Monday, September 8, 2014

Garden to Table

In my opinion one of the most underused parts of vegetable plants in the U.S. is the zucchini flower - I'd bet that many Americans don't even realize that zucchinis are flowering plants, let alone cook with them. Over in Italy they have the right idea, stuffing and frying squash blossoms galore, and they are just. heavenly. (I mean really how bad is anything when it's stuffed with cheese and deep-fried?) So when I saw the unpicked flowers at my work's kitchen garden, all alone and abandoned among the weeds, I knew I had to take them home with me. And stuff them and devour them. Here's how I did it:

1) Pick the blossoms. This is the obvious first step in the process, and you may ask, "really how hard can that be?" But it's important to know which blossoms to pick: apparently there are male and female flowers, the female being able to cross-pollinate to create more plants, so if you pick them all then no more zucchinis. Which would be sad. You can tell the difference between the two because the females have little bulbs sort of bulging at the base of the blossoms, where the petals connect with the stems. So I picked only male bulbs (though I heard a rumor that the females taste even better), careful to avoid the little prickles on the stems as I cut the flowers. It's best to store the blossoms in the fridge immediately and cook them that day, to best enjoy their freshness.

2) Clean the blossoms, rinsing and drying them gently, and then fill the petals with ricotta. I made a mixture using a cup of part-skim ricotta, lemon zest, fresh thyme, salt and pepper - simple and easy. Getting the mixture into the flowers was a little trickier, requiring small utensils to spoon a few teaspoons of cheese into each, closing the petals gently with fingers to keep it from spilling out.

3) Heat some frying oil in a heavy skillet - I used canola - and make the frying batter. Again I kept it really simple, whisking some all-purpose flour into beer until the batter was about the color of peanut butter and the texture of a wet paste. I used my friend's homemade lager, which gave the batter a nice subtle flavor - I probably used about a cup of flour to half a bottle of beer, whisking out the lumps, but I didn't measure it exactly. It's more about getting the batter to the right consistency, which I find is easiest to just eyeball it.

4) Dredge the stuffed blossoms into the batter and then drop into the frying pan, submerging them in the oil. They only take a few minutes to cook, the petals are so delicate and fine, so once the coating turns a light golden brown they're ready to come out and drain on a paper towel. Then sprinkle with a little sea salt and serve warm!

No comments:

Post a Comment