Zucchini flowers, or squash blossoms are something you occasionally find at the market during summer (there are still some left now at the beginning of autumn over here in Greece). Because of their bright colors, subtle flavor and short availability, I find them a real treat! Moreover, there is just something really fun about eating flowers, am I right?
Unfortunately, the blossoms have a very short shelf life and you will need to use them fairly quickly after purchasing them. Because of this short shelf life, and some bad planning on my part, I sometimes have to add them to dishes they don’t necessarily belong in (but maybe should belong in!). And so it happened that one day these brightly coloured flowers ended up in this ‘white giouvetsi’… turns out this was a very happy ‘accident’!
Giouvetsi (γιουβέτσι) is a Greek casserole with meat, or seafood and small pasta baked together in the same dish.Giouvetsi is usually made with a Greek type of pasta called kritharaki (κριθαράκι), which looks a lot like Italian orzo, but apparently differs slightly in size – kritharaki is often larger – and in the type of wheat used to make it. These slight differences make this type of pasta a bit better for slow-cooked meals such as this one here. Honestly, though, orzo will probably do just fine in this dish as well. The main point is not to really cook the pasta al dente as you usually would, rather, it should be silky and soft almost like a risotto, BUT without turning too mushy.
Usually, for giouvetsi the pasta and meat are cooked in a tomato sauce and in the meat juices released during cooking. However, I would call my giouvetsi here a ‘white giouvetsi’, I guess, as I did not add any tomato sauce, but only added some water and some white wine in order to really let the vegetables and meat shine through. I am not sure if omitting the tomato sauce means I can’t really call this a giouvetsi at all (is it really a key ingredient of this dish?). If so, call this a ‘giouvetsi-inspired baked orzo casserole’ instead, I suppose.
Should you stumble across this recipe outside of the summer months (Like now… since it’s already October as I’m writing this post…oops) and you find yourself unable to get zucchini blossoms, they can be replaced by thinly sliced, or grated pumpkin, or squash for a lovely autumnal dish!
‘White Giouvetsi’ with Goat and Zucchini Blossoms (or Baked Orzo)
- 800g – 1kg goat shank
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 25g butter
- 2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
- 200g carrot, grated
- 6 garlic cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- 8 allspice berries
- 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
- 15g flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 250ml dry white wine
- 500ml water + 250ml extra
- Bundle of zucchini blossoms
- 300g Kritharaki, or orzo
- Salt to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Feta (optional)
- Preheat your oven to 180°C.
- In the meantime, heat a Dutch oven on medium-high heat. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil and brown the goat meat on all sides. Transfer meat onto a plate.
- In the same Dutch oven, or pot melt the butter. Add grated carrot, diced onion, bay leaf, rosemary, all spice berries, garlic cloves, and salt and pepper to taste. Sauté until the vegetables start to soften and brown.
- Deglaze the pot with 250ml white wine. When the alcohol has evaporated, add 500ml of water and return the goat meat to the pot with vegetables and spices.
- Put the lid on the Dutch oven and place in the pre-heated oven for 1.5 hours.
- When ready, remove the bay leaf and all-spice berries and transfer the other contents of the Dutch oven to a large oven dish (I suppose this step is mostly for aesthetic reasons, if you can’t be bothered, just leave everything in the Dutch oven and continue with the following steps).
- Add 300g kritharaki/orzo and about 250ml extra water (if necessary) to the oven dish. The pasta and vegetables should be just covered by the liquid. Stir to combine all ingredients, but keep the goat shank whole.
- Gently wash the zucchini blossoms and remove the pistil inside (you only eat the flower part). Most people also remove the stem and other green parts, but sometimes I just trim the slightly and keep them on to reduce the risk of damaging the flower. Place zucchini blossoms on top of the pasta and vegetable-mixture.
- Return the dish and its contents to the oven for another 25-30 minutes, or until the kritharaki/orzo has been cooked properly and soaked up most of the liquids.
- Serve hot with some feta cheese crumbled on top (optional)