Long squash with a taste of sicily


Recipe n. 24

A funny coincidence happened last week: I received two ‘super long funny looking squash’ from two different friends. They are typically  grown in Sicily around this time of year. It must have something to do with the meaning of my last name in sicilian dialect: ‘cucuzza which means zucchina’! We use the zucchina and its leaves when they are available (which are called tenerumi), to make  a simple yet deliciuos minestra which can be eaten hot or cold. I was sure that I would have never found them here in New York, but I was wrong. Apparently every wednesday at Carmine st. and Bleecker st. there is a local farmer who is selling them, along with delicious fruit and vegetables. I dedicate this recipe to my dear friend Amy, who cycled all the way to our place on her bicycle, together with her young son and the zucchina lunga siciliana. She was also very excited with the new discovery…not to mention that she had dressed the zucchina in a beautiful red silk ribbon! What more could one ask for?

Ingredients ( Serves 4)

  • 1 zucchina lunga siciliana
  • 1 white medium size onion,
  • 10 cherry tomatoes
  • 2 small potatoes,
  • 1 cup of vegetable broth (optional) or regular water
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese or pecorino romano
  • 5 fresh basil leaves
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • pinch of hot chilly pepper (optional)
  • Olive oil

1 cup of spaghetti (broken in small pieces) to cook separetly and then add to the minestra (optional)

Cut the 2 extremities of the zucchina, peel it and cube it. Try to get rid of most of the seeds, if you can. Rinse all the pieces and let them dry in a colander.In the meantime wash the tomatoes and cut them in half. Peel the potatoes and cut in small pieces (same size of the zucchina). Place  about 3  tbsps of olive oil in a  large pot and let the onion, previously chopped, cook for a few minutes together with the hot chilly pepper and the cherry tomatoes. As soon as they soften, crush them slightly with a wooden spoon and then add the zucchina lunga siciliana. After cooking for a few minutes at medium/high heat, take the hot chilly pepper out and lower the heat. Now add 1 cup of water (or broth). While it’s cooking, the zucchina will also release its own water contained in the vegetable. Let it cook at medium heat until the broth will be slightly evaporated and the zucchina will look tender and soft. Adjust with salt and pepper and add some chopped  basil leaves. Just before serving add some grated cheese to the minestra and a few spoons of cooked spaghetti , if you wish.

Let’s roast vegetables…


Recipe n. 16

Yesterday I went for a nice walk to the Farmers market. It’s such a pleasure walking around the market, especially this time of the year. The weather is perfect and the farmers have started to bring fresh and colorful fruit and vegetables to the market for the new season. I bought my first bunch of fresh organic basil, which I used later that day to make a delicious pesto sauce. I ‘m also going to use it for my next recipe. The smell was so strong it kept me happy all the way home. I also bought zucchini, shallots and bell peppers to roast and pour over a great dressing from ‘la cucina di mia madre’.


  • 3 medium sized zucchini
  • 3 bell peppers
  • 10 shallots peeled
  • 1 clove of garlic finely chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh mint chopped
  • Good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 F. In a medium sized pot bring water to a boil and blanch the shallots for about 3 minutes. Place the bell peppers and the shallots on 2 different baking dishes.  Season with salt and pepper and drizzle the onions with some olive oil.  Roast the peppers and the onions for about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the peppers cool down before peeling.  Slice the zucchini lengthwise to half an inch thick or less.  Preheat the grill (I use a cast iron roasting pan on my stove top) and place the zucchini and grill each side for about 4 minutes. Prepare the dressing in a large mixing bowl with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, mint, salt and pepper. Mix all the ingredients and dip the zucchini slices one at a time ensuring each piece absorbs the dressing well. Transfer the zucchini into a serving dish and pour the remaining dressing and garnish with mint on top.

Serve the vegetables with grilled rustic bread sprinkled with olive oil.