Wednesday, July 20, 2011

fiori di zucca

She sits there learning Italian from an attractive Italian man. Eyes look down onto her plate as she presses her cutlery into the untouched dish in front of her. A waft of steam and a slip of cream spill out for the pierce mark she makes with her fork. Suddenly the man in front no longer holds her attention. It's all about this food adventure.

If you don’t grow zucchini yourself, zucchini blossoms – or fiori di zucca, as they are known in Italian – can be hard to find. They are highly perishable.

The best way to eat zucchini flowers is to coat them in a light tempura batter, fry briefly in hot oil, sprinkle with salt and devour – right there in the kitchen, waiting for the next ones to come out of the pan.

The secret is to go easy on the batter and make sure the oil is very hot. If the oil is not hot enough, the beignets will soak up too much of it and be soggy.

Zucchini Flower Beignets
Makes 16
  • 1 cup (250 mL) sparkling bottled water
  • ¾ cup (175 mL) flour
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) salt
  • 16 zucchini blossoms
  • Canola oil, for frying
  • Sea salt, for serving

To make batter, pour sparkling water into a medium-size shallow bowl. Sift flour, cornstarch and salt together, then gradually sift into the sparkling water, using a fork to incorporate. (The batter should be the consistency of buttermilk.) Refrigerate for half an hour.

Prepare the zucchini blossoms by cutting a slit in each flower and snapping off the pistil or stamen inside. Line a platter with several layers of paper towel and set aside.

Pour about 1 inch (2.5 cm) of oil in a deep pan or deep fryer. Heat over high heat until oil is very hot but not smoking, about 375F (190C). Drop a bit of batter in oil to test that it’s hot enough; you’ll know it is if the batter bubbles as soon as it hits the oil.

Dip each zucchini flower into the batter to coat well, then wipe against the side of the bowl to remove excess. Fry several beignets at a time, being careful not to crowd the pan, until they are crisp and golden on the bottom, 2 to 3 minutes. Using tongs, flip the beignets and continue cooking until the other side is coloured, about one minute.

Lift each beignet from the pan or deep fryer with tongs, letting the excess oil drip off. Remove to the paper-lined platter, sprinkle with sea salt and serve immediately. Repeat for remaining flowers, making sure the oil returns to the right temperature between batches.

Blossoms can be stuffed with small cubes of mozzarella, ricotta, or halloumi cheese before being coated in batter.

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