Sunday, June 29, 2008

Crispy Fried Zucchini Blossoms

Let's talk about zucchini blossoms. For the longest time I had heard about what a delicacy they are, and how delicious, and how quickly they come and go every year, but I never had the chance to try them. So when I saw them on the menu at La Piazza (which has closed, but Chef Di Benedetto has since opened a new restaurant - Gaetano's), I decided to give them a try. I loved the food at La Piazza, and I'm sure the zucchini blossoms stuffed with herbed goat cheese and fried were perfectly prepared, so I was disappointed that, while I liked the dish, I did not love it. The cheese dominated, and I came away feeling like I still had not experienced the true flavor of a zucchini blossom, or that there might be no real flavor to experience.

I saw them once at the green market a few years ago but was too intimidated at the thought of cooking them to bring them home with me. But this year I have been bringing home all kinds of new things, so when I saw that there were zucchini blossoms at the green market last Saturday morning a basket went into my bag before I could talk myself out of it. I put them in the refrigerator when I got home and started looking around online while I got ready to go spend the afternoon at the knit shop. By the time I discovered that they have an extremely short shelf life and should be used as soon as possible, it was too late for me to anything about it but hope that they would survive until the evening.

And they came through ok, if not quite as fresh as when they had started. But I still didn't know exactly what I was going to do with them. I didn't want to stuff them with cheese, and I certainly didn't want to deep fry them. I've been putting most of my new vegetables into some kind of saute or pasta sauce, but I wanted to find something that would utilize them on their own so I could see what they tasted like.

Finally, I landed on this recipe for Crunchy Squash Blossoms at ThaiTable.com. Blossoms, flour, baking powder, and canola oil. What could be simpler?
I washed the blossoms and gently patted them dry. Even dried, there was enough moisture on them for the flour and baking powder mixture to coat them well. I heated up a few tablespoons of canola oil in my cast-iron skillet. When it was hot, I put the blossoms in. I only had six so they fit in the pan nicely and I didn't have to do more than one batch. I let them fry for a minute or two before I moved them, and then I turned them over and let them cook another minute or so. After that I let them cook another few minutes, turning them more frequently to make sure they were evenly fried. Then I took them out and laid them on a paper towel-covered plate to drain.
They had no seasoning on them whatsoever, I had thought about adding salt to the flour and baking powder mixture but decided against it. I did add salt immediately after taking them out of the skillet. There was an accompanying recipe for fish sauce on ThaiTable.com, but I did not feel like going to that trouble, and again I was afraid it would interfere too much with the basic taste. So instead, I sprinkled the barest hint of cayenne on each one, followed by a pinch of cumin.

I picked one up and popped it into my mouth. The first thing I felt and tasted were the crisp, crunchy flowers that dissolved into the little baby ball of zucchini at the end. The seasonings were perfect, but I think anything would work as long there is not too much of it. I'm thinking thyme and basil, or za'atar. I can't wait to try out some other combinations.

If I get another crack at them. They were all gone yesterday by the time I got to the market. Drat those local chefs - who do they think they are? I plan to be there at the crack of dawn next week. That's how good these are.
CRUNCHY ZUCCHINI BLOSSOMS

6-12 zucchini blossoms
1/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
salt, pepper, cayenne and cumin
Canola oil for frying (about 3 Tbsp)

Wash blossoms and gently pat dry. Mix flour and baking powder and coat blossoms. Add enough oil to cover the bottom of a skillet (cast iron is best), and heat it over medium-high heat until a drop of water splatters when it hits the skillet. Add blossoms and saute, turning every minute or so, until every side has had a turn in the oil and is golden brown. Remove and place on a paper towel-lined plate. Season immediately with salt, pepper, a trace of cayenne and a hint of cumin (or whatever spices you would like).

Eat immediately. These do not re-heat well, according to ThaiTable.com They didn't last long enough for me to find out.

Adapted from recipe found at ThaiTable.com

2 comments:

R. Mansfield said...

I've created a link to your recipe in our newest "Cast Iron Around the Web" entry at http://www.cookingincastiron.com

KitsapLady said...

Stuffed zucchini blossoms

http://www.greek-recipe.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article387

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