Though we hate to see summer go, as Lee wrote in her last post, we really do love fall. It’s true that it’s impossible not to miss long, light-filled days, warm nights, and eating ice pops on the porch while listening to the cicadas. But there’s a lot to look forward to…even if September makes the two of us a little nutty. We bring home as much summer produce as we can before it disappears. Like squirrels frantically gathering food for the winter, we try to fit in as many last-minute we’ve-been-saying-we’d-make-this-all-summer meals as humanly possible, hoping we’ll beat the cold weather to the finish.
Last Sunday morning, with a tomato mission in mind and hoping to make some unexpected food discoveries, we woke up early to head to the downtown market. Wandering around with an armful of fruits and vegetables, we spotted them: the most beautiful zucchini blossoms we’d seen all season. Thrilled to still find them so plentiful, we quickly snagged a few boxes and headed home to cook them up.
Zucchini blossoms have so many uses. You can throw them into a salad, chop them up and sprinkle on pasta with garlic and oil, and even add them to a frittata. This time, we chose to make them our very favorite way: stuffed with ricotta flavored with herbs, lemon, a little spice and the secret ingredient…anchovies.
For all those who don’t like anchovies (probably most of you), read on.
Personally, we’d never eat anchovies whole. But when used in small amounts, they basically melt anchovies right into oil or smash them into a fine paste to add interest and depth with no trace of that fishy taste. They create a wonderfully complex, salty background flavor that doesn’t overpower or stand out. Try a little and you won’t regret it. You might realize it’s the missing flavor from more than one favorite Italian dish you haven’t been able to recreate, though you can never figure out why.
These stuffed blossoms are quick and easy to make, but the payoff is huge. Though simple, they’re irresistibly delicious and beautiful. They make great appetizers, but are just as perfect for a snack while having a beer and watching the game.
So, hurryhurryhurry to your local market and get some before they’re gone!
Fried Zucchini Blossoms with Ricotta
The flowers are very delicate and rip easily. They’re also a lot harder to handle when wet. Don’t panic if you rip them some while removing the stamens or opening them to stuff. You can mold the petals around the stuffing and pinch any gaps closed around the cheese so it doesn’t leak out during frying. Once you dip them in the batter and drop them in the oil, you’ll never know.
12-15 zucchini blossoms, cleaned, stamens removed, and either air dried or patted gently with a paper towel
-for the stuffing-
-1/2 cup ricotta at room temperature
-2 small anchovies
-1 chili, finely chopped
-2 cloves of garlic (smaller if you like less, larger if you like more), minced or grated
-zest of 1 small lemon (or 1/2 a larger one)
-1 tbs basil, finely chopped
-1 tbs mint, finely chopped
-salt and black pepper to taste
-for the batter-
-vegetable oil such as canola or safflower oil (not olive oil- it doesn’t have a high enough smoke point)
-1 cup all purpose or gluten-free flour (We tried them both ways. They’re equally delicious and really, indistinguishable since there’s so little batter on each flower.)
-1 cup ice water
-2 large egg yolks at room temperature
-1/2 tsp salt
*Mash anchovies in a bowl until they’re basically a paste. Add ricotta, chili pepper, lemon zest, basil, mint, garlic, a pinch of salt, and black pepper. Mix thoroughly and taste to see if you need to add more salt. Anchovies are pretty salty, so you might not.
*Pour 2 inches of oil into a deep skillet or wide-mouthed sauce pot. Heat to 375 degrees. Keep an eye on the temperature; you don’t want it to get too hot or cool down. If you don’t have a thermometer, keep the heat a little above medium and heat until hot but not smoking.
*For the batter: In a large bowl, beat egg yolks and salt with a whisk. Add ice water and whisk well.
*Add flour and whisk until the batter is smooth and creamy and thickens a bit.
*To stuff the flowers: Gently stuff each flower with about 1 tbs of the ricotta mixture. Carefully pinch the top of the flour together around the filling and close any tears.
*Dredge flowers in batter one at a time, allowing the excess to drip off before placing them in the oil slowly. Don’t overcrowd the pan or they won’t cook properly.
*Cook for about 2 or 3 minutes, flipping them once at about the halfway point.
*When flowers are golden brown, remove using a slotted spoon and set on a paper towel-lined plate or metal rack. Sprinkle with sea salt.
*Get ’em while they’re hot. Serve with tomato sauce, a sprinkle of vinegar, or perfectly plain, which is how we usually prefer them. There’s no time to add anything between the blossoms and our mouths, anyway.