Saturday, 4 August 2012

Oven-Baked Oriental Flower Bed

Piccoli Zucchine con i Fiori con Couscous Speziato alla Menta al Forno
Baby Zucchini & Blossoms Baked in Spicy Mint Couscous

It had been a while, but those beautiful little zucchini blossoms smiled at me and caught my eye again at the Frankfurt market today. And of course I couldn't and didn't resist their charms! The only question was- what to do with them? I didn't want to do the same-old fillings of ricotta or couscous that I have shown you before... 

...but couscous seemed a good idea! And the thought of spicing it up a little, rather than leaving the dish as delicate and light as one usually would tend to do, seemed like a good thing to try today. So armed with my favorite Oriental spice, Ras el Hanout, that is exactly what I set out to do this evening! Read on!

I began by cooking the couscous- which meant simply covering it with boiling water and letting it soak for 10 minutes. Whilst it was still hot, I added to 1 mugful of couscous, a half of  a medium sized red onion, chopped, a handful of both finely chopped parsley and mint, salt, pepper and a heaped tablespoon of Ras el Hanout rouge powder. I stirred all of these things in well and let nature take its course and all of those wonderful flavors combine!

10 Minutes later, the couscous was fluffy and perfect... and cool! Which meant I could now add an egg to it and stir it in, without it becoming some crazy scrambled concoction! This would serve as the base to my zucchini's and blossoms... and I took care of those next!

I cut the zucchini down the middle for this dish, to reduce the cooking time but to also expose more surface area for seasoning. I removed the little stamen from the flowers, as that tends to be bitter and full of cloying and tinted pollen and then set about putting this little dish together, ready to bake!

It only took a very light drizzle of olive oil to coat the baking dish which I simply spread around with a little kitchen towel and then I spooned in the eggy couscous mix. I pressed the zucchini's and blossoms down into it, making sure to press the blossoms down into the couscous so that it would be moist and so that they would not simply burn in the oven. I drizzled them very lightly with olive oil, spread this around a little and then sprinkled everything generously with my "Salt of the Earth" again and into a hot oven they went for 20 minutes at 300°F.

After 20 minutes, I drizzled them very lightly with honey and popped them back in, under the broiler for 2-3 minutes. The honey heated and dissolved the sugar and salt on top of the zucchini making it caramelize and become ultra delicious! Combined the the mild flavor of the zucchini and the spicy couscous below it was an absolutely incredible creation... but try it out for yourselves... and believe!

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