Thursday, July 5, 2012

Fried Ricotta Stuffed Zucchini Flowers

While driving back from Niagara-on-the-Lake this past weekend, through the region's fertile countryside dotted with rows upon rows of grape vines, fruit trees and flower farms, we stopped at a local farmer's road-side vegetable stand and picked up some of their home grown yellow beans, fresh raspberries and an enormous basket of beautiful firm and fresh golden zucchini blossoms, still attached to their tender young marrow. Although I have never actually stuffed my own blossoms, I have ordered them before in restaurants, and was mesmerized by their fragile texture and delicate flavour. Inspired by the sheer bounty of my new found treasure, I decided to try my hand at making my own Deep Fried Ricotta Stuffed Zucchini Flowers. 

My deep fried Ricotta Stuffed Zucchini Flowers

The process is quite simple, as I found out. Snap off the stems from each of the blossoms, remove the stamen and give the flowers a good rinse under cold water, to get rid of any critters that may be lurking inside. After looking over a few recipes, I came up with my own adaption of the cheese stuffing. Ricotta is usually the base and other cheeses and herbs are added. Stuff each blossom with your cheese mixture, taking care to fold the petal over the hole for a nice seal. Dredge in an egg and flour mixture, heat a skillet with a substantial amount of olive oil for frying, about an inch or two, then fry three or four blossoms at a time until they're puffed and golden brown. They need to be served straight away, crisp and hot, or else they go soggy quite quickly. Sprinkled with a little Maldon sea salt, a shower of shaved pecorino or set in a puddle of homemade Marinara Sauce — any which way, they're delicious!

Fried Ricotta Stuffed Zucchini Flowers
Makes 12 fried blossoms

For the filling:
1-1/2 cups Ricotta cheese
1/2 cup Boursin cheese
1/2 tsp fresh black pepper
1 tsp salt
3 tbs fresh finely chopped chives
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

For the batter:
12 Zucchini flowers
2 large eggs
1 cup cold water
1 cup all-purpose flour
Salt and pepper to taste

Vegetable oil, for frying

In a small bowl, mix together the Ricotta, Boursin, chives and lemon zest, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Fill a pastry bag with tip, or zip lock baggie, with the cheese mixture. If using a baggie, cut a tip off a corner large enough to squeeze out the cheese mixture. Being very careful not to tear the flower, gently squeeze the cheese mixture into each zucchini flower, then place in the refrigerate and let them chill briefly.

Meanwhile, pour about 3-inches of oil in a deep pan and heat to 375°F. In a medium sized bowl, beat the egg yolks then pour in the cold water, mixing to combine. Then add the flour and mix until the batter is similar to a thick pancake batter.

To make the fried blossoms, dip each stuffed zucchini flower one at a time, in the batter to coat completely. Fry the flowers in the hot oil for 2-3 minutes until crisp and a nice golden brown. Using a slotted spoon, remove the cooked blossoms from the oil and drain on a paper towel lined plate or cookie sheet, seasoning with salt and pepper while they're still hot. Repeat until all of the blossoms are fried. Serve the flowers piping hot with a sprinkle of Maldon sea salt, for they become soggy as they cool.

For a entrée-style dish, place 2 or 3 fried blossoms on a warmed plate and pour hot tomato sauce on top with a sprinkle with finely grated Parmesan cheese.

Optional Tempura-Style Batter

1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup plain flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup cold soda water