Music to Tastebuds – Rosette con Pane alla Menta e Limone

One of the disadvantages of living in a city apartment is that there is a fairly limited amount of space available for your pots, kitchen utensils and gadgets. At least if you prioritise things like a dining table and living room sofa over them. I still possess items such as a wok pan that I don’t really use since due to its enormous size, you can only wash it in a bathtub. Yet in general, I try to limit my kitchenware to mainly essentials.

That being said, I have now identified a new must-have: a mandolin. Obviously I mean the slicer, not the instrument although nice music to accompany your cooking can sometimes be quite essential too! This fabulous zucchini dish alone – from the July edition of La Cucina Italiana – justifies the investment of money and space in this utensil (even if I have to ditch the wok giant, which may not be such a bad idea anyway…).

The process of this recipe is quite simple: you slice the zucchini with your mandolin, shortly precook the slices to make them soft enough for rolling, wrap and bake them with a superbly flavoursome filling and finally accompany with the perfect match of parmesan mayonnaise. The end result will be music to your tastebuds!

I came up with a neat trick for the breadcrumbs since I do not often have old white bread at home and the right kind of breadcrumbs are as essential for the success of this recipe as the mandolin: I bought one wheat roll, halved it, grilled the halves in the oven to dry them and finally blended them into crumbs.

Zucchini Rolls with Bread, Mint and Lemon

Serves 4

400 g zucchini

100 g breadcrumbs/ 1 wheat roll dried and crumbled

100 g mayonnaise

parmesan, grated

1 tbsp (strong) mint, chopped

zest of ½ lemon, grated

olive oil

salt

To make the filling, mix the breadcrumbs, lemon zest, mint, a pinch of salt and 60 g olive oil in a bowl.

For the accompanying sauce: In a separate bowl, combine the mayonnaise with 40 g of the parmesan and 10 g hot water.

Cut the zucchini lengthways into thin slices (by using the mandolin if possible). Cook them in boiling water for 1 minute, drain them and put them in cold water. After that drain and dry the slices.

Take two zucchini slices at a time and place them in an adjoining “line” (one on top of the other for a few centimeters) to obtain a “slice” of double length. Add the breadcrumb filling on top of the zucchini slices and gently wrap the zucchini slices to form a roll. Repeat until you have used all your zucchini.

Take an oven tray and cover it with a parchment paper. Place the zucchini rolls on it and sprinkle them with some grated parmesan and a trickle of olive oil. Bake in the oven at 180C for 5-8 minutes. Serve immediately with the parmesan mayonnaise.

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Summer in the City – Pomodori al Tonno

Continuing my list of things that I appreciate about the Italian kitchen, I have to mention their understanding of the seasonality of different ingredients. Obviously me being a Finn, it doesn’t yet mean that I always follow this thinking.

I had some leftover mayonnaise in my fridge and decided to try this recipe that according to its source is “ideal for the summer season”.  Ok, so the Finnish greenhouse tomatoes at this time of the year may bear little other resemblance to their summer (or Italian) versions than the colour red but the tasty stuffing of this recipe reasonably well makes up for what the winter tomatoes may lack in flavour. However, I think I will definitely prepare this dish also during the season officially approved by Italians, and might even take them (the tomatoes, not the Italians) with me to a summer picnic!

The tomatoes are quite filling so we had some to spare for the following day, and it seemed that they got even tastier over night. As mayonnaise can be a bit heavy, I am also thinking of substituting some of it with yoghurt to make it slightly lighter and fresher the next time.

Originally I was planning to use the recipe from the book “Oggi cucino io 4” but I ended up also partially utilizing this.

Tuna-stuffed Tomatoes

Serves 6

8 round, ripe tomatoes

350 g tuna in oil, crumbled with a fork

200 g mayonnaise

4 hard boiled eggs

6 anchovy fillets, finely chopped

2 tablepoons capers in vinegar, drained, one half finely chopped, the other half without chopping

2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped

16 basil leaves, in small pieces

salt, pepper

Cut away the top of each tomato, and scrape out the seeds of the tomatoes with a spoon. Turn the tomatoes upside down and leave them to drain on a plate. In the meantime, peel the eggs and cut them into small pieces. In a bowl, combine the mayonnaise with the tuna. Add the capers, the anchovies, the eggs and the herbs, and mix well until you have a smooth(ish) paste. Season with salt and pepper. Fill the tomatoes with the paste and put them in the fridge for at least an hour before serving.