The smaller and more delicate the vegetable, the more desirable
it is, even though summer is the time when giant squash bloat up
in back yards across the land in a misguided effort to show that
bigger is better. But all summer squash are at their best when young
and tender, barely out of the blossom. In fact many people think
zucchini taste best before they even really become zucchini, while
still in flower form.
Zucchini are alternately scorned and praised for their ability
to grow to enormous size. The time to pounce on your zucchini plant
is before it assumes sci-fi monster proportions, while the plant
is still decked out with its flowers and the first tiny baby squashes
have appeared. Manage your zucchini crop properly, and it becomes
a long-yielding vine of pure delight, first offering up tender-crisp
blossoms and then a hefty crop of delicious squash, picked young
In the heart of a zucchini flower the petals are sunshine yellow,
crisp and deeply veined. Female flowers have a waxy green pistil.
Male flowers sport golden-dusted pollen on dancing ovate stamens
and grow on long stems, ideal for dipping and frying; they should
be the first to be sacrificed to the pan. Search the vines daily
for the miniature squash still bedecked with the female flower.
Zucchini (cucurbitaceae) are simple, user-friendly plants: easy
to grow, unassuming, often volunteering year after year in unlikely
corners of the garden. Given room to spread, decent soil and plenty
of sunshine, a healthy plant will bloom prolifically, sprouting
dozens of large flowers. Left unchecked, the plant will self-pollinate
and begin to grow cute little squashes. Turn your back, (or go away
on vacation) and they will grow with amazing speed into gnarled,
hard-husked zeppelins. Amusing, but inedible-fit only to leave on
the neighbor’s porch after dark.
About Zucchini Flowers
Zucchini flowers make their annual appearance starting in mid-May,
and are readily available through late summer. They should be used
as soon after picking as possible.
For stuffing, pick the flowers in the cool of morning. If you’re
buying them, the flowers should be perky and fresh as a bouquet,
not limp or tired.If the stems fall off easily, the flowers are
past their prime; fine for sautéing, but not for stuffing.
Discard any that are slimy.
Do not wash the flowers until you are ready to use them. If you
must store them for a day or two, layer with dampened paper towels
in a wide, flat storage container. Top with a last layer of paper
towels and lay a clean kitchen towel over the top, and refrigerate.
Do not wrap tightly in plastic wrap or plastic bags; the flowers
have to breathe. If the flowers get too wet or cold, they will turn
into a slimy mess.
If the flowers are closed, gently open one side with the tip of
a sharp knife.
Remove the stamens and pistil with your fingers or a knife.
Fill a bowl with heavily salted cold water (about ½ cup
kosher salt to a half gallon of water.) Gently swish the opened
flowers in the salted water and shake off excess water. Carefully
examine the flower, inside and out, for hitch-hiking insects. Drain
on towels, lightly covered with more towels to prevent wilting.
Resist the urge to spin them dry. Proceed with your recipe.
Zucchini Flowers ‘Fritti”
Italians love zucchini blossoms and use them in risottos, pastas,
stuffing– or simply dipped in this simple batter and shallow-fried.
Vegetable oil for frying
Wash and pat dry the zucchini flowers. Pour a quarter-inch of oil
into a heavy sauté pan and turn on medium heat. Use a whisk
to combine the flour with cold water until it is as thick as heavy
cream. Dip the flowers into the batter and let all the excess drip
back into the bowl. Fry the fritters until crisp and golden brown.
Drain on paper towels a moment, sprinkle with salt and eat immediately.
Sauteed Baby Zucchini With Their Flowers
Make this with whole tiny, baby zucchinis, with the flowers still
attached. It is the very essence of early summer, at once earthy
and delicate. Use best quality olive oil. Serves 4.
¼ cup good olive oil
20 whole baby green zucchini with flowers still attached, cleaned
4 sprigs of dill, chives, parsley or a mixture, chopped
Ground black pepper
Prepare the baby zucchini. In a sauté pan just large enough
to hold the zucchinis without crowding, heat the oil over medium
high heat – do not allow to smoke.
Add the zucchinis and cook over medium-fast heat, shaking the
pan frequently, for two to three minutes (do not stir- stirring
will break off the flowers) or until the zucchinis are barely tender
when poked with a sharp knife.
