By SARA MOULTON, Associated Press
Zucchini are marquee items at your grocery stores right about now, but zucchini blossoms, which are generally not for sale at a standard grocery, are a different story. So this recipe for Stuffed Fried Zucchini Blossoms is aimed at home gardeners, who know two things for sure: First, like caterpillars to a butterfly, zucchini blossoms are the earlier life form of the zucchini squash. Second, they’re delicious.
I’ll add a third fact — gardeners looking to rein in their zucchini crop should zero in on the female flowers. That’s right — this flower comes in two genders. It’s the male’s job to pollinate the females, and the female flowers to develop into squash. If your garden is of manageable size, with no crying need for birth control, feel free to eat the blossoms of either the male or female zucchini. If, however, you want to keep the squash from overrunning your garden, harvest the female flowers. How can you tell the girls from the boys? The males have a single stamen in the middle of the flower. The females have shorter stems and multiple stigmas.
Cut the female flowers when the fruit has started to grow from them and is small — about 3 inches long — and very tender. You’ll then be able to turn your harvest into the two-part appetizer — fried zucchini with a stuffed fried flower — on today’s menu.
Here I recommend stuffing the flower with smoked mozzarella, but any good melting cheese will work. Just be gentle when you’re stuffing because the flower tears easily. You want it to stay intact so that it keeps in the melted cheese.
The batter is a simple beer batter, crispy and light, and you can whip it up in minutes. Be sure to fry in oil with a high smoke point, such as peanut, safflower or sunflower. And please use a deep-fat thermometer to regulate a precise temperature.
The finished dish is yummy sprinkled with cheese and eaten straight up. But I like to serve it with marinara sauce, which provides a tangy counterbalance.
Start to finish: 50 minutes
80 grams (2/3rds cup) all-purpose flour, plus extra for coating the zucchini
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup chilled beer
8 zucchini blossoms, each with a small zucchini attached
2 ounces, mozzarella (preferably smoked), cut into 1- by 1/4-inch sticks
1/2 ounce grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Vegetable oil for frying the zucchini blossoms
1 1/2 cups marinara sauce, heated
Shredded fresh basil for garnish
Preheat oven to 250 F.
In a medium bowl whisk together the 2/3rds cup flour and the salt. Add the beer and whisk until the batter is almost smooth. Pour the batter through a strainer set over another bowl (to get rid of any lumps) and set the batter aside while you prepare the zucchini.
Gently open the zucchini flower and insert one-fourth of the little cheese logs into the opening, pushing them down gently. Twist the top of the flower to enclose the cheese and repeat the procedure with the remaining flowers and cheese. Spread about 1/3 cup flour on a pie plate.
In a large, deep, straight-sided skillet or large Dutch oven heat 1 1/2-inches vegetable oil to 365 F. Working in two batches, dust the zucchini lightly with flour, patting off the excess and dip them in the batter, making sure they are coated all over. Gently add the zucchini to the oil and fry them, turning them a few times, until they are golden brown all over, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer them to paper towels to drain, and then to a rimmed sheet pan and keep the fried zucchini warm in the oven while you batter and fry the second batch of zucchini.
To serve: Spoon some marinara sauce onto each of four plates, top the sauce with two of the fried zucchini, sprinkle them liberally with the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and the basil and serve right away.
Nutritional information per serving: 376 calories; 223 calories from fat; 25 g fat (5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 17 mg cholesterol; 641 mg sodium; 25 g carbohydrates; 2 g fiber; 5 g sugar; 11 g protein.
Editor’s Note: Sara Moulton is host of public television’s “Sara’s Weeknight Meals.” She was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows including “Cooking Live.” Her latest cookbook is “HomeCooking 101.”
By SARA MOULTON, Associated Press