Italians cook in anticipation of life's major events and celebrations. I've eaten some of the best chicken soup at a funeral, and you'll find a scrumptious array of cookie trays at a baby shower or wedding. It doesn't matter whether you're coming or going, or celebrating something in between, we're Italian and we'll cook some good food to celebrate the occasion. Okay, I'll admit that we don't have the market cornered as there are plenty of other nationalities that put out an impressive spread, but when you're craving comfort food this isn't a bad way to go.
So, to properly welcome Irene I started with a batch of my sauce. Then on to sweet green peppers from our neighborhood garden stuffed with my meatball filling and pan fried in olive oil. You can follow the steps for preparing the peppers in this recipe, and stuff them with the meatball filling from my sauce recipe above, then pan fry until golden brown. That should take about 25-30 minutes over medium heat. NOTE: I made all these recipes gluten free. I used Udy's Gluten-Free White Bread to make breadcrumbs for the meatballs. I'm not sure anyone would notice the difference.
Lastly, I fulfilled my summer's long dream of making pan-fried zucchini flowers stuffed with homemade ricotta cheese. While I was in the garden collecting the flowers—which by the way are male and female—I took the liberty of picking some of the female flowers with their babies attached as I figured Irene would decimate the garden, and why should these tasty little gems go to waste? The male flowers have stems, and are not attached to the squash, which makes complete sense when you think about it. So slice and pan fry those mini squashes in the batter used for the flowers, and then get ready to stand over the stove and eat them...yes, they're that good!
For the zucchini flowers I followed Viviane Bauquet Farre's video recipe on her site FoodandStyle.com. I did substitute gluten-free all purpose flour from Red Mill in the batter, which turned out well. While they may be a tad less crunchy than those made with wheat flour, the flavor was outstanding, and you certainly won't feel compromised going the gluten-free route.
Did you notice that the male flowers are longer and slimmer than their female counterpart? Nature can be cruel, but if it's any consolation ladies I think the female flowers taste better, plus you can stuff more ricotta cheese into them which brings me to that recipe. I used David Lebovitz's which is featured on the site, SimplyRecipes.com. I followed the recipe as shown, but eliminated the heavy cream which is optional anyway. It was as easy as David explains and I can't believe it took me this long to make it. The taste is 100x better than anything you'll buy in a plastic tub at your local grocery store. While some of you may be able to buy fresh ricotta at a specialty market, the high cost is often a consideration, and this one is just as good for a fraction of the price.
The online food community of bloggers is a constant source of inspiration for me, especially Viviane and David. I encourage you to explore their blogs, if you haven't already, as their passion and knowledge about food, wine, travel, and life might inspire you, too.
Twitter and Facebook:
Viviane BauquetFarre- @foodandstyle
Viviane on Facebook
David Lebovitz - @davidlebovitz
David on Facebook
Thankfully Irene's wrath was less than what was expected here on Cape Cod, but I still welcome the opportunity to cook a good meal for my family.