“What If” Zucchini Picatta (Video Blog!)

By BOB ZIMORINO

“What if” are the two words every seasoned cook asks at one time or another. What if I don’t have any wine? What if I have pork but not chicken? What if I don’t eat meat but like the idea of a dish that has it? There are countless more.

This blog is about “What ifs”. Let’s start with “What if I don’t like or wish to have meat?”. For this dish, we’re substituting zucchini for chicken. Watch the approximately 2 minute video. It deals with one answer. Come back afterward and we’ll continue. If you didn’t see last weeks’ Chicken Picatta, you may want to watch it first.

Zucchini Picatta, who would have thunk it? The reason that I showed you this video is to give you an idea of how you can create hundreds of dishes. It starts with What If? Let’s start with Chicken Picatta.

  • Chicken breast
  • Mushrooms
  • Lemon
  • White wine
  • Parsley
  • Olive oil, clarified butter, flour, salt and pepper

What if you change the meat from chicken to pork? Or how about shrimp or scallops? Maybe a nice piece of halibut? How about taking the seafood theme up a notch and think about crab or lobster?

For those that are non-carnivorous by nature or choice, try the zucchini, other squashes, eggplant or any other vegetable that you have a fondness for. From leafy greens like spinach to broccoli try them and see what works.

I used Baby Portobello Mushrooms. What if you switched to white button (agaricus) mushrooms, or porcinis possibly. There are enoki and shitake, crimini and oyster mushrooms that are all delicious and easily available. How about using wild morels instead.

The point is, that everything that you do, changes the nature of the dish allowing you to make it your own. Let’s take it further, shall we?

If you don’t like butter, you can just use oil. I talk in the Chicken Picatta blog about blending oils to get the great flavor of olive oil and the higher smoke point of the regular and less expensive refined vegetable oils or safflower oil which has one of the highest smoke points. Grapeseed oil is often times touted for its’ higher smoke point but it isn’t really very different from light olive oils.

Even flour can change the nature of the dish. There are many alternative flour types available for those that are gluten intolerant, sorghum flour, corn flour, rice flour and potato flour to name a few.

If using rice flour you should be advised to use sweet rice flour (Mochiko in Asian markets) but don’t cook the butter just melt it. Most rice flour is made from medium and long grain rice. Sweet rice comes from short grain or sticky rice. Some refer to sweet rice as glutinous rice. The odd thing is that it is gluten free and not really sweet. It does however have a higher starch content that makes it work well as a thickener. Potato flour also known as potato starch also works well.

Supposing you don’t drink white wine or any alcohol?  You can leave out the lemon and use a red wine or a marsala (a Sicilian dessert wine). Here is a great tip for you when using red wine or marsala. Blend them with either some beef stock at a ratio of one to one.

With marsala, you can leave the stock out and then sauté some onions, shallots and garlic, add the marsala and reduce it down by half over medium heat. The sugars in the wine will give it more of a syrupy texture. Strain off thesolids.

What if you leave the lemon in and add another liquid like chicken stock. You have to be careful with chicken stock. If you create it from a base, watch your salt. Add some oregano and you have touched into a pure Mediterranean taste sensation.

What if you added lime instead of lemon and a little cilantro to give it more of a Mexican flavor?

What if? What if? What if?

These are the first steps to expanding on the initial dish by substituting other ingredients. Next week we will start adding to the dish bringing in a whole host of other options.

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Read Bob’s previous blogs in this series: Chicken Picatta (VIDEO BLOG)  The Art of Sauté, Part One, The Art of Sauté, Part Two, The Art of Saute, Part Three, and Big Louie and the Dinner Crew.

Visit the “Taste It” archive or check out Bob’s recipes.

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Bob Zimorino is a full-time real estate agent with Lambros/ERA Real Estate, a retired Certified Executive Chef, a musician with the popular local band Mudfoot and the Dirty Soles, a dad, and a grandpa. He shares the experiences from his life that helped shape his careers and hobbies. His weekly “Taste It” blog is his take on the evolution of food in hislifetime.