If you have ever grown zucchinis, you will know how prolific they can be. But did you know that zucchini plants have both male and female flowers? The female flowers produce the zucchini at their bases, while the male flowers sit on a thin stem and produce no fruit. So you can happily pick them, knowing that you won’t be reducing your harvest by doing so.
This recipe for stuffed zucchini flowers makes a perfect antipasto dish, and is just SO delicious. I have used Stephanie Alexander’s egg white batter recipe for dipping the filled flowers into. It makes quite a lot of batter, so if you are doing just a single batch of flowers, you could use what’s left over to coat some batons of zucchini or other veggies as well.
I also made extra of the ricotta mixture to fill some jalapeno peppers that caught my eye at the farmers market. Once filled, I drizzled some olive oil over them and roasted them in a moderate oven for about half an hour. A word of warning if you’re thinking of giving them a try…these little buggers are HOT!!!
For the batter:
1 2/3 cups plain flour
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup warm water
2 egg whites
For the filling:
150 g ricotta cheese
25 g parmesan cheese, finely grated
a handful of fresh basil
a sprig of fresh oregano
1 clove garlic, crushed
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
12 zucchini flowers
Olive or rice bran oil, for deep-frying
First of all, make the batter. Whisk the flour and salt together in a bowl then make a well in the centre. Pour the olive oil and water into the flour, and whisk together until smooth. Set aside to rest at room temperature for one hour.
Meanwhile, make the filling. Mix together the ricotta and the parmesan cheese. Strip the basil and oregano leaves from their stems, and finely chop. Add to the cheeses, along with the garlic, and some sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to season. Mix well to combine.
Now its time to fill the zucchini flowers. I like to use a large silicone piping bag to do this, but if you don’t have one you could use a spoon – I just find it a bit fiddly that’s all.
Spoon the ricotta mixture into the piping bag, if using, and one-by-one, gently open up a zucchini flower and fill. (Make sure you have a good look inside first to make sure no bugs are hiding in there). Once you have filled the flower, gently twirl the ends to close it around the filling and set aside. Repeat with all the flowers, then pop them in the fridge while you finish the batter.
In another bowl, whisk the egg whites with an electric mixer until soft peaks form, then gently fold through the batter.
Place a large wok over a high heat, and pour in olive or rice bran oil to a depth of 1.5 cm. To check whether your oil is hot enough to start cooking the flowers, drop a little of the batter in there. It should sizzle immediately, and begin to turn golden brown.
Holding onto the stem, dip each zucchini flower into the batter and carefully place into the oil. Cook in small batches so as not to overcrowd the wok and lower the temperature of the oil.
Fry each flower until golden brown, then turn over to fry the other side. When each flower is done, hold it for a few moments against the side of the wok to allow any excess oil to drain back into the pan, before placing on a tray that has been lined with paper towel. Keep warm in the oven while cooking the others. Serve immediately.