Zucchini (also known as Courgettes) are members of the summer squash family. They produce separate male and female flowers and when fertilized the female flowers grow into the fruit, which can reach three feet in length.
The female flowers are large and golden in colour. When fertilized the zucchini develop on their bases. Zucchini are unusual in that you can have a baby zucchini with a flower still attached to it.
The flowers of zucchini are edible and their large size makes them excellent for stuffing. They can be roasted, fried or braised to cook.
However, as all flowers are quite fragile in structure it is best to cook them quickly. Deep frying is an excellent way of cooking quickly, but it means cooking at high heat and the food needs to be protected from the heat. One of the best ways of coating the outside of the flower to protect it is to use a Japanese-style tempura batter.
Below is a recipe for a tempura-style batter.
1 egg, beaten
1 cup cold, sparkling, water
2 tbsp dry white wine
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
It is critical to making the batter that the water you’re using is very cold (just above freezing is best as this keeps the batter from becoming sticky). Mix the egg with the water and dry white wine. Add the flour and whisk quickly just to mix in. This batter does not need to rest, so it’s best to use it immediately.
Frying the Zucchini Flowers
You can cook both the male and the female flowers, just ensure that the flowers are clean then remove the pistils from the female flowers and the stamens from the male flowers. Those flowers that have not quite opened fully are best to cook and the quicker you can cook them after harvesting, the better they taste.
oil for frying
12 zucchini flowers
Either add your oil to a wok so that you have a depth of about 5cm or use a deep fat fryer. Heat the wok (or fryer) to 350ºF. Now take one of the zucchini flowers at a time and dip them in the tempura batter, ensuring that they are evenly and well coated in the batter.
Drop the battered blossoms into the hot oil and fry for a few minutes, turning them over half way through. When done, the batter should be golden brown and the flowers should be piping hot all the way through.
As each batch is ready turn into a communal serving bowl. Sprinkle salt and a little rice wine vinegar and serve immediately. Though this looks like a deceptively simple recipe for frying zucchini blossoms, because the batter is very light and the cooking is quick, you are preserving as much of the texture and flavour of the flowers as possible.
This makes an excellent snack to be enjoyed outside with a chilled glass of white wine.
If you desire a slightly more substantial dish, then you can stuff the flowers with a little ricotta or mascarpone cheese before dipping in the batter and frying.