Carefully remove to a serving dish, along with the oil. Sprinkle
generously with the salt, a few grinds of pepper and a scattering
of the herbs. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Mozzarella-Stuffed Zucchini Flowers With
Warm Tomato Sauce
This pretty much defines summertime hedonism: delicate zucchini
blossom fritters stuffed with gooey, stringy melted cheese and served
with a simple sauce of ripe tomatoes. Make the Warm Tomato Sauce
first and have it ready as you stuff, dip and fry the zucchini blossoms,
because you need to eat these as fast as they’re made.
20 large, very fresh zucchini blossoms, cleaned
12 ounces excellent mozzarella cheese (the stringy kind for cooking,
not fresh mozzarella) or Oaxacan-style cheese
2 egg whites, beaten to a froth
Warm Tomato Sauce (recipe follows)
Optional: A bowl of French or Italian black olives to be served
Cut the mozzarella cheese into sticks approximately two inches
long and a half-inch square, or cut so the sticks will fit neatly
inside the zucchini blossoms.
Tuck the cheese inside the blossom, and gently fold the petals
over to completely cover the cheese, giving the tips a twist like
a Hershey’s kiss. If you aren’t going to cook the fritters
immediately, refrigerate them covered with a paper towel.
In a heavy sauté pan, add enough oil to cover the bottom
of the pan with a layer ¼ inch deep. Heat the oil over medium
heat. While the pan is heating, scrub the inside of a metal bowl
and your whisk or metal beaters with a tablespoon of white vinegar
and a teaspoon of kosher salt. Rinse with hot water and dry with
a paper towel. Whip the egg whites to a white froth that is just
beginning to hold its shape (soft peak stage).
Hold each blossom by its stem and coat thoroughly with the egg
whites. Lay the blossom in the hot oil and cook until lightly golden
on all sides and the cheese is melted but not oozing hot. Serve
Warm Tomato Sauce
2 large roma tomatoes
2 unpeeled garlic cloves
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
Optional: three fresh basil leaves, finely shredded
Line a heavy pan, preferably cast iron, with a piece of foil wrap.
Turn the heat on medium-high. Cut the stem end out of the tomatoes
and set the tomatoes and garlic cloves on top of the foil in the
pan. Roast the garlic on both sides until it is toasted, and remove
from the pan. Continue to roast the tomatoes until they are blackened
on all sides and beginning to soften. Bundle the foil around the
tomatoes and lift out of the pan; cool. Reserve all juices.
Cool the garlic and peel it. Drop the garlic into a food processor
and pulse until finely chopped. Add the tomatoes and any juices
that have escaped, and pulse into a chunky puree. Remove to a heatproof
bowl. Stir in the salt and oil, and the basil (if using.) Cover
and keep barely warm.
Zucchini Flowers Stuffed
With Lobster, Corn And Ginger
This recipe is equally good made with lobster or shrimp. Note
that the filling ingredients must be chopped very finely in order
to stick together. Serves 4.
1 ear fresh sweet white corn
4 tablespoons whole butter (divided use)
1/4 medium white onion, very finely minced
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and very finely minced
1/4 cup very finely chopped white cabbage
½ serrano chile, stemmed, seeded and minced (optional)
8 ounces raw lobster meat or shrimp, finely chopped (do this by
hand – a food processor will turn it to mush.)
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
24 large, fresh zucchini blossoms, prepared for stuffing (see Sidebar)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Lemon Wedges (garnish)
Shuck the corn and remove all strings, Stand up on a plate and
scrape the kernels onto the plate, reserving all corn milk. Use
the back of the knife to scrape every bit of corn and corn milk
from the cob.
Melt half the butter in a 10-inch sauté pan over medium
heat. Slowly cook and the onion, ginger, cabbage and serrano chiles
until softened, stirring occasionally. Push the vegetables to one
side, add the lobster meat, corn kernels and corn juices. Cook and
stir until dry. Season with salt and white pepper.
When the filling is cool enough to handle, place a tablespoon of
filling inside each blossom. Fold the petals over to enclose the
filling and gently twist the tip to seal. (Chill if you are not
going to cook them immediately.)
Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter with 1 tablespoon olive
oil in a non-stick sauté pan. Over medium-low heat, cook
the zucchini blossoms on all sides, until lightly colored. Put a
cover on the pan, turn down heat to low and cook, covered, for 3
minutes. Remove the zucchini blossoms to a serving plate. Serve
with lemon wedges.