Let's all admit upfront that zucchini is not the most glamourous of vegetables. If you want something fancy, you look to asparagus, or maybe miniature leeks, baby dutch carrots or even the zucchini flower, but never the plain old garden variety zucchini. In fact, it is only in the last few months that I have started a clandestine affair with the zucchini, kicked off by a gorgeous Donna Hay salad. And now this concoction of sauteed zucchini stuffed with a teaspoon of ham and mozzarella and then baked with a little parmesan on top has me swooning.
I found this recipe in "The Saucier's Apprentice" by Bob Spitz, one of the many "mid-life crisis averted by some combination of love and cooking" books that I seem to have been reading lately. Bob is an unhappy New Yorker and seems to be searching for a solution when he decides to take a cooking school tour of Europe. I can only imagine having the leisure (and the finances!) to set off for three months of cooking. Some of the schools have a lot to learn, others have a lot to teach. Bob emerges with a fistful of recipes and some new techniques (although perhaps not as many as he was expecting) and he includes a smattering of these throughout the text. I enjoyed the book, although Bob's Euro-centric approach to the high arts of cooking seems a little strange from this corner of the world, where Asian influences on both ingredients and technique are commonplace.
One recipe that jumped out at me was the fagotino di zucchini, which Bob claims to make regularly for friends who all refuse to leave without the recipe. I love these sort of endorsements so I made it for myself for lunch recently. I was feeling in need of a little extra TLC (to the extent of plating this for myself as if I was a guest). It was really lovely and made a great lunch, although I suspect the next time I make it will be as an entree for a dinner party.
Fagotino di Zucchini
from "The Saucier's Apprentice" by Bob Spitz
For each serving:
1 zucchini sliced lengthwise into four pieces
olive oil for sauteeing
1 tsp mozzarella
1 tsp diced ham
a small cube of butter and grated parmesan to top
Preheat oven to 175C. Sautee the zucchini slices in olive oil over high heat until they look golden but not crispy. Drain on paper towels. On a chopping board, arrange the four slices over each other in a star (lay 2 in a cross and the other two on each diagonal, so it looks like an asterisk made out of zucchini, if that makes any sense). In the middle of the star, put some mozzarella and some ham, and push down a little.
Fold up the flaps of zucchini and pin everything together with a toothpick. Dot with butter, sprinkle with parmesan, then bake for 10 mins. Serve hot from the oven.