I stumbled upon the book “Flavours from the French Mediterranean” some eighteen months ago, and have been in awe of the recipes created by three Michelin star chef, Gérald Passédat, (and beautifully photographed by Richard Haughton) from the first time I opened it.
Born in Marseille, and coming from a long line of artists and chefs, one cannot doubt that this is where Gérald Passédat found the grounding and inspiration for his future. With the location, the family background, the ability to see beauty in all that surrounded him. and a desire for things to be done well, it is not surprising that Gérald Passédat would aspire to become a 3 Michelin star chef.
Taking over the family restaurant, Le Petit Nice, from his father Jean-Paul, who was not only a chef, but also an opera singer, in 1985, must have been a huge honour but also a huge challenge… “It took me some time to see the treasure I had before my very eyes… By working on my basics – the wealth of the sea, the aridity of the Provencal region inland from the sea – and by heeding my instinct I forged my own culinary identity.”
I often have “Flavours from the French Mediterranean” open on my kitchen bench, like one would have a painting or photograph on display. But it is only in the past week that I built up the courage to try one of the recipes. Using fresh zucchini flowers, tomatoes, and herbs from the garden, as well as garlic and shallots that I had grown, I set about to make the dish Mozzarella-Stuffed Zucchini Flowers as set out on pages 38 and 39 of this wonderful book. I have to admit that I have made a few adaptations along the way, using fresh buffalo mozzarella, as well as some other products created in my kitchen. I replaced the tomato paste with tomato powder made from the dehydrated skins, pulp etc, left over from making tomato preserves,
and in place of normal sea salt, I used some of my flavoured salts, tomato and basil, as seasoning.
While the recipe sounds a little fiddly, it’s surprisingly simple, and it is absolutely delicious!
- 12 Zucchini Flowers
- 12 ripe roma tomatoes
- 2 shallots
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3 sprigs of time
- 2 tsps tomato paste
- Salt sugar and freshly ground black pepper to season
- 100 g buffalo mozzarella
- 250 g various heritage cherry tomatoes
- 1 small bunch of basil
- ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1 lemon
- Salt and pepper
Wash the Roma tomatoes, remove the stalks and cut a cross in the base of each one using a sharp knife. Immerse them in boiling water for 15-20 seconds, drain and then immediately plunge them into ice cold water. Drain again and remove the skins.
Quarter the tomatoes, remove the cores and scoop out the pulp and seeds. Set out two bowls and chop the flesh of four tomatoes, placing it, together with the pulp and seeds from all of the tomatoes into one bowl. Place the flesh of the other eight tomatoes into the other bowl.
Finely chop the shallots and garlic, and sweat them in a pan with the olive oil, add the combined tomato pulp, seeds and flesh, paste and thyme and simmer, covered for 20 minutes, season with salt, sugar and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Puree in a blender or food processor and then pass through a sieve. Discard any solids and set the sauce aside.
Cut a few small wedges from the mozzarella and set aside for decoration.
Dice the remaining mozzeralla and the reserved tomato flesh, then finely chop the basil leaves. Place into a bowl, add the parmesan and lemon zest, and season with salt and pepper,
Carefully open the zucchini flowers and remove the stamens and then, using a spoon, fill them with the stuffing, twisting the tops of the petals together to close.
Preheat the oven to 150˚C / 300˚F.
Wash the cherry tomatoes and cut them in half, season with a little salt and pepper, mix to combine and set half aside for decoration.
Arrange the stuffed flowers in a gratin dish, pour over the tomato sauce and scatter around the reamaining cherry tomatoes. Bake for 20 minutes.
When cooked, garnish with reserved mozzarella and cherry tomatoes and serve.
- Adapted from the recipe Mozzarella- Stuffed Zucchini Flowers, Passedat, G (2015) Flavours from the French Mediterranean, Flammarion, Paris, pp 38-39.
- You will need approximately one cup of sauce.
Having visited Marseille on one of our previous visits to France, and falling in love with this city,
I am very excited to be returning there later this year. And yes, I will tick off one of the items on my bucket list, and blowing the budget, to dine at the renowned Le Petit Nice. I cannot wait to write of my experience, providing a more detailed history of Le Petit Nice and the family along the way…
Until next time…
Bon appétit! & happy gardening.
- Passedat, G (2015) Flavours from the French Mediterranean, Flammarion, Paris.