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BAER’S KITCHEN

Quick! Before they're gone, grab a bunch of zucchini blossoms from the garden and stuff them with ricotta

zucchini flower blossoms

Although this recipe takes a bit of effort, the short season for zucchini blossoms is motivation to make these pretty much every week.

As a Latin teacher, it should come as no surprise that my favorite country to visit is Italy! And while Rome is my favorite city, I am happy to go anywhere in the country, as Roman ruins and artifacts abound throughout.

The other reason I love Italy, which for me is probably as important as the ruins, is the food. So many of my kitchen creations come from efforts to recreate something I remember from my semester in Rome during college, or my subsequent travels there. I have always longingly remembered fried, stuffed zucchini flowers, but for years I was never able to find a source for the blossoms until several years ago when I saw them at the MX Morningstar Farm tent at the Great Barrington farmers market. If you are lucky enough to have a garden, you can harvest them yourself. You will need to pick only the “male” flowers that do not produce a zucchini. A “female” blossom can be identified by the miniature zucchini at the base, and further instructions can easily be found online. Unfortunately, our backyard is entirely solid ledge, which makes gardening less than productive, especially for something like squash plants that need room to spread out.

Quite often in Italy zucchini blossoms are stuffed with a piece of mozzarella and an anchovy fillet, and while I have made this version successfully, our favorite stuffing is ricotta with pesto, grated cheese (pecorino or Parmesan), and a little bit of lemon.

Although this recipe takes a bit of effort, the short season motivates me to make these pretty much every week!

FRIED STUFFED ZUCCHINI BLOSSOMS

Serves 4-6 as an appetizer (2-3 per person)

INGREDIENTS

3/4 cup ricotta

12 zucchini blossoms

2 tablespoons grated pecorino or Parmesan

2 tablespoons pesto, or substitute finely chopped fresh basil leaves

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided, plus more for sprinkling

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

8 ounces beer, preferably IPA or lager

Canola oil for frying

DIRECTIONS

Drain the ricotta so that it becomes thicker, using a strainer lined with several layers of cheesecloth or a coffee filter. Set the lined strainer over a small bowl and leave in the refrigerator for a few hours. If you don’t have the time, you can spread it on a plate lined with paper towel, and blot with more paper towel.

The stamen must be removed from the zucchini blossoms. To do this, slide one finger into each flower and use your fingernail to cut the stamen off at the bottom and remove. If you try using two fingers you will probably tear the flower, which is not ideal.

Mix the filling. Combine the drained ricotta, pesto, grated cheese, basil, lemon zest and juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper in a small bowl and stir to combine. Place the filling into a plastic zipper bag, cut off a tiny bit of the corner, and use like you would a pastry bag to squeeze filling into the flowers. It is better to cut off less of the corner, and then cut off more of the bag if the filling is not easy to pipe into the blossoms. (If the mixture is thick, you can also take about a tablespoon of filling, shape into a small log, and slip down into each blossom.) Continue until all the blossoms have been filled.

Make the batter. Combine the flour, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and baking powder in a small shallow bowl or baking dish. Add the beer and whisk gently to combine. Let sit for 5 minutes while the oil heats. (This will make more than you need, and can cover about 4-6 more blossoms, but it is easier to dip them with a bit more batter.)

Meanwhile, in a sauté pan or cast-iron skillet with high sides, heat about 1/2 inch of canola oil over high heat. Once the oil reaches 360 F on an instant read thermometer, you can begin frying.

Take each stuffed blossom one at a time, and, holding the stem, twist to cover completely with the batter, which should be thickened at this point. Be sure the stuffed blossom is well-coated so the cheese does not leak out when frying. Allow excess to drip off and then lay down gently in the hot oil. Repeat until you have as many as you can fit in the pan without crowding for the first batch. Fry for 2 minutes on each side, until the batter is cooked and golden, turning gently with tongs. Remove each blossom, place on paper towel to drain, and sprinkle the fried zucchini flowers with salt. Continue until you have fried all the blossoms and serve immediately.

More: 

When life gets busy, pull together this pasta dish with staples from your pantry

A palette for your palate — ricotta toast

Elizabeth Baer is a teacher who loves to spend time in the kitchen. She also posts recipes and musings about food on her blog, culinursa.com/blog and can be reached at culinursa@gmail.com.

Elizabeth Baer is a teacher who loves to spend time in the kitchen. She also posts recipes and musings about food on her blog, culinursa.com/blog and can be reached at culinursa@gmail.com.

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