Zucchini with Oregano and Parmesan Cheese

Recently a friend who lives in Liguria, north-western Italy, gave us a Trombetta d’Albenga. This is a zucchini, shaped like an antique trumpet. What makes it interesting is related to its shape: the seeds of this kind of zucchini are in the bell of the trumpet only, meaning that most of the zucchini is free of seeds. Which makes it ideal for a salad or for frying, especially when it’s young. Older trombettas tend to be yellowish and firmer; more pumpkin-like.

It’s wonderful to prepare this starter with Trombetta d’Albenga, however they are hard to find outside of Liguria, so we prepared this dish both with a trombetta and with a young normal zucchini. The trombetta is firmer and its taste creamier, nevertheless in both cases it’s a healthy, very tasty, vegetarian starter, one to share and enjoy with friends. It’s crunchy, salty, full of flavours, soft and slightly bitter.

Wine Pairing

The most popular grape in Liguria is Vermentino, which is used to produce white wines. Don’t worry if you can’t find a wine made with vermentino. In general a glass of rosé or white wine will be nice with the zucchini, provided the wine is fresh, with a touch of acidity and notes of citrus or green apples.

What You Need

  • One Trombetta or Young Zucchini
  • Breadcrumbs or Panko
  • Dried Oregano
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Olive Oil

What You Do

Wash and slice the vegetable. If using a zucchini, drizzle with salt and mix. Let the mixture rest for two hours, allowing for the zucchini to lose water and become firm. Best way to do this, is by putting the zucchini in a sieve and let it rest above a bowl. Wash the zucchini.
If the dried oregano is not very fine, then use a kitchen knife to make the dried leaves smaller. Mix breadcrumbs or panko with a generous amount of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and Oregano. Heat a non-stick pan with olive oil. Coat the slices of zucchini with the mixture and fry quickly until golden. When ready, leave for a minute or two and serve the trombetta warm.

Artichoke Pie

A few days after we published our recipe for Tourte de Blette a friend told us about the great taste of artichoke pie and how popular this dish is in Italy, especially in Liguria. Since we love artichokes, we dived into our cooking library, looking for recipes.
Interestingly most recipes refer to canned or marinated artichokes. But wouldn’t it be much better to use fresh, young artichokes? Other ingredients are cheese (Prescinsêua, or a combination of Parmesan or Pecorino and Ricotta, perhaps some Crème fraîche or even Feta), herbs (parsley, thyme or oregano) and eggs.
We like the combination of artichoke and thyme (as we did in our salad), but we could imagine oregano to be a good choice as well.
We remained close to Tourte de Blette and prepared a rustic, open pie, but feel free to create one with pastry on top.

Wine Pairing

It’s not straightforward to pair artichokes with wine. According to various researchers this is due to cynarin, a chemical especially found in the leaves of the artichoke. When the wine and the cynarin meet in your mouth, the natural sweetness of the wine is amplified, making it taste too sweet. So you have to pair freshly cooked or steamed artichokes with a bone-dry, crisp, unoaked white wine with clear, present acidity. For instance Sauvignon Blanc, Grüner Veltliner or Albariño.
We enjoyed our Artichoke Pie with a glass of Château Pajzos Tokaj “T” Furmint, a dry, bright, fresh wine with zesty, nutty and mineral flavours made from the Hungarian Furmint grape. A unique wine and perfect in combination with the artichokes.
Cynarin and wine are not a match made in heaven but the good news is that cynarin seems to protect your liver and even helps it regenerate.

What You Need

  • For the Dough
    • 100 gram of Flour
    • 50 gram of Water
    • 10 gram of Olive Oil
    • 1 gram of Salt
  • For the Mixture
    • 4-6 young Artichokes
    • One Shallot
    • Olive Oil
    • 30 grams of Rice
    • 2 Eggs
    • Fresh Thyme
    • 20 gram Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
    • Black Pepper

What You Do

Cook the rice and leave to rest.  Combine flour, salt, water and olive oil. Make the dough, kneed for a minute or so and store in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Clean the artichokes, steam for 30-45 minutes depending on the size and let cool. Chop the shallot. Warm a heavy skillet, add olive oil and gently fry the shallot. Transfer to a plate and let cool. Using a spoon remove the ‘meat’ from the leaves (bracts) of the artichokes. Chop the hearts in four. You may need to remove the centre choke (the hairs). Strip a generous amount of thyme.
Whisk two eggs and combine with the artichokes, the shallot, the rice, the thyme and the freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Add some black pepper.
Roll out the dough with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface. Coat a 15 cm or 6 inch round baking form with oil (or use a sheet of baking paper). Place the dough in the baking form and add the filling. Transfer to the oven for 40-50 minutes on 180˚-200˚ Celsius or 355˚-390˚ Fahrenheit. Immediately after having removed the pie from the oven, brush the outside with olive oil. This will intensify the colour of the pastry. Let cool and enjoy luke warm.