What do I do with Zucchini Flowers?
I saw some at the local farmer's market here in SF and my beloved Take Home Chef was stoked on them in one of his shows.... but what can I do with them as a just-learning to cook chef? Does anyone have a recipe?
oh that's different, then-- i assumed the op was asking for recipes specific to squash blossoms. i've always prepared small new zucchini with blossom-still-attached the way i would regular zuch, leaving the blossom attached.
the male blossoms are what i see sold at my market, sometimes with stamens, sometimes not, with long stems, no squash obviously. they're sold in bunches like herbs or cut flowers.
as soon as you get them home, before you walk in the house, shake them-- sometimes there's a squirrely ant or other pollinator going about their business--
if the stamens are not already removed by the farmer, you might want to do this, but not strictly necessary
use them right away snipped into a big salad OR
make a light batter with egg/water or beer/flour, chill the batter for 20-30 mins
make a stuffing with ricotta & herbs or breadcrumbs & veggies & egg binder, or leftover potsticker filling, or plain grated cheese, or whatever you have.
stuff the blossoms with a heaping spoon of filling (but you don't want to overfill them, be stingy at 1st). twist the blossoms closed at the tip, chill for 15-25 mins in fridge
heat oil until hot in heavy bottomed pan, cast iron is ideal-- you want about 1/2 inch oil
dip blossoms in batter, slip into oil (careful) and fry, turning, until brown. don't crowd pan, takes 3 mins or so per blossom. transfer to paper towels with metal tongs to drain, sprinkle with sea salt and eat right away.
don't try to keep the blossoms-- eat them within hours of buying at the market :)
Okay, it does sound hard, but stuffed zucchini blossoms are do easy and fantastic it's ridiculous.
This is my favorite thing about spring, by the way..
Steps and thoughts:
Use your blossoms withing hours of picking.
Make a filling- I make a filling of goat cheese (let's say about 4 oz), about 1/2 of a beaten egg, some chives, and a pinch of cayenne pepper.
Mix the filling up, and put into a ziploc bag.
Cut a corner out of the bag for piping in the filling.
Pick the stamens/pistils out of the flower carefully- and watch for bees!
Pipe in the filling, and gently pinch closed.
Make a little batter of beer and flour. (1/2 cup beer, 1/2 cup flour) and dip the blossoms in right before:
Fry in hot olive oil. I use about an inch deep, and turn once.
They are even better if you have a tiny zucchini attached, I usualy "fan" it so it will cook a little faster, as the veg is more dense than the filling.
Oh, and they are female flowers if there's a little zucchini still stuck to one end--don't cut it off, they're great as-is. They're male if there's no fruit, just a stem.
Three things similar in principle: a) blossom incorporated in fresh pasta intended for large sheet ravioli, b) blossom incorporated flat in the egg part of an omellete, and c) blossom incorporated in crepes.
...and continuing on the crepe theme, they are also great in quesadillas, with a mild cheese, possibly some mushrooms, and a little diced pepper to your taste. the oaxacan version usually uses quesillo cheese and a wheat wrapper (empanada style, or a wheat tortilla). i'm sometimes feeling lazy and pick up frozen pre-made empanada wrappers and roll them out a little thinner to make wrapper (and a mild cheese like mozarella will do in a pinch--sadly, we can't get real quesillo where I live, though i've been known to sub armenian string cheese!)
I don't find the blossoms have a particularly strong flavour - I use them more for the prettiness and as an interesting garnish. It may sound obvious, but they make a lovely - and relevant - garnish to any zucchini dish.
To confirm what others said:
1. Use within a day - they wither and are hard to open after that
2. Remove the stamen, pistil - whatever that thing inside is called. Use a melon ball scooper, or even a clean (!) fingernail
I clean them as I would spinach, just before using them: fill a bowl or sink with cold water, gently place the blossoms in the water, and agitate with your hands. The sand and grit should fall to the bottom of the bowl/sink.
I use them to garnish zucchini risotto, or I stuff them with a ricotta gnocchi mix (piping bag - or ziplock bag with corner snipped - helps here), poach and serve in a zucchini broth-style soup.
One last tip: if they tips of the flower won't twist and stay shut, I use a bit of kitchen string, tied in a slip knot, to fasten the end closed. After poaching/sauteeing, I simply remove the string before serving, and the flower tips should still remain shut.
Enjoy your beautfiul, edible flowers!
I like to stuff them with a dab of mozzarella and a piece of anchovy, dip the whole in tempura batter and deep fry. Serve with a tasty tomato sauce for dipping.
Makes a great antipasto!