A Bouquet of Yum in the Summer Sun

June 21, 2019

“Be still, sad heart, and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining.”
~ From “The Rainy Day”, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Last night I set out my bikini, all ready to celebrate the Summer Solstice poolside.  Before sunrise, the sound of raindrops on the roof woke me briefly from a pleasant dream.  Later, when I got up and opened my bedroom curtains, the ground outside was wet and the clouds were thick in the sky above.  My poolside sunning would have to wait.

On a positive note, a Summer Solstice like today’s offers the perfect opportunity to remember that our Sun is there, even when we don’t see it.  Whether obscured by a cloudy day or evening’s horizon; merely reflected by the moon or on a dark night when even the moon is not visible, we can align our thinking with our awareness of its light or the fear of its absence, but it remains steadfast and shining, whatever our focus.

That was a metaphor, in case you were wondering.  And now for something completely delicious…

Picture a beautiful, golden flower with bright, yellow petals bursting out from its center like rays of light streaming out from the summer sun.  Now imagine those tender petals filled with warm, melted mozzarella cheese after being battered and fried into a crispy ball of guilty summer pleasure.  That flower belongs to the zucchini plant and the delicacy I just described may be found in restaurants and kitchens all around Rome this time of year.  Fiori di zucca ripieni fritti or Fried Stuffed Zucchini Flowers, are an Italian summer favorite that will make you fall in love at first bite.

Although not yet common in American grocery stores, you can find zucchini flowers, also known as squash blossoms, here at local farmers markets, occasionally at a Whole Foods produce section, or growing in a friend’s garden.  You will want to pick or purchase them no more than a day before you cook them.  Here’s what you are looking for:

You rinse and dry the flowers, remove the stamens inside, then stuff the centers with tiny chunks of fresh mozzarella, or the small, ready-made balls known as ciliegine (Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods both carry ciliegine).  Traditionally, one also adds a bit of anchovy or anchovy paste, but I prefer to substitute a tiny bit of basil pesto or some hot chili spread:

After stuffing, the ends of the flowers are lightly twisted to enclose the filling.  Then you prepare a simple tempura batter (see recipe below); fill a frying pan about 2-3 inches high with sunflower oil and heat to 350°F.  Dip each stuffed flower into the batter to coat completely and fry until golden and crispy:

I can’t write enough OMGs and yums here to adequately convey the utter deliciousness of these hot, crispy, gooey, cheesy, delicately-zucchini-ish morsels.

Here is my recipe.  Below that is an instructional video by Lucrezia Oddone, an Italian language YouTuber that I watch.  The dialogue is in Italian, but just follow my recipe and watch the video to help you visually understand the process.  Maybe one of these days I will start making my own videos, but for now, I’ll take the opportunity to share Lucrezia with you.  If any of you are interested in learning Italian, she has lots of fun and helpful videos at her channel.

Fried Stuffed Zucchini Flowers
(Fiori di zucca ripieni fritti)
This recipe will serve 4.  You can halve or double it easily.

12 zucchini flowers (squash blossoms)
6 oz of fresh mozzarella, cubed or ciliegine balls, halved
Some prepared basil pesto or chile spread/oil
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 cup ice-cold sparkling water
1 egg, lightly beaten
Pinch or two of salt
Oil for frying

Remove stamens and cut down stems from blossoms.  Wash and pat dry.

Stuff each blossom with a cube or ball or half ball (depending on flower size) of mozzarella and about 1/4 teaspoon of pesto or chile spread (more if pesto, less if using chile spread/oil).  Twist ends of petals to enclose stuffing and set on a plate until ready to fry.

Fill a frying pan with about 2-3 inches of oil.  Heat over medium-high.

While the oil is heating, make the tempura batter:
Use a fork, not a whisk to mix this.  Stir the flour and cornstarch together. Stir the ice-cold sparkling water into the beaten egg, then add the flour and cornstarch mixture and a pinch of salt.  Stir just until combined; do not over mix; you want some lumps.

Test that your oil is ready by placing a drop of tempura batter in it.  You can also add an unpopped popcorn kernel when the oil is just beginning to heat.  It will pop when oil is ready.  Remove and begin frying.

Gently dip a filled flower to coat in the batter completely and carefully lay into oil.  Continue with a couple more (don’t crowd pan or you will lower oil temperature).  Keep batter cold in fridge between batches.  Fry flowers about 2-3 minutes, turning gently with tongs or slotted spoon if needed, until golden and crispy (note: in the video below, Lucrezia removes hers a bit sooner than I would).  Drain on paper towels as you finish frying all of the flowers.  Sprinkle with a bit of salt, if desired.  Serve hot.

As Lucrezia says in her video intro, Fried Stuffed Zucchini Flowers are fantastic, spectacular and you must absolutely try them!



Comments are closed.