Flan di zucchine is a typical dish from Piemonte that we enjoyed at Due Lanterne in Nizza Monferrato. It is a savory flan (pudding) filled with zucchini and served with a lukewarm tomato salsa, basil, and extra virgin olive oil. This dish can also be prepared with other vegetables, and is generally called flan di verdure. To recreate this at home, I looked in “La cucina del Piemonte” by Giovanni Goria. His recipe does not provide any quantities, but advises to make the flan with besciamella, eggs, and parmigiano, and so that is what I did. I had to experiment a little to find the right quantities.
Although this dish is best prepared in summer when tomatoes and zucchini are at their best, if like me most zucchini and tomatoes you can find are coming from the greenhouse around the year anyway, you can make it in any season to bring a bit of summer to your table. It is very suitable for a dinner party, as it can be prepared completely in advance and can be served at room temperature.
2 zucchini (you will need between 500 and 600 grams of julienned zucchini)
160 ml (2/3 cup) milk
20 grams (1 1/2 Tbsp) butter + more for greasing the ramekins
20 grams (2 Tbsp) flour + more for the ramekins
60 grams (2 oz) freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
freshly grated nutmeg
extra virgin olive oil
4 ripe tomatoes
plenty of fresh basil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Start by making a besciamella (white sauce) using 160 ml milk, 20 grams butter, and 20 grams flour, using my instructions.
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F.
Remove the seeds from the zucchini and cut the zucchini into fine julienne. Alternatively, use a spiralizer, and chop the zucchini ribbons into pieces of about 5 cm (2 inches).
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan, and add the zucchini.
Stir fry the zucchini over high heat until it starts to turn golden, then turn off the heat.
Drain the zucchini to get rid of excess liquid, then season with salt and allow the zucchini to cool somewhat.
Add 4 eggs and 60 grams freshly grated parmigiano to the besciamella, which should have cooled off sufficiently by now to avoid cooking the eggs prematurely.
Whisk to mix.
Add a dash of freshly grated nutmeg, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Add the zucchini to the egg mixture…
…and stir to mix. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Grease ramekins with butter and then dust them with flour.
Ladle the zucchini mixture into the prepared ramekins, then place the ramekins in an oven dish that is filled with hot water such that the water level is about 1 cm (1/2 inch) beneath the rim of the ramekins.
Bake the ramekins in the preheated oven at 200C/400F until set, about 20 minutes. This technique of baking submerged in hot water is called au bain marie, which ensures more even and gentle heat distribution.
Turn the tomatoes into concassé while the ramekins are baking, as described in this recipe.
Warm up the tomatoes to lukewarm over very low heat. Do not cook the tomatoes; this only serves to bring out their flavor.
Take the ramekins out of the oven…
…and run a knife around the sides of the ramekins to ensure that the flan will come out nicely.
Put a plate on each ramekin and then turn over the plate.
The flan should fall right out. If not, you may need to shake a little. Remove the ramekin.
Arrange the tomatoes around the flan. Drizzle with very good extra virgin olive oil, and garnish with plenty of basil. The flan can be served warm or at room temperature.
This is very nice with a Gavi di Gavi, a dry white wine from Piemonte. A more festive option is an Alta Langa, which is made in the same way as Champagne, but from Piemonte.
Sometimes the inspiration for a dish comes from a wine that I wanted to drink with it. This dish started with a 2004 Barbaresco that I knew would work well with duck breast and a red wine reduction. Barbaresco works well with earthy flavors, and I saw chanterelle mushrooms at the market. And so this dish of duck breast with a red wine reduction and chanterelle mushrooms was born.