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Saturday, July 28, 2012

How to Use Zucchini Blossoms

August is only a few days away which means the height of the season is approaching for one of my favorite edibles…zucchini flowers.   While by summer’s end most people are sick of zucchini, I never tire of its fabulous blossoms.   Yet, I’m always surprised at the number of shoppers who ask me at the farmer’s market, “What in the world will you make with them?”  Seems like even many of those that buy them often don’t know how to cook them.  I, on the other hand, have several ways to create culinary magic with these gems.

Let’s start with the basics.  First, zucchini flowers come in male and female.  Both males and females can be used in cooking, however, if you buy the blossom with a squash attached, you will need to cook them separately as by the time the zucchini is done the flower is way overcooked.  Next, be sure to choose blossoms that have not yet opened.  This is not only a sign of freshness, but it also makes the possibility of a bug less likely.  Last, blossoms are very perishable---use them within 3-4 days from the day they were picked.

How to prepare them?  I have several wonderful recipes but my fave is the way I first learned to eat them on the island of Capri in the 1970’s…sautéed in olive oil.  After taking a class in Italy solely on zucchini flowers and much experimentation in my kitchen, I think I’ve perfected this method.  My batter includes 3 parts cornstarch to 1 part flour.  I use a dark beer to liquefy it to the consistency of pancake batter.  Use extra virgin olive for sautéing as its flavor is a huge part of the final product.  Top with sea salt and you’ll have a little piece of heaven in your mouth.

If you’re fortunate to be growing zucchini, you’ll need several recipes to get you through August.  The simplest method I love is merely chopping up the raw flowers in a quesadilla with a little jack cheese.  Another winner, which I had at a Michelin star restaurant in the Rhone Valley of France, is stuffing the raw flowers with a little ricotta and fresh herbs, baking them in the oven until just brown, and serving with a fresh tomato coulis (your garden should also have an abundance of tomatoes by summer’s end.)

Cheers to summer and zucchini flowers!

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