Shrimp and Garden Vegetable Filling

Make 6 first-course or lunch servings

This wonderful filling made with shrimp, a few vegetables, and just a little heat from hot red pepper flakes is used to stuff tiny calamari–calamaretti–at Ristorante Romano in Viareggio. It is also great as a stuffing for vegetables like zucchini and tomatoes and as a filling for pasta. Or make little patties, coat in dried bread crumbs, and cook as if making crab cakes. Best if the filling is made a day in advance to give the ingredients a chance to marry and develop better flavor.

  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon pure olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sliced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 pound green zucchini, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 pound yellow zucchini, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 medium carrot, grated
  • Fine sea salt
  • 2 to 3 large garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
  • 1 pound large (16-20 per pound) shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 cups fresh bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Heat 2 tablespoons of the pure olive oil with the sliced garlic in a large sauté pan over medium heat until it starts to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the hot pepper flakes, swirl in the oil, and immediately add the zucchini and carrot. Stir from time to time until the vegetables are soft and begin to break apart, about 20 minutes. The mixture should be fairly dry at this point. Season with salt. Spread the mixture on a baking to sheet to cool.

In the same pan, heat another 2 tablespoons of the oil with the crushed garlic cloves over medium heat. Gently shake and tilt the pan so the cloves are immersed and sizzling at one side of the pan in a pool of the oil. As the garlic starts to turn golden, lay the pan flat on the burner, then add the shrimp. Sauté until opaque but still tender, about 2 minutes. Season with salt. Deglaze the pan by adding the wine and scrape any bits with a wooden spoon from the bottom of the pan. Transfer the shrimp and residual cooking liquid to the baking sheet next to the vegetables.

When the mixture has cooled, working in 2 batches, pulse the shrimp in a food processor to break them down into small pieces without pureeing. You can also do this by hand with a chef's knife. Transfer to a bowl and combine with the vegetables. Adjust the seasoning. Mix in the egg yolk, bread crumbs, and basil. The mixture should be fairly dry and should hold together. Make the mixture up to a day in advance and refrigerate to give the flavors a chance to develop.

Copyright © 2009 by Chef David Shalleck
Adapted from the book Mediterranean Summer by David Shalleck, published by Broadway Books, a division of Random House, Inc.