At this time of year, farmer’s markets or specialty stores randomly place loosely packed beautiful, yellow flower blossoms in the produce section. Those are zucchini flowers. They’re not meant for decorative vases to spruce up a room. Are they for salads? Maybe, if you want to feel light and delicate. There’s a better way to enjoy them. Let’s take a break from the green leafy stuff. Why don’t we wrap those delicate petals around a stuffing made with fresh herbs and whole milk ricotta (don’t cheat by buying low-fat, it’s not fair to the taste buds), and fry them golden brown.
Everyone has a vice, right? My food cravings rarely include fried food. Sugar is my vice. I cherish those memories of eating a whole chocolate cake in less than an hour without worrying about weight gain (…to be a kid, again… not!). So, when the BedStuy Farmshare included zucchini flowers in my pick-up share, I knew instantly to fry them. I’ve heard about stuffing them with cheese, onions and herbs. It’s seems like a complicated process. How does the stuffing stay in the petals? Those petals look too delicate to twist. After making these stuffed delicate flowers, all concerns are placed aside.
The flower has a mild pepper taste made crisp with a good seasoned batter, and a herb and ricotta cheese stuffing rarely fails any recipe. Let’s confess: I’m not a frying expert, but I’m picky about cooking oils. If making fried food, using good ingredients separates flavorful from oily fried dishes. Canola is my least favorite oil because of its terrible oily aftertaste–it’s not neutral at all. It actually means, “CAnadian Oil, Low Acid.” Today’s canola oils use unnatural, genetically modified rapeseed (Thanks, Melissa for sharing the information). I’ve been bad myself, because my pantry includes chemically extracted peanut oil, and that’s not good either.
Chemically extracted oils use unnatural solvents. Some chemicals are poisonous, but the process alters the original taste of the oil. When oil is expeller-pressed, it’s using a machine to press the oils out of raw materials, such as nuts and seeds. This process has a drawback, because the heat from the machine could change the taste. The cold-pressed method is the best process for extracting oil. A machine presses the seeds or nuts at cooler temperatures. This process maintains the original flavor of the oil. As I’m frying more food, I’m experimenting with various expeller-pressed oils, for the cold-pressed oils doesn’t always fit into my budget. These Stuffed Zucchini Flowers are fried in an expeller-pressed sunflower oil. They were flavorful and clean without an oily aftertaste.
Our friend, Melissa has an 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of her diet is healthy (and still taste better than highly praise junk) and twenty percent of her diet is to enjoy whatever is available. When fried food is on my plate, I find it pairs nicely with a green salad. This time, instead of making a salad, I served Coconut Rice with Cilantro and Black Beans. It’s why the ricotta stuffing for the flowers has oregano. Tomorrow, I will have a green salad and a slice of chocolate cake. I love this 80/20 rule.
» Fooducate.com’s What is Expeller-Pressed Oil and Why Does it Matter?
Fried Stuffed Zucchini Flowers
16 to 20 zucchini flowers
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. fresh black pepper
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
A dash celery seed
1/2 tsp. sugar
3/4-cup water, room temperature
Cayenne pepper; to taste
2 large eggs
1-cup organic whole milk ricotta
(Optional) The zest of one lemon
1 to 2 tbsp. minced fresh oregano (or any minced fresh herb)
1 small shallot; minced
Sea salt & black pepper; to taste
Neutral oil; as needed (recommend expeller-pressed sunflower, grapeseed, or peanut oil)
1. To clean the zucchini flowers, snap or cut off stems. Cut a small slit lengthwise to remove the bulbous, yellow stamen. Lightly rinse to clean flowers of grit and the occasional bug. Let dry completely.
2. To make the batter: Whisk flour, sea salt, black pepper, nutmeg, celery seed, sugar, water, and cayenne pepper together Let rest for at least one hour. Whisk in the first egg before dipping the stuffed zucchini flowers.
3. To make the ricotta stuffing: Mix cayenne pepper, the second egg, ricotta, lemon zest, oregano, shallot, salt, and black pepper thoroughly. Set aside.
4. To stuff the flowers: Place about teaspoon (amount depends on the size of the flower) of the ricotta stuffing at the base of each flower. Twist the leaves to cover the stuffing and place aside. Repeat with the other flowers.
5. Fill a large skillet with oil to a depth of about 1 inch. Heat over a high temperature.
6. When the oil is hot, working quickly and gently, dip each flower into the batter. Place the flowers into the hot oil. Work in batches to prevent overcrowding. After a few minutes, when the bottom is golden brown, turn the flower over to cook the other side. When the flower is golden brown on both sides, remove to a paper towel-lined plate.
7. Sprinkle with a sea salt and black pepper. Enjoy quickly, because they don’t store well over time.
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