Fiori Fritti dello Zucchini
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For a number of years now, it seems that every cook and chef on television has demonstrated the fine art of stuffing zucchini/squash blossoms before being fried. This was not something we ever tried at the two-flat. First of all, Grandpa would never plant something in his garden that would take up so much space. Tomatoes were his main interest and a plant that sprawled, no matter what kind, just wasn’t welcome. More importantly, even if he found a suitable spot for, say, zucchini, picking the blossoms would not have been acceptable to him in the slightest. He planted zucchini and anything that would lessen the crop would not have been allowed. So, without the crutch of a family recipe, I headed into new territory when I bought my first bunch of zucchini blossoms late last Summer.
Those first blossoms proved to be a disaster. They were an impulse buy and I’d no idea how to store them, so, I treated them like I would cut flowers. I awoke the next morning to find a wilted mess in a glass of water. That was the last I saw of blossoms until a few weeks ago, when I came across some at the farmers market. With my car in the shop, they survived the trip home in surprisingly good shape. Problems arose, however, when it came to creating a stuffing. Not wishing to test the CTA’s reliability a 2nd time that day, I raided the fridge, finding fresh mozzarella and fontinella cheeses. A quick trip to the corner store and I returned with a 1/2 gallon of whole milk that was used to make ricotta. These three cheeses were used to prepare the stuffing used in today’s recipe.
With the stuffing decided, I set about creating a batter to coat them. I tried a number of versions, over the course of 3 Saturdays, finally settling on a batter of flour, corn starch, cornmeal, and club soda. This batter was, by far, the best, resulting in blossoms that were crispy without being buried in batter.
I also continued to experiment with fillings. My favorite consisted of mozzarella and anchovies. Unfortunately, my photos from that batch were a mess, though I did post the “best” one later in this post.
There is one more thing worth mentioning. Be sure to open each blossom and check to see if there are any stow-aways. Although any one of a number of insects might be found lurking in there, I’m more concerned with creatures of the eight-legged variety. Although I’ve yet to come across one, I check the blossoms over the sink with the garbage disposal running. Just sayin’ …
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I’ll be leaving for Michigan and the Kitchens will be closed as a result. It’s time for a little R&R on the beach with Max. See you in 2 weeks.
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Fried Zucchini Blossoms Recipe
- 12 fresh zucchini/squash blossoms
- 2 oz (56 g) mozzarella, grated
- 2 oz (56 g) fontinella, grated
- 4 oz (113 g) whole milk ricotta, well-drained
- 1/2 cup AP flour
- 1/4 cup corn starch/flour
- 1/4 cup cornmeal
- club soda
- salt & pepper
- oil for frying
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- Using tweezers, remove stamen and gently wash each blossom. Carefully blot each one dry. Remove the stems just beneath the blossom.
- Place a coffee filter into a strainer and add ricotta. Allow to drain a couple of hours. Discard the liquid (whey) and reserve the ricotta.
- Coarsely grate mozzarella and fontinella cheeses. (See Notes)
- Combine ricotta, mozzarella, and fontinella cheeses. Mix well.
- Add flour, corn starch, salt & pepper into a bowl and whisk to combine.
- Add enough club soda to make a batter.
- Place the cheese mixture into a pastry bag or plastic storage bag. If using the latter, cut off one of the bag’s bottom corners and force the cheese into that part of the bag.
- Grab hold of a blossom in one hand and gently separate the petals to reveal a “pocket”. Gently blowing into the blossom may help open it up.
- Place the tip of the cheese-filled pasty/plastic bag into the pocket and squeeze some of the cheese into the blossom. Do not overfill nor allow the blossom to split. Continue until all are stuffed.
- Fill a medium-sized sauce pan with about 2 inches (5 cm) of oil. Heat to about 350˚. You’ll know it is hot enough if a bit of batter instantly begins to fry when dropped into the hot oil.
- Take one blossom and twist the petal ends to seal the cheese inside. Grabbing hold of the twisted petal ends, dip the blossom into the batter to cover. Drain excess batter and then place in the hot oil. Continue with more blossoms. Work in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan.
- When golden brown (2 to 4 minutes), flip each blossom. Fry for another 2 minutes
- Remove to a paper towel lined dish and season with salt.
- Serve immediately
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Though stuffed blossoms are wonderful when fried, you really don’t need to stuff them with anything before frying. Just dip them in the batter and fry them. You’ll get a light, crispy treat without the hassle of trying to fill blossoms with cheese.
You can stuff the blossoms with whatever you like. Any cheese or mixture of cheeses will work. I chose a combination of 3 cheese for this post. My favorites, though were blossoms stuffed with mozzarella and an anchovy. Simply prepare the blossom as indicated above, cut a stick of mozzarella, wrap it with an anchovy, insert both into the blossom before dredging and frying. Unfortunately, the photo on the right is the best of those I took that afternoon.
There are several ways to coat your blossoms. Some prefer to use eggs in their batter while others “go it alone” with just a coating of flour. Some use breadcrumbs to form a coating and others like only flour. I like a thinner batter, so, I use a little club soda poured into a mixture of 1 part each of corn meal and corn starch/flour for every 2 parts AP flour. When mixed, I prefer a batter that’s a little thicker than buttermilk but not quite as thick as pancake batter.
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I’ve yet to discover a good way to store blossoms. I was told to treat them like freshly cut flowers and that didn’t work. I’ve since searched the web and it’s suggested that the blossoms be tightly sealed and refrigerated. (One of the vendors expressly stated not to refrigerate them.) I’ve yet to try this for when I returned last weekend for more blossoms, none were to be found — hence the blurry photo above.
By far, the easiest way to stuff a blossom is to use a pastry or plastic bag, tip inserted into the blossom. If and when I find more blossoms, I think I’ll try the 3 cheeses again, only doubling the amount of mozzarella and fontinella before adding chopped anchovies to the mixture. Yes, I do love my anchovies!
Whenever soft cheeses like mozzarella need to be grated, it’s easiest if your place the cheese in the freezer for about 30 minutes beforehand. This should harden the cheese a bit, making grating a snap.
Initially, I tried a shallow fry, using about a half-inch of oil in the pan. I did not like the results at all. The lack of oil meant the blossoms had to be “handled” more so that they could be flipped and evenly fried. This raised the risk of damaged blossoms and leaking cheese. Using about 2 inches (5 cm) of oil made frying so much easier and consequently no blossoms were harmed in the making of this tasty treat.
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It’s déjà vu all over again …
For many, a meal isn’t complete until coffee and an after-dinner liqueur are served. If that meal is served during the Summer, a dish of ice cream is very often part of the equation. With an eye towards reducing the average dishwasher’s workload, the Italians took these 3 traditions and united them in one simple dessert, affogato al caffè. Often served in a cup, affogato is a combination of ice cream and espresso, with an optional shot of your favorite liqueur. I think you’ll agree that an affogato is a wonderful way to end a meal — without having to loosen your belt afterward. You can see directions for creating a variety of affogati by clicking HERE.
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Coming soon to a monitor near you …
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