Fried zucchini flowers are one of those delicacies that remind me of summer picnics when I was a kid. It seems so stereotypical but most Italians I know, recall the large family picnics at the beach, where every ‘mother’ among the group would bring way too much food, more than the entire entourage could possibly eat in a week. One family would usually head out first thing in the morning and park one vehicle close to the picnic area to transport the supplies – lawn chairs, tent, bocce balls, barbeque and some type of musical instrument. Their job was to scout several picnic tables under a large shade tree, and string them together end-on-end, and wait for others to arrive.
And yes, our mothers would bring red and white checkered tablecloths.
Besides packing everything but the kitchen sink, round barbeque with charcoal, and coolers of fresh marinated lamb and spezzini (tiny barbeque-able meat kabobs), steaks and sausages for dinner, our mothers would bring some of the ‘lighter fare’ for lunch such as a hot tray of lasagna wrapped in several layers of newsprint and tablecloths, cold slab pizza, accompanied by prosciutto and soppressata, water melon, frittata sauteed with mint leaves & parmesan cheese, and of course fried zucchini flowers.
Zucchini flowers are a wonderful and addictive appetizer treat. One can never get enough of them. A normal sized garden of a few plants would yield only about twenty flowers per harvest. Early morning is the best time to harvest the flowers. It is also important to note that flowers are either male and female.
Although the female flower is tastier, its best to pick the male flower for the purpose of consumption, as it serves no purpose other than falling off the vine after it flowers. The female flower, on the other hand, is essential for the plant and should be left in tact so the vine actually bears fruit.
In mid summer when the vine begins to flower you will notice a delicate and sizable yellow bloom on it. The male flower is hairier and it has a thin base where the zucchini attaches to the stem. The female has a thick bulge which is its ovary (at the point where it is attached to the vine). Once you harvest as many blooms as possible, it is best to brush them off rather than wash them in order to prepare them for frying.
Here is the recipe below:
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup cold water
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 12 zucchini flowers – washed and dried
- Kosher salt and
- freshly ground black pepper
Pour about 1 inch of oil in a large wok-style pot and heat to 375 degrees F. In a deep mixing bowl, lightly beat the eggs and combinewith cold water. Add the flour and continue to mix until all is incorporated into a smooth batter. Dip a few flowers at a time in the batter and saturate to coat completely, letting the excess drip off.
Fry the flowers in the hot oil until crisp and golden – should take no more than 2 minutes. Remove from oil and place on paper towels prior to plating.