Crispy Zucchini Blossoms (Fried Zucchini Flowers)

July 15, 2007

One of my favorite summertime ingrediants is zucchini flowers–they are relatively difficult to find in the US, but common in many parts of Italy. If you are lucky enough to be in the SF bay area, you may find them at farmer’s markets, and often Berkeley Bowl has them but admittedly they are never as large and fresh as overseas.

At any rate, there are a few ways to prepare them, but before doing so you should always wash them in cool water (the easiest is to fill a small bowl and plunge them in and shake them around), and check the inside for worms (less of a problem in the US because they are often grown inside). Then, you can slice them and add to a simple broth-based pasta, or even a quesedilla with matsuke mushrooms, truffle oil, something like that–but not too much cheese or it will overwhelm their delicate flavor.

For fried blossoms it’s important to wash them and dry them COMPLETELY before frying. The best thing to do is wash them a few hours before you need them, and let them sit out on towels in a cool, darker place so that they don’t wilt.

You will need:

zucchini blossoms (4-6 for appetizer for two people)
pine nut oil, safflower oil, or other high temperature oil for frying
spumante (Italian sparkling wine or other sparkling wine/champagne) or a full-flavored beer

Start with about half a cup of flour in a medium or large bowl. Give it a heafty pinch of salt, and whisk it to combine. Pour in some beer/spumante/whatever. If you have to, use carbonated water, but the alcohol is best. Keep adding fluid and flour until the mixture is like pancake dough–somewhat thick but smooth and able to run.

Heat your oil to medium high. make sure it’s hot enough before you start–you can test with a small amount of the batter, it should sizzle around the edges. You should use a sautee pan with high, squared off sides, we are not deep frying but are pan frying. The oil shouldn’t come up more than half-way. I like to wear long sleeves when I do this. Keep some tongs handy. Also, don’t be afraid to adjust the temperature as you fry. The cold batter WILL change the temperature of the oil and several minor adjustments up or down are probably necessary as you fry. You want to achieve an even color on all sides, but allow the batter that gets in the middle of the blossoms to cook.

Allow the blossoms to cook mostly on one side, and then turn them over–similar to pancakes. They will take less time on the second side. Place them on paper towels when they are done frying, and be sure to SALT them. I like to serve them with a pepperoncini aeoli, or other mayo-based sauce. They are also good with pepperoncini jam or jelly.

Zucchini BlossomsFried Zucchini Blossoms

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