A friend come around to my place for dinner recently and brought me the most wonderful and unexpected original gift – produce from her greengrocer. There were zucchini flowers with zucchini still attached, flat green beans, a very attractive dark green (almost black) coloured capsicum and a pomegranate. What else could you ever wish for!
I sliced the capsicum thinly and ate it in a salad with celeriac and green tinged tomatoes, I steamed the green beans and ate them with a little seasoning, extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice; the pomegranate seeds were sprinkled over a chickpea salad and I stuffed the zucchini flowers, dipped them in a light batter and fried them.
There are many batters that are suitable – tempura, egg or beer batter, a batter made with self-raising flour, plain or corn flour. On this occasion I made an egg batter and used plain flour. I also chose not to deep-fry them and this is why you can see a blob of batter around the flower. Normally when you deep fry, the batter slides off and floats separately in the oil. I made small fritters with the left over batter and presented them as an accompaniment – I am not one to waste food and they tasted good.
The zucchini flowers in the photo are deep fried and dipped in a beer batter and I took this photo in a restaurant in Hobart. My stuffed flowers never look as good, but they tasted terrific.4 zucchini flowers with zucchini still attached
4 tbs ricotta (solid ricotta, cut from a large round, not sold in a tub) fresh mint, leaves finely chopped ¼ tsp grated nutmeg
1 lemon, zest finely grated 1tbs chopped pistachio nuts (or almonds or pepitas)
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¾ cup plain flour 1 egg, whipped lightly with a fork
¼-½ cup sparkling water for frying: a mixture of extra virgin olive oil and vegetable oil (I like Rice Bran oil) Mix flour with a pinch of salt – use a bowl Add the egg and with a simple hand whisk begin to incorporate only ½ of the amount of the sparkling water. Keep on adding more of the water (you may not need it all) as you mix the ingredients until you have a batter that should be the consistency of cream. Mix the ricotta with a fork in a separate bowl, add the nutmeg, lemon zest, some chopped fresh mint, nuts and salt and pepper.
Ease open the zucchini flowers gently and remove the stamen if it is too prominent (some people find the taste bitter – out of the 4 flowers I only removed 1 stamen. Gently wash the flowers and carefully blot dry.
Fill each flower with the ricotta mixture- use a small teaspoon. Gently press the petals together- the mixture will hold them together.
Dip the zucchini into the batter one at the time. Shake off as much of the batter as reasonable. Fry them in plenty of hot oil. Drain on paper towels. Eat hot. Zucchini flowers in Palermo.