We have planted a large vegetable garden (or orto), which provides us with fresh vegetables all year round. One of the best things about Tuscany is the food – local, fresh, simple and full of flavour, and we are happy to share our recipes with you for the Tuscan fare that we prepare with ingredients from our garden.
This wonderful summer squash from the Cucurbitaceae plant family (which includes melons, cucumbers and marrows) is thought of as a vegetable, but is in fact a fruit. You find it in a range of tones, but here in Tuscany, the pale green romanesco variety has a firmer consistency and a superior flavour both cooked and raw at this time of the year.
Historically used for medicinal purposes to treat colds, aches and various other health conditions, zucchini, when in the height of their season have multiple nutritional benefits including a high antioxidant content (particularly rich in carotenoids) and a good dose of vitamin A, beneficial for your eye health as well as your immune system.
We are absolutely overloaded with zucchini in the orto during the summer months and so this encourages us to get creative with a selection of recipes. Here are a few of our favourites, all of which are extremely quick to make.
Zucchini Crudi con Limone e Pepe Rosa
Nothing can be simpler than finely slicing zucchini in the middle of summer and dressing with the best olive oil, lemon zest, sea salt flakes and pink pepper corns. We don’t even need to give you a recipe for this! Just remember to slice the zucchini thinly and ensure they are well coated in the dressing.
Tagliolini con Zucchini
When cooking zucchini there is a very fine point to ensure they stay al dente, which makes eating with tagliolini a superior experience. Julien 3 zucchini and blanch in boiling water for 1 minute, then drain and rinse in cold water. Check the cooking time of your tagliolini, since you will be adding the blanched zucchini for the last minute. Then drain the tagliolini and zucchini, add to a pan, where you will have been softening a fresh onion (we are partial to the Tropea variety), and fresh green chilli in olive oil for the last 5 minutes. Toss all together on high heat for 30 seconds. Add some parsley, a sprinkle of lemon zest, a dusting of freshly ground pepper, and a healthy glug of Montecalvi Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Frittata di Fiori
Impress your friends with this beautiful, incredibly simple to make, omelette decorated with zucchini flowers – a real summer showstopper. Consider 1 large egg per person. Beat thoroughly, adding a generous pinch of salt. Carefully wash the zucchini flowers, checking inside each to see for insects that might still be there; remove the spines where the stem meets the flower, remove the stamen and cut off the stems and sprinkle a little bit of salt on the flowers. Make sure every bit of your frying pan is evenly coated with olive oil, the pan is hot (but not burning), and pour in the beaten eggs. Let the bottom cook gently and firm up ever so slightly, then arrange the flowers pointing outwards, like a sunflower, with the stems in the middle. Once the bottom is cooked, pour a little glug of olive oil all around the flowers, and place the pan under the grill, until the egg on top is just at setting point, then transfer to a round plate and serve immediately.
The perfect wine to match with all and any of these dishes? Montecalvi Vermentino 2018.