One of the things I look forward to during the summer months are zucchini flowers. We have a garden in the country and grow our own zucchini. I must admit, I grow zucchini specifically for the delicate, earthy-tasting flower. It is a pure delicacy! My dad used to dip them in a batter and fry them up every summer, creating a crisp,golden and slightly salted fritter which brought out the natural sweetness of the zucchini flower. An aunt of mine in Italy used to stuff them with a béchamel and then dip them in a batter and deep fry. There are many ways to enjoy this summer treat. My way is to do both. I fry up half of my bounty in their simple yet delectable state and the other half I stuff with cheese. And not just any cheese. Gorgonzola Cheese! A delicious Italian blue cheese. I use the Gorgonzola Dolce for its creaminess and milder taste. Emma and I prefer the plain ones, tasting the natural flavour of the blossom. Charlotte absolutely loves the blue cheese ones, along with Peter. You can use any cheese you like though. Mozzarella, Gruyere. You can also add anchovies and herbs, as they do in Rome. The zucchini blossoms are either male, which are attached to the stem only, or female, which are attached to the baby zucchini. When I find female flowers with the baby zucchini attached, I keep it as such and fry the whole thing up. Yum! I prefer to remove the stamens (male) and pistils (female) which are found inside the flower. Take a look inside and by their shape alone, you will know which is which! But make sure to take a peek inside first… a few summers ago I plunged my fingers right into one of my blossoms and was greeted by a little bee who was just as startled as I was and stung me!
Following is my own recipe fro the batter, which I sort of created this past summer. My usual method for the batter was flour, eggs and water. My brother, who serves up these little summer jewels at his restaurant La Vieille Banque, was visiting in the country and suggested I whip up the egg whites and then fold them in gently at the end. The batter came out lighter and crispier than mine. Great! But the next time I fried these little babies up, I happened to be sipping on a beer. When came the time to add water to my batter, I thought I’d just pour some beer right out of my bottle and see what that would give me. A little daring, considering I had a house full of guests… but the Brits dip their fish in a beer batter, so why couldn’t an Italian dip her zucchini blossoms in one as well? That decision turned out to make my batter the best one yet! Puffed up, crispy little morsels! Give it a try… and if you don’t grow your own zucchini, you can find them at the Jean-Talon Market and I saw some just the other day at the Atwater Market. I do believe these delectable little blossoms are becoming the in-treat for the summer!
1 cup of flour
2 egg yolks, beaten
1 cup or so of beer (or water)
2 egg whites, beaten until light and fluffy
Salt & Pepper
Gorgonzola Dolce, if you’re stuffing
Vegetable oil for frying
Mix the flour, egg yolks and liquid of choice. Add salt and pepper.
Gently fold in the egg whites.
If you’re not stuffing, then you’re ready to dip them into the batter and fry.
If you are stuffing them, gently remove the stamens or pistils from the flowers and add some cheese into the flower, a 1-inch to 2-inch piece depending on the size of the flower. The flowers might tear a little or you might have to tear a small slit down some of them. That’s o.k., the open slits can be stuck back together by the creaminess of the cheese. Heat the oil in a fry pan, a couple of inches or so, on medium-high to high. Fry the flowers until golden in colour, turning over once. Drain on paper towels and enjoy!