Monday, 12 September 2011

Dicing with Dinner

Spezzatino di Pomodoro, Zucca e Zucchini, con Vitello e la Zucca Grattugiata
Tomato, Pumpkin and Zucchini Soup with Veal in a Grated Pumpkin Coating

This colorful dish is a summery introduction to the colder months- still fruity and fresh with tomato and zucchini, but also satisfying and warm with the sweet and comforting taste of pumpkin. It's very Mediterranean tasting, you people... so grab your cases and let me take you on a journey into my kitchen, where I hope to share some flavors with you that are out of this world...

The soup itself is a simple affair- simply dice some pumpkin, (I used more of my Hokkaido pumpkin- and yes, I still have more in the fridge!) and zucchini finely and fry them in the tiniest amount of olive oil, with a few slices of garlic, for 3-4 minutes. Not too long, as the pumpkin will cook and soften very quickly and we want it to still have some bite to it and for it to retain its shape- a smooth and creamy soup this is not!

Set the dice to one side and move swiftly on with some grated onion, carrot and celery- straight into the same pan, with a little more olive oil this time, garlic, fresh basil and a bay leaf. After 2-3 minutes, add some tomato paste and crank up the heat. Stir everything together well- and just before you panic, because you think it is going to start sticking to your pan, de-glaze with a nice shot of Sambuca... yum! Things should be smelling pretty delicious already by now!

Add some tomato juice, grate with a little nutmeg and add a little Herbs de Provence and a pinch of cinnamon. And... if it is not smelling great by now- you must have a cold! Turn the heat down low and let it simmer whilst you quickly whip-up those little slices of veal...

I cut it into very thin slices, which I then cut again into bite-sized pieces, nice and small so they will cook in just a few minutes. The coating was simply grated pumpkin, grated salted ricotta cheese, finely chopped chives and parsley, salt, pepper and a hint of nutmeg. Press the pumpkin onto the meat and then pop the coated pieces into a dry Teflon pan. Don't worry if some of the coating (or even all of it!) falls off- it is all about the flavor combination here. I want to keep the pan dry at first, otherwise the pumpkin will soften too quickly and it will just turn into a purée.

After a minute or so on either side, add a drop of olive oil and a little grated garlic and remove from the heat. And start looking for your serving dishes, because it is only going to take another minute or so to have this put together!

Add the diced vegetables to the soup and bring the temperature up to a gentle boil. Whilst the soup is still piping hot, add some of the veal with the pumpkin coating, some fresh basil and thyme and a few shavings of salted ricotta. Finish it off with a light drizzle of olive oil and get ready for a delightful and flavorful supper! If the Fall is going to mean more of this kind of meal... bring it on!

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