Sunday, July 18, 2010

Zucchini flowers (or squash blossoms) stuffed with pesto ricotta

Zucchini flowers, squash blossoms, fiori de zucca... however you prefer to call them is OK by me.

While vacationing in Italy in May 2008 I ate some deliciously prepared "fiori de zucca" at Cafe Perugia restaurant (in the city of Perugia) - stuffed with ricotta cheese and lightly fried in a panko crust.

The distinguished looking gentleman sitting at the table next to me said it was pumpkin flowers, not zucchini flowers - perhaps he thought "pumpkin" was the word for squash and I was thinking that "zucca" was the word for pumpkin. Confusing, I know! Whatever, it doesn't matter. Between his imperfect English and my limited Italian I was not quite understanding because I saw these edible flowers at the tips of zucchini at the Venice market just the week before  (the photo here proves it) - which is why thought I was eating zucchini flowers.

Anyway... I learned that many different types of squash flowers can be eaten - raw or cooked - and they all look pretty similarly. 

When I saw the squash flowers at the Willow Glen San Jose farmer's market and it brought me back to that wonderful dinner we had in Perugia so I bought a bag and made it my project for that evening.

The flowers are delicate and because they were stuffed inside a plastic bag on a hot day the flowers didn't actually look that great.

I don't think they were too old because there were 2 live bees inside the bag. I let them go in my garden hoping they will pollinate the vegetable flowers.

Next I removed the stamens from the inside of the flower. This was a bit time consuming because I had to be careful not to tear the flowers. Luckily I had some long, narrow and pointy shears that allowed me to easily get to the base of the stamens. Then I carefully washed them and let them dry.

While the flowers were drying I mixed some pre-made pesto into some ricotta cheese. I happened to have both ingredients in my fridge so it was quick and easy, and good. How can you go wrong with pesto?

I used a small spoon to stuff the flowers which made it easier and faster to prepare without tearing the flowers.

Beat 1 egg in a small bowl. Also place some panko crumbs in a separate bowl. 

Dip the stuffed flower in the egg and then in the panko crumbs.

Pour a little olive oil in the pan and heat to medium high. Not too much oil because we're not deep frying, just lightly frying.

Cook for about 45-60 seconds on each side. You may need to add more oil along the way if you're cooking many pieces, but remember to let the oil heat up first so you get that nice brown color.

I don't usually serve my first attempt at making something to guests, but I happen to have nice friends coming (including an Italian friend) and they unanimously highly approved. I will definitely try this again!

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