In my previous blog, I shared ones of my recent travel stories about my new friend Natalia and her recipe for Sicilian Crispy Zucchini Blossoms. As I mentioned before, Sicilians enjoy celebrating the bounty of seasons by utilizing local and seasonal ingredients in their everyday cooking. Since we had abundance of delicious zucchini there, we created more dishes featuring zucchini! I would love to share those additional recipes with you here. These will be the “big hit” on your late summer menu for any home party!
Natalia is a lady who knows how to live an elegant life. She pays attention to details, including the china and napkins for every meal. Breakfast can be hectic in many of the households I’ve visited. Natalia is definitely an exception. Every morning is brightened by the delicious breakfast that she prepared. She had coffee cups set up on saucers and linen napkins tightened in beautiful rings. Coffee is always fresh brew from her Italian Moka pot, and there was always fruited harvested from her farm on the table. Her Zucchini Frittata was my favorite breakfast dish! Do you want to know the secret ingredient that makes this dish insanely delicious? Premium quality olive oil.
How much can the oil affect your cooking? Probably more than you’re aware of. Samin Nosrat, the writer of Salt Fat Acid Heat, used to work for Chef Alice Water at Chez Panisse. One day, she noticed Alice Water was displeased with one chef’s dishes at Chez Panisse, mainly because he used the rancid olive oil. As Samin Nosrat recalled,
“I was shocked. Never before had it occurred to me that olive oil would have much effect on the favor of a dish, much less one as piquant as tomato sauce. This was my first glimpse of understanding that as a foundational ingredient, the flavor of olive oil, and indeed any fat we choose to cook with, dramatically alters our perception of the entire dish. Just as an onion cooked in butter tastes different from an onion cooked in olive oil, an onion cooked in good olive oil tastes different – and in the case better – than one cooked in a poorer quality oil.”
When I cooked with Natalia, every dish started with the aroma of olive oil, and we added more olive oil throughout the cooking process and drizzled even more olive oil on the dish in the end. It’s a full circle. You may worry that so much olive oil could make the dish greasy. Not at all. It adds so much aroma and flavor to the dish. The key is to pick right kind of olive oil.
Natalia took me to her olive farm in Menfi. The scenery of the farm was picturesque. Walking in Natalia’s olive farm was like taking an aromatherapy. Even now and then, I can still remember immersing myself in the aroma of olive and lemon. Lemon trees in olive farm? Yes! It was Natalia’s father’s idea. The olive farm was Natalia’s grandmother’s dowry and has passed on through generations. Ravida is not only famous for their premium quality olive oil, but also their specialty lemon olive oil.
In general, I would suggest students be cautious about flavored olive oil, since flavoring can be added to mask the tastes of low-quality olive oil. Natalia’s lemon olive oil is absolutely the exception. It was made using a traditional technique of milling whole lemons with the olives at the time of the first press. Since this farm has long history, I wasn’t surprised to learn that the old olive trees at the farm were hundreds years old. Each tree stood there with dignity, like old soldiers. Since I studied wine, I understand how old vine are very precious, since they can produce wine with elegant fitness. This also applied to olive oil.
A good olive oil is like a fine wine; it is complex and has a long finish.
Here are the characters that indicate it’s high quality olive oil:
Now, gather a bottle of high quality olive oil, organic eggs, and fresh zucchini. Let’s make Natalia’s zucchini with Melissa’s twist.
6 STEP SICILIAN ZUCCHINI FRITTATA RECIPE
- Preheat the oven 400F.
- Start by cooking your onions over medium heat in olive oil
- Slice zucchini with a mandolin and add to the pan and cookuntil soft.
- Once everything is tender, add the beaten and seasoned eggs. (Note: the amount of the eggs depends on the size of your pan.) Sprinkle cheese on top.
- Employ the edge-lift technique: gently lift up the set portions of your frittata, and let any egg mixture that is not set run into the space you’ve created. This will help everything to cook evenly.
- As soon as the eggs begin to set over the stove, slide the whole thing into the oven briefly to finish cooking (remember, it will keep cooking in the hot pan after you pull it out). Wait until it’s caramelized and toasty.
Another my all time favorite zucchini dish is zucchini galette with ricotta cheese. Sicily is famous for creamy and flavorful ricotta cheese. Natalia and I made a ricotta pie together when I stayed at her place. This pasty is inspired by her grand mother’s ricotta pie! Here is the recipe of my zucchini galette.
MELISSA’S ZUCCHINI GALETTE RECIPE
ZUCCHINI GALETTE CRUST INGREDIENTS:
- 500 g all purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 300 g sugar
- 200 g butter, cut into small pieces, frozen
- ¼ Cup Marsala Wine
- 2 eggs and 1 egg yolk
ZUCCHINI GALETTE FILLING INGREDIENTS:
- 3 tbs. canola oil, plus more for brushing
- 1 medium leeks, washed and thinly sliced (white and light green parts only)
- Kosher salt
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp. fresh thyme
- 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
- 1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup ricotta
- Zest of one lemon
How to make zucchini galette dough:
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- Whisk together flour, salt and sugar in a medium bowl or in a blender at low speed.
- Incorporate the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
- Add one egg at a time, then Marsala over the flour mixture; work the dough until it is all incorporated.
- Gather dough together and form into a disc; wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for ½ an hour.
How to make zucchini galette filling:
- Heat oil in a pan over medium heat.
- Add leeks and salt to taste and cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks soften and turn lightly brown, about 8 minutes.
- Combine garlic, thyme, olive oil,and nutmeg and the ricotta cheese.
- Lightly dust a work surface with flour and place dough onto floured surface. Using a rolling pin, roll dough into a 12-inch circle, and gently transfer to a large baking sheet.
- Use an off set specula spreading the ricotta mixer in a thin, even layer on the circle, leaving 1 1/2 inches of dough around the perimeter.
- Spread leeks on top of ricotta cheese. Arrange zucchini slices in an even layer on top of the leeks; brush with olive oil and sprinkle with additional salt, pepper and thyme to taste. Apply thin layer of egg wash on the edge of the crust.
- Bake until crust is lightly browned and zucchinis are cooked through, 50-60 minutes.
- Remove from oven and allow cool slightly.
Chef’s Note: If you want your galette to be more colorful, you may use both zuchinni and summer squash.
Want to experience authentic Sicilian cooking with Natalia? Click the link here.