Encouraged by multiple inspirations I refined a recipe for Zucchini Blossom Fritters. A light batter, stuffed with fresh mozzarella and enhanced with basil, it is a lovely summer treat.
Zucchini Flower (Fiori di zucca)
In Italy, beautiful displays of zucchini flowers are common in summer markets, and it is impossible not to be drawn to them by their beauty. Then there is tasting them: it is a shock how good they are – delicate for sure, but distinct. They call this preparation Fiori di zucca in Pastella (Zucchini flower in batter) Regardless of whether you call them zucchini flowers or zucchini blossoms, it is surprising how much taste they have.
I was additionally inspired by a display at my summer market. One of my favorite vendors always puts on an incredible display of herbs and flowers and a few vegetables. Her gentle face and manner and the luscious display almost appear to be too perfect, too idealized. Yet, she is the genuine thing. As summer deepens, zucchini blossoms were added to her display and were impossible to ignore.
And then there is Jacques Pépin. During the spring of the 2020 pandemic, he released frequent short videos broadly available on social media. They were somewhere between two to four minutes long. Comforting and inspiring, they were intended to provide ideas on how to cook what you had while at home during isolation and with what was available. His calm presence, his display of techniques, and his ideas were comforting and helpful. The videos ended with his trademark “Cheers and happy cooking” and a display of the logo of the Jacques Pépin Foundation. I gradually became aware the foundation had ramped up efforts of hunger relief during the pandemic. This was an effort beyond their original mission of community kitchens and training, and the videos were intended to draw attention to the effort. As spring moved to summer, he eventually released a video on Zucchini Blossom Fritters.
It was time for me to take a deeper look at this topic. This was not a deep dive of 100 or so recipes as I have done in the past, but a casual review. In particular, I had a few questions:
- What is the best way to prepare a light batter for this dish?
- My market vendor flavored hers with herbs. Does it enhance the product?
- Several recipes call for stuffing the blossoms. This can change the dish from a side dish to a light main course. If one chooses to do that, what is the best approach without hiding the unique flavor of the blossoms?
- How much oil is needed and what kind?
Notes on the Ingredients
Jacques Pépin used a simple batter of flour, cold sparkling mineral water, salt, and baking powder. Incredibly easy to remember: a third, a third, a third. Specifically, a third cup of flour, a third cup of mineral water, and a third teaspoon of baking powder. Quickly mixed together and kept cold, I found no way to improve on this. BTW, as Pépin demonstrated in other videos, this batter can be used for anything from corn to apples to make a nice fritter.
Note: In the recipe below, I increase the proportions (1/2 cup each of the flour and water, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder) to make sure we have extra for a possible stuffing. Again, easy enough to remember — a half, a half, a half.
I liked sweet basil mixed in the batter in relatively large pieces. Anything else seemed to distract from the blossoms.
The research revealed prosciutto, ricotta, mozzarella, and even anchovies suggested for stuffing inside the blossoms. After some testing, it was clear to me to the only thing I liked in the blossoms was fresh mozzarella.
Notes on Technique
The technique is pretty easy here, but a couple of issues are important to clarify.
The stamens need to be removed. They are somewhat bitter. They are bright yellow and hard to miss. You will see them laying aside in the accompanying photos above. Additionally, given the reality of organic produce, you need to check inside the blossoms for any extra guests crawling inside.
I determined that the type of oil is not very important. Some recipes use a drizzle of olive oil, some an inch or so of a neutral oil to deep fry. Some only a drizzle of the neutral oil. Testing determined a drizzle of oil on a nonstick skillet works well and is certainly healthier. Both the neutral oil and olive oil work. Use your preference.
- 6 zucchini blossoms
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 cup cold sparkling mineral water
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 3.5 ounces (100g) mozzarella, separated into 6 mounds (optional)
- small bunch of sweet basil (optional)
- 3 tablespoons of light oil or olive oil for frying
- Paprika Mayonnaise
- Snip the stamen out of the middle of the blossoms being careful not to tear the blossom.
- If you want to serve with paprika mayonnaise, prepare it now so you can serve the fritters hot. Simply spoon out some mayonnaise and add paprika to taste. Set aside.
- Prepare the basil leaves for the batter by tearing any leaves that are very large.
- Gently open the blossoms and add the mozzarella. Gently pinch the blossom closed. Do each blossom before moving to the mixing and dredging of the batter so you can work quickly and keep it cold.
- Make the batter by mixing the flour and baking powder, then add about half the water. Stir to make smooth. (Adding a half at first helps get flour lumps out of the batter.) Add the remaining water to make a moist batter. Add a little more water or flour, as needed. Salt as desired. If adding basil, gently stir in the leaves in now.
- Using a large frying pan coat the bottom with oil and heat to frying temperature. You can test the temperature by dropping a bit of the batter into the pan.
- Dredge the blossoms in the batter coating all around. Shake off excess and add to the pan. Depending on the size of your pan you may need to fry in batches. Do not overcrowd.
- Fry on one side for one to two minutes until lightly golden, then turn and fry the other side. Again, for one or two minutes.
- Remove from pan allow to drain on a rack or paper towels. Salt well to accent the crunchy taste.
- Serve warm.
Adapted from Jacques Pépin
Nutrition Information:Yield: 2 Serving Size: 3 blossoms
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 214Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 321mgCarbohydrates: 31gFiber: 4gSugar: 9gProtein: 7g
Calculated Nutrition is estimated.