Friday, November 10, 2006

Weekend Herb Blogging #58

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

Fiori di Zucchini or Zucchini Flowers.

Take a closer look

flower

hey, not that close

zucchini flower

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

pistils

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.

cooked

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

Batter:
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.

stuffed

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.

Serve immediately.

This would make a perfect starter for an elegant Italian feast - I'd recommend 2 per serve.

cooked

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.

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25 comments:

  1. Yup you hit my tastebuds spot on, Haalo. Looks gorgeous!

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  2. I love the pics... I'd love a taste even more.

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  3. Hello Haalo,

    The stuffed zuichchini flowers look so appetising.What is the season for this?I live in London,can you tell me if I will find them here?I know that pumpkin flowers look similar and they are available in India too.

    BTW,I have added you to my blog.Hope you don't mind.

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  4. I'm speechless!!! Everything is so beauitful, the flowers, the ingredients and that crispy crust!!! I can just keep looking your pics and sipping my wine, heavenly!

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  5. Oh my..Haalo this looks and sounds delicious.

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  6. Hey,

    Where did you got these zucchini flowers from? They look so beautiful. You did a very creative job by making these stuffed zucchini flowers.

    Thanks..

    Nidhi.

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  7. OH.MY.GOD Those squash blossoms look AWESOME and what WONDERFUL pictures Haalo!!! I love the close-up of the flower :)

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  8. Thanks Meeta!

    Thanks Brilynn!

    Hi Vini - zucchini flowers come into season here in October/November, so in the UK you'd be looking to see them around April/May. You'd probably find them in good markets and maybe stores like Tesco's . Thank you for adding me that's very nice of you :)

    Thank you so much Gattina - they were such wonderful flowers it's hard not to make something wonderful with them.

    Thanks Burcu - they disappear very quickly once they are made ;)

    Hi Nidhi - Thanks! I get these flowers from one of my local markets.

    Thanks Nabeela - it wasn't too close? ;)

    I hope everyone gives it a go when the flowers are in season, you won't be disappointed!

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  9. Totally, totally awesome. I've grown zucchini for years but never made anything like this. Your photos are just fantastic and it looks delicious.

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  10. Thanks Kalyn - I read that if you pick the flowers at this stage it will encourage the plant to continue flowering, so there's no real effect on the crop output. This would be a great way to put the male flowers to use as well.

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  11. Those look fabulous and I love the photos. :)

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  12. Haalo, wondeful entry as always... I have kept an eye on zucchini flowers but haven't found any. Where should I look for these in Melb? Thanks! :)

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  13. Thanks so much Robyn :)

    Hi WP and thanks - I got these from Damian Pike (the mushroom guy) at Prahran Market. You can also find a list of suppliers here. Hope that helps!

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  14. Haalo,

    Yeap the list helps me a lot! I found one supplier near to my place. Gonna check it out. :)

    I love Prahran mkt, but it is a bit far for me to drive all the way there... :)

    Thanks for your help!

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  15. Hello, I've been reading your blog for some time and I think u've put alot of effort in cooking (almost) anything at least once! I'm gonna link u, I hope u don't mind =)

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  16. Excellent WP - so glad that there's someplace closer and that I could help!


    Hi Swee - thank you for the link, that's very nice of you. There's still a long way to go before I've cooked everything :) You're certainly cooking up a storm at Le Cordon Bleu!

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  17. Wow - these look fantastic - I love these, am dying to make them myself but never seem to see them in the shops

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  18. Thanks Ange - this link shows a list of stockists to help you find them. They should be more freely available in the coming weeks - might be a perfect idea for christmas.

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  19. Such gorgeous photos you take, Haalo. This is my 1st time visiting and I'm amazed by your blog. I've never seen zucchini flowers before, thanks for widening my horizons :)

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  20. What an absolutely fabulous post - gorgeous AND informative.

    Thanks for sharing.

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  21. Hi Angie - thank you so much for visiting and those lovely words. Perhaps you'll try them one day.

    Thank you Ruth - you are too kind.

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  22. Fabulous!! I must grow zuchinni next year--just for the blossoms! Your pictures are wonderful. I would love to eat one of those wonderful stuffed blossoms!

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  23. Thanks so much Sher - do plant the zucchini they are well worth it!

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  24. I actually just cooked some of these tonight! I got the recipe from an italian cookbook and whipped them up with my mother using some zukker flowers from the garden.

    The recipe for the batter in the book called for a mixture of breadcrumbs soaked in milk, parsley and anchoivie filiets, but we substituited some left over broiled whitefish and it was a hit.

    I will say it can be difficult to remove the pestal's (as my cookbook advised) without tearing the edges of the flower, but coated properly with batter, the flower pods generlly stayed closed through the frying.

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  25. Hi Eli - You've got me craving Zucchini flowers now!

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