Monday, July 31, 2006

Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms

These bright yellow-orange flowers signal summer's bounty. Whether fried on their own, or in a light batter or with a savory stuffing, they turn out a visually stunning and delicious appetizer. And besides, what can be more exotic than feasting on flowers?

There is a fair amount of labor that goes into prepping these gems for consumption, but it's well worth the effort. A staple at any self-respecting farmer's market, make sure you select zucchini blossoms that haven't been bruised or over handled. You'll need to perform the tricky procedure of reaching into each flower and nicking out the stamen. I've tried extracting the stamen with tweezers, but a small pairing knife works best. Don't worry if you slightly tear the side of the blossom a bit, it will hold up when stuffed and fried.

This recipe combines two sources: I borrowed the batter from Italy's much revered Silver Spoon cookbook (Fiori di Zucchine Ripieni e Fritti), while the goat cheese stuffing comes from Mario Batali's Molto Italiano (Fiori di Zucca Fritti). Traditionally, the flowers are stuffed with mozzarella, but as Mario says, "you can use any soft, creamy, delicate cheese."

+ Recipe
Fried Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms

12 Zucchini Flowers, trimmed
The Batter:
Scant 1 cup all-purpose flour
1 egg, separated
5 Tablespoons dry white wine
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2/3 - 3/4 c. warm water
The Stuffing:
1 c. soft goat cheese (or fresh goat cheese curd if you can find it)
1 large egg
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
salt and freshly ground black pepper

First, prepare the batter by combining the flower, pinch of salt and egg yolk, wine oil and add 2/3 - 3/4 c. warm water to make a runny mixture. Let stand for 30 minutes. Wish the egg white in a grease-free bowl and fold into the batter.

Next, clean and trim the blossoms by removing the stamen. Trim the stem slightly, but not completely -- you'll want to keep a bit of stem. Rinse the flowers under gentle running water to get rid of any pollen, goo or bugs, and drain them on paper towels.

In a small bowl, stir together goat cheese, egg, scallions, nutmeg and sat and pepper to taste. Using a small spoon, stuff each blossom with 1-1/2 Tablespoons of the filling.

In a 10-12 inch skillet, heat 3-4 Tablespoons vegetable oil for frying. Dip each stuffed blossom into the batter then fry in the hot oil until golden brown -- turning as needed.

When done, place blossoms on paper towels to drain. Serve immediately.