You Say Zucchini, and I Say Involtini

Last weekend, I actually had a chance to enjoy one of my favorite pastimes: sitting on the front porch, glass of wine in hand, flipping through my favorite magazine from cover to cover. No projects, no chores, no errands – just some sun, some wine and some peace and quiet – how delightful, how rare! My favorite magazine (shocking though it may seem) is Food & Wine. More approachable than Gourmet and more down-to-earth than Bon Appetit, Food & Wine is, to me, the perfect mix of kitchen tips, culinary news and delicious recipe ideas. That is of course, beside the fact that I would give my right arm to work for Food & Wine… Dining out at ritzy restaurants, hobnobbing with the culinary elite, freely sampling the latest top-of-the-line kitchen appliances and writing about this one time that I was invited on a two week Provencal culinary tour by my old friend and colleague, Daniel Boulud… Ahem. Back to reality. On with the article.

Garden tomatoes

During my wine-and-magazine session on the porch, I read an article on the Missoni family of haute couture fame. They’ve recently opened a hotel in Edinburgh, Scotland, and the hotel’s restaurant, Cucina Missoni, features some of the family’s favorite recipes. One of the recipes that caught my eye was the Eggplant Involtini: grilled eggplant rolled with green beans tossed in a sundried tomato paste, all topped with a goat cheese vinaigrette. Sounds complicated, I know – but with only seven ingredients (along with some olive oil, salt and pepper), these involtini are so simple, even kids can help make them. The recipe inspired me to try my own version, using ingredients from my garden.

I started with an obscenely large zucchini from the back yard, and sliced it lengthwise into strips and grilled them with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. While the zucchini was grilling, I made a spicy rice using Rotel tomatoes, garden vegetables, a little garlic, pungent Manchego cheese and cayenne pepper for an added kick. The addition of the cheese made the rice extra sticky, which helped it hold its shape when rolled up. With a dollop of rice on each of the zucchini strips, I gently rolled each one up and served them with some fresh salsa I’d made the day earlier.

Soft, smoky zucchini wrapped around oozy, cheesy spicy rice? Yes, please – with seconds. Enjoy!

Spicy Zucchini Rolls

2 large zucchini, sliced 1/8″ thick lengthwise
1 small yellow squash, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
Kernels from 1 large ear of corn
1 clove garlic, diced
1/2 c. white rice
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 can of tomatoes and green chiles (Rotel)
1/2 cup Manchego cheese, large chunks
2 Tbs. cilantro, chopped
Olive oil
Favorite Salsa

Light a grill. Lightly oil the zucchini strips and season them with salt and pepper. Over medium heat, grill the zucchini until softened and grill marks form, about 4 minutes per side. Remove from the grill and set aside.

Rolling the zucchini

In a medium saucepan, heat 1 Tb. olive oil over medium heat. Add the yellow squash, bell pepper and corn to the pan and sauté over medium heat until softened, about 5-7 minutes. Add the rice, garlic and cayenne to the pan, and cook 1 minute longer, stirring frequently. Add the can of Rotel and 1 cup of water, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and allow to cook for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Off the heat, add the chopped cilantro and Manchego cheese to the rice mixture and stir to combine. On a large cutting board or prep board, lay the zucchini strips side by side. Using a large spoon or small ice cream scoop, scoop the rice and cheese mixture onto the bottom of a zucchini strip and gently roll it up. Place the roll off to the side, seam side down, and repeat.

Top the zucchini rolls with your favorite salsa. Serve the rolls warm or at room temperature.

If the above slideshow doesn’t load, please visit the entire photo set at our Flickr page.

Laura Hobbs is a guest contributor for the Fayetteville Flyer. Born and raised in Fayetteville, Laura is a self-proclaimed foodie and avid cook. For more of Laura’s contributions, visit her author page.