Saturday, 27 July 2013

Flower Power

Fiore di Zucca Ripieni
Zucchini Blossoms, stuffed with Couscous, Bacon, Barberries, Ras el Hanout & Goat Cheese

"Say it with flowers" was the phrase back in the 70's, when I was but a little tyke back in Jolly Old England, but it is one that has retained it's popularity through the years. Well let me tell you that if you want to show a certain somebody how much they mean to you, be it a guy or a gal... or even if you want to show the whole family or your guests that they mean a lot to you... get this kind of flower and do what I did this evening! Best of luck to anyone else, hoping to impress with roses and lillies... because I think that these little treats are bound to earn you plenty of hugs and kisses!

I have made similar versions of these little beauty's before, so I will do my best to keep things brief and let the pictures do the talking!

The first thing you need to do is to open up the blossoms and remove the stamen- simply snap them out and hey-presto- there's nothing to it and the flowers won't feel a thing!

And the next step is to prepare the filling- which is also going to be painless! I love simple dishes like this, that are a little unusual and that are so delicious that everyone is going to think you are great- and quite rightly so! The cooking entailed in preparing the filling is not even going to take 5 minutes- and neither is the prep work for it... so grab your chopping boards and let's get started!

It took me only 2 cupfuls of couscous to stuff 8 blossoms, 1 cupful of finely diced bacon, 1 cupful of barberries, a little finely chopped onion, 1 cupful of bacon, a handful of parsley, a heaped tablespoon of creamed goat cheese and the juice of half a lime... so you are hardly going to ruin your bank-balance in making these either!

I popped the bacon and onion into a dry non-stick frying pan and let them sizzle away together. When they began to brown gently, I added the finely-chopped parsley, the couscous and the barberries. I stirred them together well and added the lime juice and the Ras el Hanout, along with salt, pepper and just a drop of Tabasco. And then I deglazed the frying pan by adding just enough water to cover the base, stirred everything though thoroughly and then turned off the heat and let the couscous continue to swell-up and cook in the residual heat of the pan.

Whilst the couscous then cooled off, I turned on the oven to maximum to get it ready and wrapped a little aluminum foil around the handle of my pan to protect it during it's brief visit to the oven... less dishes to do makes this fellow happy- and probably you too!

I added the creamy goat cheese to the couscous and stirred it through, then began to stuff the flowers by carefully tearing an opening into the yellow petals and adding a heaped spoonful or 2 to each flower. All you need to do is to press the petals back together gently- they stick all by themselves and it is very easy to do. Then back into the pan they went, with just a little olive oil, for 2-3 minutes. I then added a little water to the frying pan and tilted it so that it collected on one side of the pan, away from the flowers, so that the little zucchini steamed away nicely until the water had evaporated away. And once it had, I gave them a little sprinkle with salt and pepper and a last, light drizzle of olive oil and sent them on their way back into the oven, where they baked until the petals of the flowers became lightly crispy on the outside- in this case it took around 5-6 minutes.

I prefer to keep the heat high and to keep an eye on them, as it prevents them from drying out too much, from the zucchini themselves become shriveled looking and from the cheese melting too slowly and turning the filling into too much of a dense mass... as you can see from the pictures- you can trust me on this one- they came out just perfect!

These were great this hot and steamy, Summer evening- they are so pretty, light to eat and exotic that I am sure you are all going to love them... and whoever else you make them for too!

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