Weekend Herb Blogging is taking a trip to Germany this week as it's hosted by Meeta from What's for Lunch, Honey.
I know Meeta has what you might call an "Italian tooth" so I thought I'd do something very Italian involving this most delicate item...
Fiori di Zucchini or Zucchini Flowers.
Take a closer look
hey, not that close
okay, that's better.
There are two type of zucchini flowers - male and female. The females are the ones with the little zucchini - the males, because they are sterile, have just a thin stem attached to the flower. Both versions are perfectly edible.
There are also two trains of thought in preparing the flowers - some people leave them intact while others will remove the pistils that lie inside the flower.
Pistils are the central reproductive organs of the flower and in the case of zucchini flowers looks like this
It won't do you any harm if you leave it in but for presentation purposes I prefer to remove it. I should add that the zucchini itself is the ovary of the zucchini flower and that zucchini are, by definition, classed as a fruit.
Nutritionally, Zucchini has good levels of folate, potassium, vitamin A and vitamin C and those with darker green skins also contain beta carotene.
When choosing Zucchini, I always go for the smaller sizes, larger ones are just too full of seeds and tend to be watery and unappetising. Look for those with a nice taunt skin, free of blemishes and you won't go wrong. Make sure they feel firm and not soft and spongy - a good indication of their freshness.
In the case of zucchini flowers you really should purchase them if you intend to use them within a day or two - they have a short shelf life. Make sure the flowers look tight and not starting to unravel or wilt and that the zucchini ends are also nice and firm.
For today's recipe I've decided to stuff the flowers with a simple mix of ricotta, soft goats cheese, parmesan and fresh chives. As mentioned previously, it's most important to seek out the traditional ricotta and avoid those supermarket versions in those plastic tubs.
After the flowers are stuffed they are coated in a light batter before being deep fried - this adds a textural crunch to offset the warm, unctuous core of cheese.
Stuffed Zucchini Flowers/Fiori di Zucchini Ripieni
(for 6 flowers)
6 zucchini flowers
10 grams Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated
60 grams fresh ricotta
30 grams soft goats cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
finely ground white pepper
1 cup plain flour
1 teaspoon dry yeast
1¼ cup warm water
Make the batter:
Sift the flour into a bowl, sprinkle in the dry yeast and stir well with a whisk to amalgamate. Pour in the water and continue whisking until a smooth paste forms. Let this rest half an hour before using.
Make the filling:
Place the cheeses into a bowl and using a wooden spoon, mix until smooth and combined. Add the finely sliced chives and a little white pepper, to taste. Stir to mix through.
Prepare the Zucchini Flowers:
Slice off a very thin strip from the base of the zucchini - just enough to remove the dry end.
Gently open the flowers to reveal the pistil. A firm twist on the pistil will release it.
Take spoonfuls of the cheese mix and roll into a small ball, just big enough to fit inside the bulbous base of the flower - be careful not to overfill them. There must be enough of the petals remaining to twist and encase the cheese. From the photo you might be able to see that they are filled a bit under half way - let the flower shape be your guide.
Once all the flowers are filled you can keep them for a few hours in the fridge before frying them.
Use a saucepan that's just wide enough fit the flowers. Heat until the oil reaches about 150°C - test with a few drops of batter, it should start to sizzle and float to the surface.
Hold onto the end of the zucchini and dip it into the batter, pull it out, give it a shake to remove any excess batter and then dip into the oil, flower first. Your fingertips will get a bit of batter on them but this is the best way to do it. Only cook 1 to 2 at a time - they should take about 1 minute. Make sure the oil is deep enough that the flowers can roll around and brown on all sides.
Drain on paper towels.
This would make a perfect starter for an elegant Italian feast - I'd recommend 2 per serve.
It's a wonderful combination - the batter is quite delicate and neutral in flavour so it doesn't overshadow the zucchini flower but it introduces a crunch to what is a softly textured item. The cheese is just warmed and beginning to run and the chive flavours are coming out, heightened by the heat.
If you prefer not to deep-fry, just omit the batter and steam the filled flowers until the baby zucchini are just tender.
Tagged with Weekend Herb Blogging : WHB