Sunday, August 31, 2008
Fried Zucchini Flowers
I know I just posted a zucchini recipe, but the season is almost gone for these fragile, delicate-tasting blossoms, so you've got to move fast if you want to try them this year. When we lived in Italy, we saw them at markets everywhere, but they're not so easy to find in U.S. stores. Farmers' markets are your best bets, unless you've got your own garden. And if you don't have a vegetable plot, once you've tasted these, you'll want to start digging - or make friends with someone who does have a garden.
My favorite way to eat these beauties is to stuff them with mozzarella cheese and a sliver of an anchovy, then dip into a batter and deep fry.
They are wickedly good prepared this way, but I limit myself to this indulgence only once a year, since they're also wickedly caloric too. If you find yourself with an abundance of blossoms and don't want to go the deep-frying route, you can slice them into thin strips and add them to omelets, frittatas, even a risotto.
Fried Zucchini Flowers, two ways
For each of these recipes, soak the zucchini blossoms in water to get rid of any garden pests that might be lurking in the crevices. On the other hand, if you miss one here or there, a little more protein won't be so bad.
Lift the blossoms from the water carefully, then dry on a paper towel. Carefully spread open the petals and with a flick of a finger, remove the pistol inside.
12 zucchini flowers
1 large ball mozzarella cheese
1 small tin anchovies
Slice the mozzarella into sticks and gently insert one piece of cheese and one small sliver of anchovy into the flower (you can omit the anchovy but it does add a nice zing). Dip into batter and deep fry in hot oil.
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
Mix the cheeses, then very gently, using a demitasse or small teaspoon, insert a portion of the filling into the flower. If you are adept at using a piping bag, use that instead of a spoon, since the flowers tear easily. But even if they do rip a little, don't worry since the batter will coat them sufficiently to hide any rips. Dip into batter and fry in hot oil.
I have tried several different batter recipes, including a beer batter, but this one works best:
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt
Just mix enough flour (one cup is plenty for a dozen blossoms) and enough sparkling water until you get a mixture that's the consistency of pancake batter. It's best to let it sit at least 15 minutes to help make it smoother. Dip the flowers into the batter, and deep fry in hot oil. I use a cast-iron skillet and fill it about 1/2 full with canola oil. I also use the burner on my outdoor gas grill, which helps to keep the kitchen spatter-free. Drain on paper towels and eat immediately.