A few months ago, I received a package from Bordeaux, France. My first thought was “Mais je ne connais personne à Bordeaux ! Ca vient de qui ?” (I don’t know anyone in Bordeaux! Who is it coming from?) By now, you know how much I love to receive packages, so after only less than 1 mn of utter surprise, my animal instinct got the better of me. Who cared where it was coming from, after all? In no time, the thick brown wrapping was ripped open; I dug into the box and found a lovely surprise! The package was actually coming from Anne, an extremely friendly French blogger who had taken the kind initiative to send me a few French cooking magazines, along with 2 precious boxes of black rice. I felt really touched! This is one of the joys brought by food blogging. Not even a year ago — since I only started my blog by the end of November of last year — , I would never have imagined that I would meet and talk to so many wonderful people, with whom I share my love for food. Nothing could make me happier than getting black rice from Anne.
Le riz noir — Black Rice
Just a few words. Called Forbidden Rice at the court of ancient Chinese Emperors because it was known as an aphrodisiac, black rice also has a lot of nutritional properties, just like brown rice. I don’t know about you, but just by its looks, I find it irresistible. Who could really not fall for the mystery, the exotism found in its deep rich black color? Pas moi !
I have wondered about the best way to use this delicate ingredient for some time now, because I have meant to make a dish, perfect enough to pay a nice tribute to Anne’s kind gesture. Ideas on how to use black rice abund, but it is only recently that I have found a dish that I knew would be the dish-to-say-thank-you-Anne. As a matter of fact, this type of dish is not a type of food I like. J’adore cela ! (I love it)
Les petits légumes farcis — Small Stuffed Vegetables
I find strange to think that the flavors I use the most in my cooking differ so much from the food traditions from Lorraine, the area I come from in France. I rarely crave charcuterie, or quiche lorraine, to name only a few specialities. Although my mum always had a hard time growing eggplants or peppers — lemons and oranges were out of the question — , she would always plant a lot of zucchinis, tomatoes, beans and salads. I was always curious to understand what could grow in our garden, and what couldn’t. To my questions, my mum would answer “Je n’ai pas une terre à carottes” (I don’t have a soil for carrots) or “il ne fait pas assez chaud pour faire pousser des poivrons” (it is not hot enough to grow peppers), and it is true that, although we still grew carrots, they always had funky-weird shapes. We actually missed a lot of the vegetables that are more typical of the South, which remain my favorites. Thinking about the smell of tarragon, oregano, les herbes de provence, or olive oil always reminds me of the South from Marcel Pagnol, with movies such as Le château de ma mère or La gloire de mon père. When I was a child, watching those movies was a real treat. It is the South of France that makes you want to move in a house on a hill, just right there.
A few days ago, I needed to run a quick errand at the vegetable market — and I intended to be quick, so as to prevent myself from buying many vegetables which would keep me tied to the hot stove for too many long hours. I needed a box or two of fresh berries to complete a started dessert experiment. I had no idea that while at the store, I would have to refrain myself from kissing the shop assistant, or sing and tell the lady next to me “Regardez, ca y est, ils en ont !“(look! they have some!) because this quick trip was going to make me so happy.
They were finally carrying round zucchinis. I had been on the lookout to find them for quite a while now. Every time I asked local vegetable producers whether they carried des courgettes rondes, I was given the “What are they? No, we don’t grow that type of vegetable, sorry” answer. To my disappointment. And I wonder. Why is it that round zucchinis are such a popular, easy-to-find type of zucchini in France when it is so hard to find them here in the US. Does it have to do with the climate? Is it because they are harder to grow?
Although the variety I found was not exactly what I am more familiar with, I knew they would do. I picked 6 of them out of the small basket on display, 2 of each color: yellow, dark and light green. Vite, il n’en reste pas beaucoup ! (Quick, there are not many left!) I did not even take time to notice the price. On my way out to pay, the cashier looked at me and asked What are those? Not familiar with the product code, she had to walk away to get it. “Oh, cheap!,” she told me in a Spanish accent, as she typed it in the machine. Oui, bon marché ! Cheap indeed! For 6, I barely paid 86 cents. Didn’t they know they were gold to me?
While driving home, my head kept spinning with ideas on how to prepare them. I had been waiting for my sweet courgettes for so long that I probably could have chosen between at least 10 different ways to cook them. I decided to prepare une farce (stuffing) with black rice, and sautéed vegetables with flavors from the South of France I remembered: oregano, garlic, tomatoes, and yellow and red peppers. I also added prosciutto and parmesan. In one dish, I was able to combine two flavors of the world: China with the black rice, and the South of France with oregano. Imagination takes you anywhere.
Merci Anne !
