For years, I have been growing zucchini in the garden. Every year, I put in more plants than I should and they grow to alien size very quickly. This year – no exception. Against my better judgement, I put in 3 teeny, tiny zucchini plants. Well – the perky leaves are now almost up to my waist and they have already climbed over their little beds and are making a break for the tomato beds. In years past, I have been hesitant to pick the beautiful flowers for fear my little plants might not pollinate as they should – but this year, I was fearless. Time to try those delicious, delicate stuffed zucchini blossoms that I have had many times in Italy. After a bit of research, I learned that it is only the male flowers that one picks as the females are where the zucchini grow. But how does one know which is female, you might ask? It is surprisingly easy! Take a look at the photo on the right – the flower on the left has a much thinner stem below the flower, the flower on the right a much fatter stem (that stem is actually the beginnings of the zucchini). Voila! Easy indeed. So remember to pick just the male flowers. My next question – how to clean these little beauties? Enter my new perky friend, Alessandro, from the Italian Food Net. I found his video online and within a few minutes, was cleaning my bounty of blossoms. Quick and easy. Next up – the stuffing. When I have eaten these in Italy, I so love when they are stuffed with a simple ricotta filling. So the filling was simple – ricotta, lemon zest and some chopped basil. Next an easy batter – flour, salt and club soda.
And here is where things sort of went downhill. I decided to fry my blossoms in a little cast iron skillet that was waaaaaaay to small for the job. I lovingly cleaned and stuffed each blossom; lined them up for their quick dip in the batter and into their oil bath. Well, a bit of the ricotta seeped out of a few blossoms, causing wild splattering out of the little pan. To stop the splattering, I tried to move the pan off the burner which caused the too-full pan to splash large amounts of oil and blossoms directly onto the flame, sending fire all over the place. (Mama mia. I should know better.) Luckily, my blaze was relatively contained and quickly flamed out. But I now had oil and zucchini blossoms all over the stove. Despite my deep frying troubles, two little blossoms remained in the pan – my silver lining indeed. And they were delicious!! Please do not let my temporary lapse of common sense deter you from trying these if you can get your hands on them. Apart from the fire cleanup, these were ready to go in 15 minutes and so incredibly delicious. Creamy ricotta, crispy batter and delicate flowers. A delicious treat to savor from Mother Nature herself. But please use a larger pan.
Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms
Enough for about 1 dozen blossoms
For the stuffing:
1/2 cup of ricotta, freshly made if you can find it
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
About 1 tablespoon of chopped basil
Freshly ground black pepper
For the batter:
1 1/4 cups flour
12 ounces club soda
About 12 zucchini blossoms, cleaned
Vegetable oil to fry the blossoms
1. Mix the ricotta, zest, and basil in a small bowl. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Using a tablespoon, gently fill each blossom with about one tablespoon of the filling. Close around the blossom.
2. In a large pot, bring about 2 inches of oil to 350 degrees over medium heat. Meanwhile, combine the flour, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk in the club soda until just smooth – be careful not to overbeat.
3. Gently dip each blossom into the batter. Shake off any excess and gently lay them in the oil. Do not crowd them. You may need to fry in batches. Cook each side until golden brown, about 2 minutes total. Place on a paper towel to drain.
4. Serve and enjoy!