By flowers I mean the blossoms that sprout off the very humble vegetable known as “courgette” in France and Britain and “zucchina” in Italy and in the US. They flower in late Spring and are usually out of season by the end of the Summer. So I couldn’t resist buying a bunch at the market last Tuesday … it made it all so Indian-Summer even though it was pelting with rain that morning.
As delightful as they are to behold, these fiori di zucca do need delicate handling. And whilst nobody would deny that I am very delicate in my feelings, I do have to admit that the job of delicacy in cooking is quite a challenge for me and so, whenever I can, I leave it those who are better at it than I … the unsuspecting guest, the gracious mother-in-law and the obedient daughter. This evening it was my kind husband who was landed with the task of stuffing the zucchini blossoms with mozzarella cheese.
I had already put the blossoms in a basin containing lukewarm water so that they could enjoy a good bathe and relax and open out. Then I drained them and put them to rest on a nice clean dish cloth. Finally, inserting a finger as gently as I could (and not succeeding, and thereby tearing the odd petal or two), I removed the “inside” of each blossom (a pistil? no — but I can’t remember its proper name right now so I’ll pretend it is) –whatever its name, it is a beautiful bright orange colour but also slightly bitter in taste so it’s best to remove it.
Now, as for the batter for cooking these beauties in – aha! That’s another matter, so much easier, none of this delicacy nonsense and quite a pleasure to prepare. I mixed about 250g of ordinary flour and 50g of maize flour and used some sparkling water to make the batter. (I could have used beer too, it’s very common to do so in Italy.) Then I got an egg and added the egg yolk to the batter. I whipped up the egg white separately and finally blended it in to the batter at the very end. I then left the batter in the fridge for about six hours as it turned out. The minimum resting time is at least 20 minutes (batter likes to rest) but what I usually do is stick it in the freezer for about 10 minutes. It’s a great way to cheat with batter … somehow spending time in the freezer makes it “bond” or something, I don’t know … my knowledge of chemistry is less than rudimentary. All I know is that it works and that’s what counts.
It is customary to add an anchovy fillet and maybe even a bit of basil leaf together with the mozzarella when stuffing a fiore di zucca … but I knew I couldn’t push my husband too far (he has never professed to enjoying cooking) and so I had to make it as easy for him as I could. I thus chopped up some herbs and added them to the mozzarella instead, for a bit of zing. The blossoms got dipped in the batter and were fried in hot vegetable oil (I sometimes used olive oil too) … and sprinkled with salt just before serving … still hot. Nice. Naughty but nice …