I have Bobby Flay to thank for this one, but not in the way that you think. Zucchini blossoms have been one of my culinary obsessions, like truffles, figs and mizithra cheese. It kills me that I lived in Southern California for the first 18 years of my life and didn’t grow these myself. Now, they are one of those things I look for at markets and hope to see on restaurant menus in the summertime.
I still haven’t found a source for them here in Florida (if only I could garden in my condo!), but last week, Mike saw good old Bobby Flay giving the macho grill treatment to some gorgeous zucchini blossoms. While stuffing his blossoms with a ridiculous pork mixture (those blossoms must have been on steroids), Flay mentioned that zucchini flowers, like everything else nowadays, can be ordered via the internet.
Knowing how I’ve yearned for zucchini blossoms of my own, Mike called and told me the news, and we googled until we found an organic produce source in California. I have never ordered produce online before, much less paid to have an out-of-season, perishable food overnighted to my kitchen. It kind of goes against my principles, but there was no turning back. We were planning our pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving dinner, and we knew that delicate zucchini flowers, stuffed with a seasoned ricotta filling, lightly battered and pan-fried would be a perfect appetizer. These could not have turned out better. We hoped they would be good, but these lovely blossoms were totally worth going to extreme measures for. I guess I really have Mike to thank for this one. Sorry, Iron Chef Flay...
If you don’t reside in warmer climes, save this recipe for summer, and absolutely enjoy it with champagne.
Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms
The method used here of beating the egg white until stiff peaks form, then folding in the beaten yolk is a genius trick that we learned from Saveur magazine when Mike made chiles rellenos. It makes the batter light, crisp and helps it adhere to the blossoms.
½ c. ricotta cheese
2 tblsp. fresh basil, chopped
5 to 6 sun-dried tomato halves, packed in oil, chopped
2 tblsp. parmigiano reggiano, grated
¼ tsp. coarse salt
½ tsp. pepper
12 zucchini blossoms
2 eggs, separated
½ c. flower
salt and pepper
½ tsp. cayenne pepper or chili powder
Canola oil, for frying (I use Spectrum expeller-pressed)
In a bowl, combine the ricotta, basil, sun-dried tomatoes, parmigiano reggiano, salt and pepper.
Gently pry open the zucchini blossoms or cut a slit on one side to open. With your fingers, stuff about 2 tsp. of the ricotta mixture into each blossom. Twist the tips of the petals to close. You will have leftover ricotta.
Using a hand mixer, beat the egg whites until foamy and somewhat stiff. Lightly beat the yolks and fold them into the whites. Put the flour into a shallow bowl and season with salt, pepper and cayenne. Dip one zucchini blossom into the egg mixture, then into the flour, coating it well all over. Set the blossom on a plate and proceed with the rest of the blossoms.
Meanwhile, heat about ¼ to ½ inch of canola oil in a heavy skillet (I use cast iron) to medium high. The oil needs only to cover the zucchini blossoms about half way. Add six of the zucchini blossoms to the skillet and fry until golden, then turn with a spatula and fry the opposite sides. Watch closely as the first side takes 2-4 minutes and the second side slightly less. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain and fry remaining zucchini blossoms in the same oil. Serve immediately. No accompaniments are needed other than a glass of sparkling wine.