Summer time… and the squash blossoms are blooming.
Of all the edible flowers – nasturtium, borage, rose, pansy, sage – I think zucchini blossoms are the most elegant and delicious. I try to image the first time a chef or home cook discovered these beauties and decided to fill them with ricotta cheese and fry them in extra virgin olive oil. Yum. What a great idea.
Summer squashes showed up in Italian kitchens in the mid-1500’s and zucchini entered several decades later. The word zucchini came into being as a diminutive form of zucca or pumpkin. At first, it was the name for a dried gourd used to store tobacco. Later, the word zucchini was adopted for the green tubular summer squash. For a much more thorough treatment of the zucchini and its history, have a look at this.
Where to get the blossoms??
The most difficult part of this recipe is acquiring the zucchini blossoms here in California. When I was in Italy, the blossoms were a regular item at farmer’s markets, just another common summer offering like watermelon or tomatoes. Back in the USA, where they seem to be much harder to come by, I have been on the lookout for these delicate summer blossoms. Last week, my favorite vendor at the farmer’s market had a box full of zucchini, some with the flowers still attached. Bingo!
The zucchini blossoms that so kindly gave of themselves for this photo and recipe, came from Preston Farm, a biodynamic farm in Sonoma County. I have been helping out, pulling weeds and harvesting veggies, just to have a chance to observe a biodynamic farm in action. As an added perk, when I was picking strawberries last week, lo and behold, there were several clusters of volunteer zucchini nestled among the strawberries, with bright yellow blossoms, mouths open reaching toward the sky like baby birds waiting for mama to bring food. I gently picked the blossoms and felt very blessed. Needless to say, I cleared my calendar and spent the afternoon making stuffed zucchini blossoms.
Elegant Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms
A Classic Italian Delicacy.
- 8 zucchini blossoms
- 6 ounces ricotta cheese
- 4 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
- 1 large egg, separated
- 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley, loosely packed
- 1/2 cup flour
- olive oil for frying
- To prepare zucchini blossoms, carefully rinse the blossoms under cool running water and lay on paper towels to dry. Gently reach inside and pull out the stamen or pistil, remove the stem and discard.
- In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, Parmigiano, egg yolk and parsley. Mix until uniform.
- One by one, fill the zucchini blossoms with cheese filling. If you have a pastry bag, use a large round pastry nozzle to squeeze the filling into the blossom. If you don’t have a pastry bag, you can use a slender spoon to feed the filling into the blossom. Either way, it is a delicate process, so take care not to tear the tender petals. Fill each blossom a bit more than halfway, so you have room to twist the ends. which holds in the filling while cooking.
- Whisk the egg white in a medium bowl.
- Dump the flour on a plate.
- Using your fingers or a spoon, first coat each blossom in egg white and then dredge in flour.
- Heat 3 Tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet and lay a few paper towels on a plate to drain the oil after frying.
- Lay the blossoms in the heated oil and cook for 2-3 minutes until slightly browned. Using a spoon or tongs, turn blossoms halfway through cooking. Remove from pan and lay on paper towels to drain. Hint: Keep an eye on the blossoms as they cook. Each stove-top and every skillet is slightly different, so keep a close watch to make sure the blossoms don’t burn and are cooked evenly to a crunchy light brown. – Enjoy as an antipasto with a light white wine. – Bonus idea: When I asked the vendor at the farmer’s market how he prepares zucchini blossoms, he said he slices them thinly and sautes them in butter. Then he puts them on scrambled eggs or on top of his favorite vegetable. This is truly delicious.