Monday, August 3, 2009
Formerly a city girl who traveled extensively, I always believed I was adventurous when it comes to eating. I look forward to trying different types of cuisine and enjoy reading up on any new ingredient or dish. But then I realized my adventurous self did not extend to cooking. After two years of almost daily cooking, my spatula and I remain happily within my Asian food comfort zone. De-seed and slice chillies until my fingers burn? Sure. Stand over my stove to stir serunding for 3 hours? Can. Toast belacan until the whole house is fumed of pungent dried shrimps? No problem. But tell me to cook with 3 pounds of cheese for lasagna, fear strikes. Don't get me wrong - I love cheese, but I'm just not moved to cook with them.
Sometimes though, the desire to taste a dish just based on its description can overcome your trepidation. Everytime I go to the farmer's market in the summer, I look longingly at the zucchini flowers. I had read about how delicious fried zucchini flowers are. But they look so pretty and so delicate, I was not sure I would be successful. Two summers past. I knew of no restaurants that serve them so finally, yesterday, I picked up a box of zucchini blossoms at the farmer's market.
When we got home, I googled for more information. I discovered that the usual zucchini flowers sold and used for cooking are male flowers because the female ones are kept on the plants for zucchini. I also read of at least 2 types of batters - egg and flour, and club soda and flour. Since it was simple enough, I decided to try both. For the stuffing, I noticed some recipes did not call for any. I liked the idea, but since we had some goat cheese and basil leaves, I thought I would try it two ways too.
I did not have any club soda, so I used sparkling water, which worked out well. And while I was cooking with the batter of egg and flour, I decided to try frying 2 dipped only in egg. Verdict - the egg only batter browned very easily - if you look at the picture below, the ones more browned are from the egg only batter. The taste of egg is very strong - it's like eating an omelette with zucchini flowers. The sparkling water and flour batter was thicker than the one with egg and flour. We enjoyed both flour batters; the egg only batter, not so much.
As for the stuffing, I mixed a little chopped basil with goat cheese. It was good, but we liked the zucchini flowers even without cheese. So in a pinch, I would definitely cook without stuffing. Next time, we'd also like to try it with mozzarella. I am also glad I read this hilarious post before cooking and removed the stamens from the zucchini flowers before stuffing/frying. This is common advice in other recipes I had read as well.
I think deep frying would have produced a prettier looking dish, but I just pan-fried and turned over. Pretty or not, we ate our lunch with relish. Afterall, nothing tastes as good as something you have been craving for a while.
The recipe below is based on the various recipes which I have linked to on this page.
Fried zucchini flowers - 3 batters and 1 stuffing
16 zucchini flowers
½ cup flour
¾ cup sparkling water
(this is sufficient batter for all the flowers)
Mix well until you get a thick batter.
1 large egg
flour for dredging
Leftover egg from Batter 1
(not recommended with stuffing)
4 tablespoons goat cheese
1 tablespoon basil leaves, chopped finely
(This stuffing is sufficient for about 10 flowers. Add more if required)
Oil for pan-frying
Carefully cut a slit near the base of the flower and remove the stamens. Use a small spoon to stuff about ½ teaspoon stuffing into 10 of the flowers. Then gently dip one flower (with or without stuffing) in Batter 1. Place in medium-heat oil for 2-3 minutes, and turn over and fry for another two minutes. Remove and place on paper towel on a rack. Repeat until you finish the batter, or until 8 flowers. Then dip the next flower in egg, holding the flower over the egg for a few seconds to let excess egg drain. Dredge lightly in flour. Fry about four of the flowers. Finally, dip the remaining flowers in the egg generously and fry in oil.
Sprinkle some salt over the flowers while hot and enjoy!