Thursday, 27 March 2014

Back to Black

Zucchine Tonde Ripiene con Fagiolina, Uovo, Menta, Ricotta Salata & Riso Nero
Round Zucchini stuffed with Egg, Green Beans, Mint, Salted Ricotta Cheese & Baked with Black Rice

It had been a long time since I last prepared black, or "Forbidden" rice and I decided this morning that I was going make it for supper when I got home from work in the evening... I just didn't know how or what to do with it!

It is no wonder that this lovely purple/black rice as at one point enjoyed only by the nobility in China and forbidden to the poor... but hey! We may not be the richest, but fortunately it is inexpensive enough today for each and everyone to enjoy!

I love the rich, "nutty" flavor of black rice and its chewy consistency- it is so much more satisfying than other types of unrefined or "wild" rice- This is why I decided to keep the other flavors and aromas in this dish mild, so that the rice was almost an equally important flavor in this taste-equation of a dish, rather than just being relegated to its usual position as just being a "side" to the other ingredients as is more often the case.

SO I decided to use zucchini- 3 little round ones, a few string beans, some fresh mint, a little salted ricotta and an egg to make a mild and delicious accompaniment to the yummy and chewy rice- and decided to bake everything in the oven to make it easier!

Obviously, the first step was to hollow out the zucchinis- one of those melon-scoopers comes in very handy, but failing that, you can always use a teaspoon. Keep half of the scooped-out zucchini for the filling and either give the rest to a friendly colleague who has asked you for the seeds the day after ( right, Annette? ;-) ), or nibble on them whilst you prepare the rest of the dish... and let's face it- there isn't that much to be fetched out of 3 little zucchini after all!

The next step is to slice up half of the scooped-out zucchini pieces, to finely chop the string beans and to blanche them in boiling water for 2-3 minutes and then to allow them to drain drain and cool for a further 10 minutes until they are back down to room temperature.

Once the zucchini and beans were cool, I added the egg, finely chopped mint and grated Ricotta Salata, salt, pepper, nutmeg and just a hint of cayenne. I stirred these well together, simply using a spoon and then got a.) a kettle of water boiling and b.) the oven turned on and up to the highest setting, ready to bake these little beauties in just a few minutes time...

If you get the mixture nice and fluffy, it can be more easily filled into the zucchini shells. This is because the air-bubbles will make the "batter" smoother and lighter and will flow into and follow-up any empty pockets inside of the zucchini.

Once the zucchini were filled, I placed them into a baking dish, spread 2 cups of black rice out around them and then poured in enough boiling water, straight from the kettle to cover the rice by an inch or so. I seasoned the rice with salt and whilst I was at it, I sprinkled a little more salt on top of the zucchini, but PLENTY of pepper and a nice drizzle of good olive oil.

I placed the dish, covered with foil, into the oven on a middle shelf at the maximum temperature, set my timer for 40 minutes and got busy tidying the rest of the chaos in the kitchen away :-)

After just 30 minutes I risked a bit of a peep and most of the water around the rice and zucchini had evaporated away. Tthe rice had indeed, doubled in size, which was just perfect! I popped it back into the oven and turned the temperature down a little, then let it boil away for a further 5 minutes and become yummy and golden on top!

As simple as the ingredients are and as different as they might appear, the result is mild and delicious and pleasant in every which way! Egg, mint and beans are so refreshing and tasty together that they are almost guaranteed to please! Combined with the yummy and chewy rice, they are sure-fire hits!

I know they pleased me- and I hope they please you! Enjoy!

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