Recipe development is not something that comes easily to me. Not to say that it’s hard either. It’s just that I, like so many home cooks, believe that food is all about improvising: opening up my fridge, seeing what’s inside, and putting something together that’s delicious and also nutritious.
So often I’m torn between the amount of detail I want to include in a recipe. Obviously, I want you all to make any of my recipes so that it comes out well the first time you make it. So I include a number of details, tips, and suggestions. But, sometimes I worry that all of the tips and suggestions may come over as if you have to do it this way, like no other way will work.
And, well, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
I believe recipes should be what they say in Italian: linee guide, a general guide. A suggested path, an example that can be tweaked as much or as little as you like.
Take this recipe for verdure ripene alla ligure or Ligurian-style stuffed vegetables. This is my mother-in-law’s recipe and, actually, one of the few recipes she’s ever given me that came out well and almost exactly like hers the first time I made it. Usually, she gives me a recipe and says something like “the mixture can’t be too runny or too stiff” and, in my head, I’m thinking “what in the world does that mean?” I won’t know until I go to her house, look at the consistency she is talking about, and try to imitate it the next time I’m making the same thing at home.
But even though this turned out great the first time I made it, I’ve changed it a few times since then.
I’ve made it a few times with eggplant because I had some on hand. Another time, I used red onions because I didn’t have any white onions. Once, I used the food processor because I didn’t feel like pulling out the meat grinder (that is tetras style stored in the upper cabinets of my kitchen).
My mother-in-law (MIL) adamantly insists that you should never use a food processor for this dish, but I think that—as long as you don’t over chop/grind so it looking more like baby food—you’ll be fine. Besides, she doesn’t even own a food processor, so what does she know about food processor results?
Most recently, I made this dish using only mortadella because it was on sale at the supermarket and my MIL had recently told me that, back when she was growing up, there was no proscuitto cotto in her town. So it was only made with mortadella.
Finally, I had these at restaurant in Chiavari. I obviously don’t know the exact ingredients that was used, but I do know they added marjoram which is fairly typical herb used in Ligurian cuisine. My MIL never uses it, but feel free to add a bit if your heart so desires.
I should probably also mention that when I do make this recipe I do tend to make 2-3 times the amount listed in the recipe below. I freeze the extras and reheat for a quick meal.
Ligurian Stuffed Vegetables
Stuffed vegetables are a traditional dish made by Ligurian peasants. This recipe feeds about 6 as an appetizer and 4 as a main course.
Cut the day old bread into small approx. 1/2 in (1 cm) pieces, add to a small bowl, and cover with milk.
Preheat oven to 425°F/220°C static oven (or 400°F/200°C convection oven). Place a large pot of water (about 8 cups) to boil. Add salt to pot once it’s comes to a boil.
Meanwhile, prepare vegetables. Cut the tips off of the zucchini, cut lengthwise and then half. Cut out stems of bell peppers, then half and remove seeds. Cut into about 6 pieces following the natural curves of the vegetable. Peel off dry skin from onion. Cut the onion in half from end to end.
Once the water has come to a boil, cook the zucchini for about 2-3 minutes, then the bell peppers for 1-2 minutes, then finally the onions for about 1 minute. Drain each vegetable of excess water, then place on paper towels to dry. Scoop out the middle of the zucchini and set aside in a small bowl. Separate the natural cups of the onion. Place the vegetables on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
Filling. Drain the bread of any excess milk. Pass the bread, zucchini middles, prosciutto cotto, and mortadella through a meat grinder or roughly chop in a food processor. In a medium bowl add combine the meat mixture with grated cheese, eggs, olive oil, and marjoram (if using). Scoop stuffing into vegetables, then sprinkle with bread crumbs. Place in oven immediately**
Bake for 10 minutes at 425°F, then lower to 375°F*** and bake for about another 20 minutes until golden brown. The vegetables can be served immediately or at room temperature.
*I boil each vegetable one at a time from the mildest flavor to the strongest so their taste don't transfer.
**Stuff the vegetables only once you're ready to bake them otherwise the eggs will separate from the meat mixture.
*** The higher initial temperature helps to ensure that the eggs firm up enough so that they don't separate while baking.
- recipe by Thea from http://flirtyfoodie.com/
Tagliare il pane in quadretti da circa 1 cm, mettere a bagno in una ciotola piccola con il latte.
Riscaldare il forno ventilato a 200˚C. Mettere sul fuoco una pentola grande con circa 1.5 litri di acqua. Salare quando inizia a bollire.
Nel frattempo preparare le verdure: eliminare le estremità delle zucchine, tagliare a metà e ancora a metà per il lungo. Preparare i peperoni eliminando la calotta e i semi, tagliando in più o meno 6 spicchi. Sbucciare le cipolle e tagliarle a metà per il lungo.
Cuocere le zucchine per circa 2-3 minuti, poi i peperoni per 1-2 minuti e finalmente la cipolla per circa un minuto. Scolarli bene. Separare la cipolla nei suoi spicchi naturali. Svuotate la parte centrale delle zucchine. Disponete le verdure su una placca da forno foderato con la carta da forno.
Per il ripieno. Strizzarle il pane bagnato. Passare il pane, l'interno delle zucchine, la mortadella e il prosciutto cotto in una tritacarne o tritarlo grossolanamente in un robot da cucina. Mettere l'impasto in una ciotola e aggiungere anche il parmigiano grattugiato, le uova, l'olio di oliva, e la maggiorana (se lo state utilizzando). Riempite le verdure e poi spolveratele con il pangrattato.*
Infornare per circa 10 minuti sempre a 200˚C** e poi abbassate la temperature a 180˚C. Cuocetelo ancora circa 20 minuti finché e bello dorato. Le verdure si possano mangiare caldi (non bollenti) o a temperatura ambiente.
*Riempite le verdure solo quando siete pronti per infornarlo altrimenti si separerà l'uova dal resto del impasto.
**Il forno va messo inizialmente alla temperatura più alta per far subito rassodare le uova, e poi abbassato per assicurare che si cuoce tutto l'impasto.