I want to win a week in one of your Tuscany villas!
I love to experiment with food, particularly Italian food. One of my favourite foodie regions is Tuscany and I previously published a recipe here of a Tuscan Bruschetta.
I’ve mentioned before that I have a restricted diet because I’m vegetarian by choice and Gluten Free by necessity. So Tuscan recipes are often ideal for me because they focus on the freshness of the ingredients and the recipes are often simple and easy for me to translate into a version that is suitable for coeliacs.
www.to-tuscany.com are challenging bloggers to submit a recipe using olive oil, parmesan and tomatoes – three of the staples in my diet. In fact, I wouldn’t say I use a lot of olive oil but when I went to check that I had some in my cupboard this is what I found!
Luckily, my cupboards don’t just consist of olive oil so I was able to pull together a few other ingredients too.
My Tuscan inspired recipe below is so simple I almost feel ashamed to submit it, but in addition to being simple, it’s also delicious and makes a fabulous starter for an Italian themed meal. Additionally the various parts of this starter can be split and used separately so although each part is easy to make I’m submitting it here in the hope that it will inspire some Tuscan meals over what promises to be a scorching weekend in the UK.
I’m going to begin with the sauce because this can be made in advance and kept in the fridge ready for use. It’s a very basic red sauce recipe that can be used with pasta dishes or used as a dipping sauce in the same way that I’ve used it here.
So, for the sauce you will need:
800g fresh tomatoes, skinned and quartered
1 sprig of rosemary or 1 teaspoon of dried rosemary
A handful of fresh basil leaves or 2 teaspoons of dried basil
½ teaspoon of salt
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
It’s perfectly possible to make a good basic red sauce using tinned tomatoes, so if you don’t have time to skin the fresh ones, feel free to drain 2 tins of tomatoes and use those. I find that the easiest way to remove the skins from fresh tomatoes is to pop the tomato into a jug or bowl and pour boiling water of it. then run the tomato under cold water. The skin splits and is really easy to remove.
Whether you use fresh or tinned tomatoes, put these into a saucepan with all of the other sauce ingredients. Don’t worry that there doesn’t seem to be much liquid at this stage and don’t be tempted to add more. The tomatoes will release liquid for the sauce.
Cover the pan and bring to the boil, then simmer for around 30 minutes.
Remove the lid and continue to simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated.
Remove from the heat and sieve the sauce.
If you prefer a chunky sauce, retain some of the pulp to add back to the sauce after sieving.
This sauce can be reheated so if you want to make it in advance, my tip is to make extra and reserve some of the sauce for use with pasta.
For the fried Zucchini you will need:
1 zucchini (courgette)- note, one courgette will easily serve up to 4 people as a starter but if you want to be generous, use two courgettes.
40g flour – if you are not coeliac use plain flour, I used brown rice flour
Sunflower or vegetable oil for frying – don’t be tempted to fry in olive oil as the oil will not heat up enough.
For serving: salt and shredded parmesan
Use a vegetable peeler or food processor to thinly slice the zucchini.
Separate the egg and add the yolk to the milk. Beat this together with the flour to make a smooth paste.
In a separate bowl beat the egg white until it forms soft peaks, then gently fold this into the batter mix.
Dip the zucchini slices into the batter and coat them thoroughly.
Heat the oil, ensure it is hot (you can test this by dropping one coated slice into the oil. The slice should take no more than 2 minutes to turn brown and crisp.)
Carefully lower the coated slices into the hot oil and deep fry until they are crisp and golden. Turn them frequently.
Drain thoroughly on kitchen paper.
Sprinkle the cooked slices with salt and parmesan and serve alongside the dipping sauce.
The parmesan has a strong flavour that complements the zucchini slices perfectly. This recipe really is so simple that there are no dire warnings about how to approach it - my only warning is that these zucchini slices are so yummy that you might find yourself eating the first lot and having to make more (not that this happened to me at all you understand!)
This starter is a perfect way to get everyone talking at the start of a meal because it's real old fashioned 'finger food' and if your 'guests' are good friends you might want to have just one bowl of sauce and a big spoon so they can help themselves from the centre of the table - or alternatively offer small bowls of sauce for each person. Oh no, just thought of one more warning - this is delicious but messy - make sure you have plenty of napkins, serviettes or just plain old kitchen roll so everyone can mop up their spills - it certainly gets everyone talking and laughing when they are dripping sauce on themselves!
I've submitted this recipe as part of the fantastic competition to win a week in a Tuscan Villa. The competition is being hosted by 'To Tuscany' and is open to anyone with a blog and closes at midnight on 21st July. Find out more from their webpage here