Risotto Stuffed Zucchini Flowers
Zucchini risotto is another of the many variations of the classic Italian rice dish. To add a little twist, I stuffed the risotto into edible zucchini flowers from our garden. I asked Lulu to plant zucchini in the garden at the beginning of March and I've been patiently waiting for at least 12 zucchini flowers to blossom. Early this morning, my little munchkin and I ran to the garden and found the flowers blooming. They made a beautiful decoration for our dinner meal, and are a wonderful sign of the season. Spring is definitely in bloom.
If zucchini flowers are hard to come by in your area, you could always serve the risotto as is. You’ll miss out on the “oohs” and “aahs” though! By itself zucchini can be bland, so I added some chimichurri sauce and pecorino cheese to enhance the flavor and aroma. This is especially important if you don’t have the flowers on hand. I didn’t want to add nuts (one person in my family is allergic to them), but they would be a welcome addition as well.
Yields: 4 servings12 zucchini flowers
3 small green zucchini
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 sprigs sweet marjoram
3 tablespoons butter, diced
2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup melon-seed shaped pasta
6-¼ cups homemade vegetable stock (click on the link for the recipe)
3 tablespoons pecorino cheese, freshly grated
1-½ tablespoons chimichurri sauce (click on the link for the recipe)
3/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1-½ tablespoons flat-leaf parsley leaves
Prepping the zucchini: Trim the ends of the zucchini. Dice them into small chunks.
For the saffron: In a mortar and pestle, grind the saffron threads. Add about 1/4 cup of water. Set aside.
Making zucchini risotto: In a deep saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and sauté the minced garlic cloves until golden. Add the sprig of marjoram, shallots and the diced zucchini. Stir until light translucent. Transfer the zucchini mixture to a plate. Set aside. Add 2 tablespoons butter to the saucepan and add the pasta and rice. The butter should coat all the grains. Add 1-½ cups of warm stock. Stir constantly.
After bringing the liquid to a boil, add 2 tablespoons of grated pecorino cheese, lower the heat to medium-low and continue cooking for about 15 to 20 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of flat-leaf parsley and the chimichurri sauce. Check the liquid and periodically add ¼ to ½ cup of broth (and water when all the broth is used) when all the previous liquid is absorbed. Let simmer for another 15-20 minutes.
When the rice is almost cooked, add the zucchini mixture and the saffron liquid. Check the seasoning and add salt (if necessary) and pepper. Stir well. Let sit for about 5 minutes. Remove and discard the marjoram.
Sprinkle with the remaining grated pecorino cheese.
Stuffing the zucchini flowers:
Remove the pistil from the flowers. Gently open the petals, spoon the zucchini risotto inside each flower and close the petals.
In a non-stick pan, add 1 tablespoon oil and the remaining butter and pan-fry the flowers for about 2 minutes on each side.
Decorate with flat-leaf parsley leaves.
Count 3 zucchini flowers per person.
The pasta and rice combo might not be traditional for risotto but I find the starchiness of the pasta adds more creaminess to the risotto. The most similar shaped pasta to Arborio rice is the melon-seed shaped one. I buy the Mexican brand, El Mexicano "Semillas". It's sold in a 7-ounce package. If you don't have any, you can always use orzo pasta or simply use only Arborio rice.
For this dish, I used exactly 6-¼ cups of liquid. The quantity of liquid may vary depending on the heat of the stove and how long you're cooking the rice. At the end, I let it simmer uncovered, sometimes adding another 1/4 cup of liquid until I achieve the right consistency and level of doneness. I like the rice al dente, not mushy.
Coating each grain in oil prevents them from sticking to one another.
It's important to add the warm liquid in stages to ensure a homogenous cooking of the Arborio rice and never let the dish dry out, or the rice would burn at the bottom.
I didn't add more salt to the risotto as the chimichurri sauce added enough flavor to the dish. You can add any other kind of sauce or pesto, or simply season with salt.
If you like other cuisines, check out the Indian equivalent to risotto called biryani. It's saffron-flavored basmati rice. You can also check out the Asian equivalent, which is Cantonese-style fried rice.Published By: on May 9, 2010.