Saturday, July 24, 2010

Squash Blossoms, The Edible Flower And How to Fix Them.

 This is the time of year when squash blossoms are found in Farmers Markets all around Sonoma. If you've never cooked or eaten squash blossoms, well then you've missed one of the big pleasures of the summer garden.
   I first had these as a kid when I was still in the "eeewwww we're eating flowers?" phase. They're a big favorite among Italians. We eat them battered, and sometimes battered and stuffed. I fell in love with them the first time I was forced to try them and they quickly became a favorite obsessive food.
    They were served at our house with fresh pan-sauteed trout caught the day before in the Sierras by our family barber, Mr. Ducca.  He'd catch the trout and then stick them in a milk carton filled with water and freeze them solid, then drive home to San Francisco and give them to us. His wife grew the zucchini in her back yard and as anyone who's ever grown zucchini knows, no one family can ever eat a backyards' worth of zucchini.
  When I saw the zucchini blossoms at the Sonoma Friday Organic Farmers Market last summer I quickly grabbed some. They were 2 bucks for a whole bunch and organic! Alan, had never eaten them before and he was a combination plate of wary and curious.
  The first  thing I did was call my mom and ask her for her wonderful zucchini blossom recipe. My mother is not exactly the sort of person one ever calls for a "favorite recipe." In fact she tells everyone she knows that her next house will not have a kitchen and that I'm a freak of nature because I like to cook.
  "What are you talking about?", she said when I asked her about the zucchini flower recipe. "I never made any zucchini flowers in my life".
    "Well you must have, because I remember you serving them to me and I remember eating them. It was the same day I discovered Nestles' made Strawberry Quick."
   "Yeah, well I never made them. They were Lenas'. Lena Ducca. The barbers wife. She made all that kinda stuff. I just heated them up. They came with the trout."
  "So you don't have a recipe for me?"
  She just laughed.
 "Go check one of your blogs, go look it up online." She hung up.
   So the great story about my mothers' culinary triumph with zucchini blossoms was just a re-heat job.
      Childhood illusions shattered. What was left but to go online? So I did.

    There are a zillion zucchini blossom recipes out there. A lot of cultures enjoy this treat in the summer months, but I was looking for something that would approximate what I'd had as a 9 year old. The answer turned out to be a simple batter and deep fry dish. All in it takes about 10 minutes with delicious results. Here's what to do.
    When you get your zucchini  blossoms home from the market or out of your garden, place them in the vegetable crisper till you are ready to cook them. Carefuly wipe them clean inside , pat them dry and reach into the center of the flower and take out the pollen covered stamen. Now you are ready to go.
    Make a batter by whisking together
  1 cup of flour
  1 cup of millk
  A pinch of salt
  1 egg
  Trim the stems on the blooms down to just about 1 inch or so.
    In a deep skillet or Kadhai pour some vegetable oil deep enough to deep fry the blossoms.
   Heat the oil.
  When it's hot and  ready to go: Dip the zucchini flowers in the batter. Coat them well, and then drop them into the hot oil.

  Turn them as they brown. They'll turn the color of tempura cooked vegetables. Take them from the oil and place them on a plate that's covered with paper towels to wick away the grease.
  Sprinkle them lightly with coarse sea salt and serve them warm.

  Eat them by themselves as a tapas style Tuscan treat or on a plate with a simple grilled meat or fish, some pepperocini and a salad. You're done. It's a simple dish, quickly prepared, and by using the blossom of the zucchini you're "thinning the herd" as they say. Every blossom you eat this summer is one less loaf of zucchini bread you have to give away in the fall.


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