What is it about fried food that makes people weak in the knees? Stephanie Russell speculates.
By Stephanie Russell
What is it about fried food that makes people weak in the knees? Could it be the crunch? The burnished golden exterior? Or maybe it’s the molten gooey-ness tucked within. Whatever the reason may be, I’m not one to argue — deep fried food is just plain delicious. And they’re even tastier when you make them with extra special ingredients like zucchini blossoms.
Plucked from the tips of growing zucchini, these clementine-hued flowers are completely edible and are used in a variety of cooking methods across many cultures. The blossoms start showing up at farmer’s markets in the late spring to early summer. So you can imagine my delight when I happened upon these during my usual Saturday morning farmer’s market jaunt. Gorgeous and delicate, they were a pleasure to behold and I was already starting to develop a plan on how to prepare them.
I recalled a recipe by Jamie Oliver that entailed filling and frying the zucchini blossoms tempura-style. I liked the idea of keeping the flowers intact and veiling them with a light and airy batter. His recipe for the stuffing asked for ricotta cheese and mint leaves. As much as I appreciate the subtle sweetness and creaminess of ricotta, I was aiming for a much tangier jolt of flavor, one that goat cheese easily brings to the palate. I replaced the mint leaves for chives since my garden is abundant with them at the moment and I thought of no better way to use them than in this fried delicacy. Plus, I could use the vibrant (and totally edible) chive blossoms as a finishing touch.
I could hardly wait long enough for them to cool before having a taste. The exterior had just the right amount of crunch and chew without being overly unctuous. And the filling. Oh, the filling. It was tart and zippy from the goat cheese, chive, and lemon zest mixture.
I enjoyed these with a quick spritz of lemon juice and a few scatterings of minced red chili. Nothing more, nothing less.
- 12-13 zucchini blossoms; delicately rinsed and stamens removed*
- 6 ounces goat cheese
- 1 tablespoon chopped chives + blossoms (reserved)
- 1 red chili pepper; halved, seeded, minced, and divided in half
- Zest of ½ lemon
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ cups good white wine or sparkling water
- Peanut oil
- Lemon wedges
- Start by mixing the goat cheese, chopped chives, ½ of the minced chili pepper, lemon zest, and salt and pepper together. Taste for seasonings.
- Put this mixture into a piping bag or make a homemade one by scooping it into a small plastic bag and snip the corner off to make a hole. Set aside.
- In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour and wine/sparkling water together with a whisk. Add a pinch of salt to the mixture. It should be a creamy consistency – sort of like heavy cream. If it’s too thick, add more liquid. If it’s too runny, add more flour.
- Whisk until smooth. Set aside.
- Start filling the zucchini blossoms with a scant teaspoon or so of the goat cheese mixture. Be gentle about it so they don’t tear unnecessarily. Press the petals tightly against the goat cheese so they are closed into bundles. Repeat with the rest.
- Fill a large saucepot with about 4-5 inches of peanut oil over medium-high heat. Once it hits around 350 degrees, it’s ready. Or, what I usually do is check to see if tiny bubbles are starting to come up to the surface.
- Set aside a dish lined with paper towels for the fried zucchini blossoms to drain.
- Working in batches of 3-4 zucchini blossoms at a time, dunk them in the batter until fully coated, drip off the excess and lay them gently, away from you, into the hot oil. Let them get crispy and lightly golden brown, turning them around every now and again with a slotted spoon to fry them evenly; about 3-4 minutes.
- Let them drain on the paper towel-lined dish. Repeat with the rest of the zucchini blossoms.
- Lastly, as a garnish add the chive blossoms to the oil and let fry for a few seconds. Take them out and scatter over zucchini blossoms. Sprinkle salt and the rest of the minced chili peppers over the hot zucchini blossoms. Serve with lemon wedges.
Stephanie Russell is a personal chef and author of the food blog okie dokie artichokie. She is an advocate for all things gorgeous, sexy, and delicious -- the naughtier the better. Her vices include cold butter, sardines, cheap wine, and old mix tapes. She currently resides in Ann Arbor, Michigan.