- 6 round small zucchinis (squash)
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped red onion
- 1 cup cooked black rice*
- 2 slices prosciutto
- 1 oz grated parmesan
- 1/2 cup (minus 1 Tbsp) chicken stock
- 1 Tbsp sundried tomato paste
- 1 Tbsp chopped oregano
- 1 Tbsp chopped parsley
- 6 mini Roma tomatoes, corred, seeded and chopped, or 4 big ones.
- 1/2 cup mixed chopped yellow and red pepper
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
*The black rice I used comes from Northern China, and is also called Venere, and Forbidden Rice.
- Start by washing your zucchinis. Cut the top off, 1/2 inch from top. Keep them.
- With a pointy spoon (such as a grapefruit spoon), dig the zucchini flesh carefully out, making sure to not make a hole at the bottom. Chop it thinly.
- Cook your black rice in salted boiling water, according to the instructions on your package. (mine cooked in about 18 mns). Set aside.
- Take a large frying pan and heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil. When hot, add the garlic, red onion and chopped zucchinis, and cook for a few mns.
- Add the peppers, then the tomatoes and sundried tomato paste. Mix well and cook for a few more mns on medium heat, until softer.
- Chop the prosciutto slices and add them to the preparation.
- Remove the vegetable preparation from the heat and place it in a bowl.
- Add the rice, the chopped herbs and mix together.
- Add the parmesan (keep a little extra to top over the vegetable filling, before covering with the zucchini tops).
- Take a baking dish and oil it. Place the hollow zucchinis in it, and season with salt, pepper and a dash of olive oil.
- Fill them with the vegetable preparation.
- Sprinkle some parmesan on top and place the zucchini tops over.
- Add a splash of olive oil on each.
- Pour the chicken stock in the dish, around the zucchinis.
- Place the dish in a preheated oven at 350 F, and cook for about 1 hour.
- While the vegetables are cooking, keep them moist by pouring chicken stock regularly.
- Serve les petites courgettes farcies with a nice salad
You might have some vegetable filling leftover, but truly, this is ok! It is great on its own!
Le coin français
- 6 petites courgettes rondes
- 4 gousses d’ail, écrasées et émincées
- 1/2 oignon rouge, émincé
- 150 g de riz noir cuit*
- 2 tranches de prosciutto
- 30 g de parmesan râpé
- 100 ml de bouillon de poule
- 1 càs de pâte de tomates séchées
- 1 càs d’origan haché
- 1 càs de persil haché
- 6 petites tomates Roma, épépinées et détaillées en petits dés, ou 4 grandes.
- 1/4 de poivron jaune et 1/4 de poivron rouge coupés en petits cubes
- Huile d’olive
- Sel et poivre
*Le riz noir que j’ai utilisé vient de Chine du Nord, et est aussi connu sous le nom Venere, ou Riz interdit.
- Commencez par laver vos courgettes. Coupez un chapeau, à 1 cm du haut. Conservez-les.
- Avec une cuillère pointue (cuillère à pamplemousse), creusez délicatement les courgettes pour en retirer la chair, en faisant attention de ne pas percer le fond. Découpez-la en petits dés.
- Cuisez votre riz noir dans de l’eau bouillante salée, en suivant les instructions sur votre paquet (le mien a cuit en 18 mns). Gardez de côté.
- Prenez une grande poêle et chauffez 2 càs d’huile d’olive. Lorsqu’elle est chaude, ajoutez l’ail, l’oignon rouge et les dés de courgettes, et faites cuire pendant quelques mns.
- Ajoutez les poivrons, puis les tomates avec la pâte de tomates séchées. Mélangez bien et poursuivez la cuisson sur feu moyen, jusqu’à ce que les légumes soient tendres.
- Coupez les tranches de prosciutto en petits bouts et ajoutez-les à votre préparation.
- Poursuivez la cuisson pendant 2 mns, puis retirez du feu. Placez la préparation dans un bol.
- Ajoutez le riz, les herbes hachées, et mélangez.
- Ajoutez le parmesan (gardez-en un peu pour saupoudrer la farce, avant de remettre le chapeau sur les courgettes.
- Prenez un plat allant au four et huilez-le. Placez-y les courgettes vides que vous salez, poivrez et arrosez d’un filet d’huile d’olive.
- Remplissez-les de la farce.
- Saupoudrez de parmesan et couvrez-les de leur chapeau.
- Arrosez d’un filet d’huile d’olive.
- Versez les bouillon de poule dans le plat, autour des courgettes.
- Enfournez au four préchauffé à 180 C, et cuisez pendant 1 heure.
- Aspergez les courgettes avec du bouillon en cours de cuisson.
- Servez les petites courgettes farcies avec une salade verte
Il se peut qu’il vous reste de la farce. C’est délicieux tout seul !