Market Flavours: Zucchini Blossoms

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Rialto market - zucchini flowersI’ve only cooked zucchini blossoms once before, when I was in cooking school in Tuscany about 10 years ago for my Best Vacation Ever; there, we inserted a leaf of sage and (optionally) an anchovy into each flower, dipped them in a light egg batter, and deep-friend them. Yum.

Fresh squash and zucchini blossoms have not been that common in markets here until the past couple of years, so I haven’t been tempted to try them again, but I started seeing them at the new St. Andrew’s Farmers’ Market in my neighbourhood, and finally took the plunge on Saturday and bought some. If you grow zucchini or squash yourself, you can harvest the blossoms from the plants instead; I’ve never tried this, but apparently if you pick the flower close to the base, the fruit will continue to develop.

I had planned to make these for dinner on Saturday night, but after a busy day working the volunteer booth at the market then sailing with a friend in the afternoon, I held off and included them on the menu for Pat’s long lunch on Sunday. While I was at the Cheese Boutique picking up the mozzarella di bufala for the caprese salad, I also grabbed a container of their incredibly good ricotta fresca to use as a stuffing for the flowers. I searched around for a recipe online, and settled on this one as a starting point. I packed the flowers and the ricotta in the thermos bag for Pat’s, and counted on her garden and kitchen to fill in the blanks.

Stuffed zucchini flowersPreparation was pretty easy: I removed the stamen from each flower by spreading the petals, sticking my finger in, and carving it out a fingernail. These were definitely male flowers (pictures here show the difference), which apparently don’t produce great fruit anyway so are often picked for the flowers instead. Lots of pollen under my nails, but quick work; removing the stamen is optional, but I wanted more room inside for the filling. I grabbed a handful of sage and chives from Pat’s garden, and my sister Betty mixed the chopped herbs with the ricotta, along with a dash of cinnamon (no nutmeg to be found, but this worked out just fine) and some black pepper. She loaded the filling into a small ziploc bag and cut a hole in the corner, then I held each flower open while she piped the filling in: note that this is definitely a two-person job, especially if you’re already a few glasses of wine into the afternoon. As each was filled, I pressed the petals closed around the filling. We had filling left over, but ate it later as a dip with crackers, so nothing was wasted.

I made a thin crepe-like batter by whisking a few spoons of flour and enough club soda to reach the right consistency, heated about 1/4” of cooking oil in a deep cast iron frying pan, then fried each of the blossoms for a few minutes on each side until browned. I put them on paper towels to drain, and we ate them while they were still warm. They were really delightful: the fresh taste of the flowers, the slight crunch of the batter, and the creamy yet light filling really came together well.

Now that I’ve tried these at home, I’ll be trying them again. I’ll try the fried sage and anchovy version that we made in Tuscany, and @peregrinatrix said that she stuffed them with goat cheese, chives and olive oil, then roasted them in the oven for 15 minutes, which also sounds very deserving of a trial.

Zucchini blossoms are available at Bosco Farms at the St. Andrew’s Farmers’ Market, every Saturday until October 31st, rain or shine, 9am-1pm. The market is on Adelaide Street West at Maud, about halfway between Spadina and Bathurst.

2 Comments

  1. Alexandra says:

    mmm, I definitely need to get some more zucchini blossoms next time I’m at the market.

    I filled mine using a tiny little spoon (one of those espresso spoons) and it worked well….

    thanks for the ideas!!

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