Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Cut the Fat- Not the Mustard!

Tortilla con Zucchine, Peperone, Pomodori Ciliegini e Formaggio Blu
Zucchini, Pepper, Tomato & Blue Cheese Tortilla

It was time for supper at last. It had been another 12 hour workday, I was exhausted, hungry, short-tempered and obviously, the only thing that could help in that situation, was something delicious to eat and the simple, meditative task of preparing it. I really will never be able to understand those people that consider cooking to be a chore... it isn't. It is one of life's great joys- even a simple snack like this!

As you all know by now, I am always vary wary of having excess fat in my food and always try to keep it to a minimum. If the fat serves to add flavor, as does a fine olive or sesame oil, used in moderation, I think that is absolutely fine... but I think it sad that so much food that people eat is fried in butter or oil with no further thought, when there are so many other possibilities. The fact that I used a blue cheese in this dish already brought more fat into the equation than I would probably have wanted... but for that reason, I decided to try to make this using no further fat at all... Possible? You betcha! Difficult? Nah! Just a case of "usin' yer noggin'" as we used to say back in Jolly Old England!

This was nothing more than a tasty snack to be honest- just a good combination of ingredients that worked well together, toasted on a flour tortilla. But that was exactly the thing that made it so special- clear, strong flavors that held their own, but in combination were harmonious, with sweet and savory components and still a nice level of freshness. How did I make it? Well, a little bit like this...

I began by finely slicing the zucchini lengthways and by slicing a red, pointy pepper into rings and steaming them for 4-5 minutes, to have them pre-cooked before laying them out on the tortilla for baking. This may sound strange to you, but hey- I can be a strange kinda guy! The only important thing in this recipe, as far as I was concerned, was to have each ingredient cooked and retaining its own individual flavor at the end. I knew that the actual toasting of the tortilla under the broiler would only take 2-3 minutes until the tortilla would become crispy and a deep golden brown... and that the vegetables would need more time. And so I simply needed to have them pre-cooked. This could have meant frying, but as I said- I was intending to use the blue cheese. So allowing the pepper and zucchini steam was a fine solution- steaming keeps all of the flavor in without washing any out... so it has got to be a good thing!

After 4-5 minutes, I removed the vegetables from the steamer, spread them out and allowed them to drip dry and cool on a rack. In the meantime, I prepared the tortilla, by spreading it generously with Dijon mustard and a few blobs of the Bavaria blue cheese. Soon the zucchini and pepper were cool and dry enough to add on top, along with a few slices of cherry tomato. I added a finely chopped Spring onion, a generous sprinkle of marjoram, salt and pepper and a drizzle of honey- wow! What a combination!

To get the tortilla cooked to perfection, I turned on the broiler to full power and whilst it heated up, placed it into a frying pan and turned the heat right up on my stove top for a minute or two, to get the tortilla a little brown from below, get some heat into the cheese (which soon began to melt) and then popped it into the oven, on the top shelf, for a further 2-3 minutes to finish under the broiler.

This left everything nicely, lightly browned, but moist and delicious. The cheese melted right down and became frothy and foamy... that's the fat I was talking about! But that fat and the tanginess of flavor that it brought with it, dressed the zucchini nicely and absolutely took the place of any oil or butter I may have wanted to use to fry it otherwise. And the mustard brought the vegetables to life, the honey was a great equal and opposite ingredient and the marjoram added some rich flavor to the otherwise mild flavors. You see, as with all things in life, it is all about balance! And crazy as I may seem... there is nothing unbalanced about my food! Trust me! And try it yourself!

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