopped
zest of 1 lemon
Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add a glug of olive oil and then the diced onion. Do not add salt. Once the onion is translucent, add the celery and carrots. Sauté, stirring occasionally, for 2 or 3 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 more minute.
Stir in the beans and the bay leaf, rosemary, and thyme. Season generously with black pepper but again no salt – it can turn the bean shells tough. Pour in the stock and the wine and turn the heat up to high. Once the liquid starts to bubble, cover partially and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Cut off the top ½ inch of the squash. Using a melon baller or small spoon, gently scoop out their flesh – leave the walls about ½ an inch thick. In the food processor, pulse the bread, garlic, parsley, and lemon zest until coarsely chopped. Season the breadcrumbs with salt and pepper and pulse again briefly.
Using a spoon, fill the zucchini with the beans and vegetables to about ½ inch from the top. Arrange in a baking dish. Pile on plenty of the gremolata breadcrumbs and drizzle the breadcrumbs with extra virgin olive oil to moisten.
Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are golden brown and the zucchini are soft but firm. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.