Let's Talk Zucchini...
July 8, 2020
OK… Let's talk Zucchini! It's a family favorite in our garden and on our plate. Zucchini (Summer Squash) is a lovely plant to grow and an extremely versatile, delicious food. I adore the large leafy stems, buttery yellow flowers and of course, the very tasty produce. Squash's botanical history is rooted in the Americas. But zucchini, the green cylindrical variety, was cultivated in Italy. It became part of American cuisine when Italian immigrants brought it over in the 1920's. It is used as a vegetable but interestingly it is a fruit! And a very healthy one at that. Squash is loaded with vitamins and minerals. It is also an excellent source of antioxidants, which are important for heart health and cancer prevention. But more than all that, it is delicious!
Zucchini is a staple on our homestead and in our catering business. We use it in so many dishes at work, but by far, our favorite way to prepare it at home is simply grilled. Nothing beats the taste of a freshly picked zucchini, thinly sliced and placed on a hot grill. Dressed with only a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and sea salt; it is perfection.
Surprisingly, to me, when I talk to customers, I find they overlook the portion of the zucchini plant that I find to be the best, the flowers. They are personally one of my favorite foods. The delicate flowers are treasures, loaded with taste and texture. These beautiful blossoms are scrumptious! Use them in soups or quesadillas like in Mexican cuisine or stuff and fry them like the Italians do. They add amazing flavor to pasta dishes and are an unexpected creative topping on homemade pizza. They are great to munch on raw also. Toss them in salads or fill them with savory treats like olive tapenade, sun-dried tomatoes or softened cheeses. They also make pretty garnishes, but truthfully, we never have any left for that purpose, as we eat them as fast as they grow!
Since so many clients have asked what to do with these delectable delights, I decided to post a basic recipe. The method below is simply a guideline. Ingredients can be changed to your personal taste and as you play with the combinations you will find your own unique favorites. Farmer's markets are the best place to buy the flowers if you don't grow your own zucchini plants. And if you do, remember to only pick the male flowers. The female flowers grow the fruit. They are easily recognized by the tiny zucchini nub at the base of the bud. Cut the male flowers on the stem and use immediately (and remember to leave a few male blossoms on the plant at all times for pollination).
So, let's get cooking!
Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms (approx 15 blossoms)
1 cup ricotta cheese (vegan)
small bunch basil leaves (shredded)
salt and pepper
dash fresh lemon juice
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup seltzer water (or sparkling mineral water)
Heat shallow amount of oil (a light oil, safflower my favorite) in fry pan.
Gently wash flower and remove pistil from inside. Dry lightly
Open petals and fill cavity (careful not to overfill)
Close tips of petals inward .
Dip in Batter.
Fry in oil until lightly crusted and golden.
Place on paper towels to absorb excess oil.
Plate and Serve immediately!
*vegetarian recipe calls for dipping in flour, egg and flour again...then frying. This creates a crisper result. Both versions are excellent. The filling can be adjusted to whatever your tastes desire.