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When visiting a restaurant this time of the year in Italy, I always know exactly what I will order as an antipasto because zucca fritti is on the menu. The editable flowers of squash are stuffed with various ingredients such as mozzarella, anchovy or ricotta. They are fried in very hot oil and usually eaten as appetizers, although in my family it isn’t unusual to have them for a main course. Large platters of golden, crisp batter coated flowers are served and eaten with your hands. Accompanied with a glass of Prosecco or cold white wine, this dish is a delicacy. My grandparents grew zucchini in their garden and my grandmother made these all through the summer.
The US is a large producer of pumpkins (any type of squash flowers can be used), however it is difficult to find flowers for sale anywhere. I once approached a pumpkin grower and asked if I could buy the flowers and he looked at me very confused. Needless to say, he didn’t sell me the flowers. Since the female bloom produces the squash, the male bloom is sold for cooking in Italy. They are also used in stuffing for ravioli, and made into a delicious sauce for pasta.
Squash are grown all over the world and the flowers can also be purchased off-season, but are very expensive. Prices are lowest in season. If you are lucky enough to find them, choose only large fresh good quality flowers with stems. The flower is very delicate and must be handled with great care not to break the petals. You must first gently spread the petals and remove stamina. Gently place the stuffing into the middle and roll the petals at the top. Rolling the tops closes the opening and holds the stuffing inside.
The flowers must be completely dry before dipping them into the batter. I like to drip off some of the batter making sure that they are not to heavily coated. The oil must be very hot and dip only a few at a time.
The recipe below was given to me by a chef in Vieste, Foggia (Puglia, Italy).
Fried Zucchini Flowers
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 3-4 minutes each
Yield: 14 flowers
14 large zucchini flowers with stems, cleaned
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup white wine, beer or water with gas, cold
Pinch of paprika
Pinch of salt
14 cubes mozzarella, small
Sea salt for sprinkling over the fried flowers
Mix the flour, paprika and salt. Pour in the cold beer or carbonated water and blend until the batter is the consistency of pancake batter.
Remove the stamina in each flower and set it aside. Open the flower very gently and put a piece of mozzarella in each flower and twist the top closed.
Heat the oil until it is very hot. Dip a few flowers into the batter. Let the batter drip off the flour a little. You don’t want the flower to be to have a thick coating. Drop the flower a few at a time into the hot oil and let it fry turning it several times until it is golden and crisp. Remove them to a rack or paper towels and lightly sprinkle salt over them. Continue a few at a time until you have fried all the flowers.
Serve them warm as part of an antipasti (appetizer).
NOTE: A small piece of anchovy can be substituted or added. Other fillings such as ricotta can be used.