The first time I saw zucchini blossoms at the farmers market I thought they were pretty. “Hmm, edible flowers,” I thought. They were green and sunflower-yellow; the kind of bud you throw on salads at the last minute to give them a pop of color. When I overheard the purveyor tell a customer to batter and fry them, I was intrigued. Why would anyone fry a flower? The petals are so delicate, they couldn’t possibly produce much flavor. And so, that day at the market and for many years after, I never purchased zucchini blossoms. Yet, I was still intrigued because they never ceased to sell out whenever they were for sale.
When summer came around this year and I began to notice them at the market. I did some research on these seasonal gems and decided to finally try them for myself. I picked up a dozen along with some fresh herbs and ricotta cheese. Once home I whipped up a quick mixture of ricotta, chives, parsley, thyme, lemon zest, salt and pepper. I carefully peeled back each petal of each blossom and stuffed the middle with some of the ricotta mixture and twisted the tops of the petals shut. I heated a pan of oil and made a batter of flour, sparkling water, salt and pepper. I gave each stuffed blossom a dip in the batter and laid them in the sizzling oil.
Now, ricotta cheese is a wet cheese and I wish I would have remembered this when I began my cooking endeavor. About 15 seconds into frying, the ricotta began to seep out into the hot oil and popped like mad, all over the stove, all over my hands. Ouch. Sweating, I tried to flip each blossom over but with each “bite” of hot oil, my hand came shooting back to my side. It was only a (short) matter of time when I had to call HOB (husband of blogger) in to finish the job for me. A former marine and mechanic, he fears no oil, unlike pitiful me.
The blossoms really took no time at all to cook. After removing them from the pan to a bed of paper towels, I sprinkled each with kosher salt. I had read that fried zucchini blossoms do not like to sit around, and should be served immediately, so HOB and I stood by the sink and dove right in. I bit through the thin crunchy layer of fried batter into a soft, wicked hot pillow of cheese. The heat made tears come to my eyes, but after a few seconds of chewing open-mouthed, I noticed the delicate flavor of the blossoms. It did, indeed, taste like the most fresh, most delicious baby zucchini and the ricotta mixture was mild and delicately sweet, a perfect complement to the buds. By the time I ate my third, the blossoms were already cooling down and getting a little soggy, but were nonetheless, still very good. To drink, I think a chilled, dry rose or even a dry, sweet wine, like Ariana would be a wonderful counterpart to the delicate flavors of the zucchini blossoms. A red would no doubt overpower, and a dry white might even be a little too astringent for mildly sweet cheese. Because the blossoms should be eaten right away, I’m not sure I’d ever attempt them for a dinner party, but for a couple or a group of hungry people standing around the kitchen chatting, they are just perfect.
– Erica Martinez
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