It’s that time when summer’s deepest pleasures reveal themselves.
And the air is thick with ripe fruit and pungent herbs.
Take for example, these beautiful zucchini blossoms and basil – both were fresh as fresh can be from Vicki’s Veggies (thanks Baxter!) and Marvellous Edibles Farms at the Evergreen Brick Works Farmers’ Market today. And what better way to honour both ingredients at the height of the season than with Fiori di Zucca Fritti: Fried Stuffed Zucchini Flowers.
If you’ve never had these darlings before, I recommend you try one for the first time raw, the minute you purchase them or pluck them off the stem. Their flavour is zucchini-like but subtler and not at all bitter as larger squash can sometimes be. The texture is delightful and delicate.
While frying and stuffing zucchini blossoms arguably hides their subtle joys, this is an indulgent meal I can’t say no to. Some fried zucchini recipes call for a thick onion-ring-like batter, but I prefer a light coating to create a crispy edge around the soft cooked petal.
Here’s a very rough recipe for you based on what C. did this afternoon.
Fiori di Zucca Fritti: Fried Stuffed Zucchini Flowers
10 zucchini blossoms
2 cups ricotta cheese
1 handful of basil leaves
2 cups of rice flour
4 cups of carbonated soda water
1 teaspoon baking soda
oil for frying (organic grapeseed, peanut or canola, perhaps)
First things first, C. prepared the zucchini blossoms, dusting them off of any dirt. He then used tweezers to carefully remove the pollen-covered stamen that rests inside the male zucchini blossoms.
I’ve done some poking around and while most recipes call for the removal of the stamen, none indicate why they must be removed. I did find a few recipes that said it wasn’t necessary though (please let me know if you know!)
Tweezers were the tool du choix but you’ll have to be careful so as not to rip the delicate petals.
Setting the now-plucked zucchini blossoms aside, he then moved on to creating two mixtures: a simple ricotta-basil-lemon stuffing and a light batter for them to be dipped in before frying for a crispy finish (oh joy).
Put the ricotta in a medium-sized bowl. Add the basil, tearing it with your fingers to release the flavours (chopping bruises the leaf).
Add the zest and juice of the lemon.
Season with a healthy pinch or two of salt and a few turns of fresh pepper.
Stir the mixture together until well combined.
Time to make the batter. Please note that the quantities I provided were an estimate – you really have to use your discretion here. If you prefer a thicker batter (like an onion ring, perhaps), then you would use less liquid. Like I said before, I prefer a light coating, hence more liquid.
The process is simple – add the flour, baking soda and a good pinch of salt to a large bowl. Slowly stream in the soda, half a cup at a time until you get the desired consistency.
The end result should be smooth with no clumps – a whisk would do well in this situation.
Now it’s time to stuff the zucchini blossoms with your ricotta-basil-lemon mixture.
C. gently cupped each blossom and draped the top of the petals over his hand. He spooned in the ricotta-basil-lemon mixture and carefully pushed it down into the stem with the back of the spoon. Using a piping bag would also be a great idea…
My handsome chef, with the final stuffed blossoms.
Time to move to the stove for frying…
We used a large cast-iron, adding about a centimetre-tall layer of oil to the bottom. Heat the oil on medium and wait a few minutes. To test that it’s hot enough, drip a bit of the batter into the oil – it should sizzle and start to fizz and cook.
Take one stuffed zucchini blossom and dip it into your flour batter. Slowly lower it into the hot oil (careful! It may splatter).
Use a slotted spoon or two forks to turn the blossom once the first side is crisp (tongs would likely be too rough…)
When both sides are crisp and the edges are golden, lift it out of the oil and place it on a plate with paper towel to soak up the excess oil. Sprinkle a little bit of extra salt on it while it’s hot.
Now taste it! Quickly before it gets soggy! This is your chance to adjust the seasoning of the batter if required.
Then, carry on and fry the rest in small batches so as not to overcrowd the pan.
Note C’s two-spoon-turn-technique…
You’ll have to try very hard not to eat them right as they come out…
We tossed in some of the regular zucchini and young green beans too…
And made a simple fresh salad to go with the luscious fried bits.
If it pleases you, enjoy with a squeeze of fresh lemon.
And that’s that! I hope you find yourself some zucchini blossoms to experiment with. They are delightful fun.