Serve these crispy blossoms alongside a fresh garden salad, fresh fish or just by themselves.
By Rochelle Ramos
Morning walks through the garden reveal the delicate yellow-orange flowers of the zucchini plant, open to the dew and cool morning sun. A couple snips with a pair of sharp scissors and I have a few blossoms in hand. I never need to worry about the squash not growing, there will be plenty more.
In another garden row, there are the green tops of radishes, looking to be pulled free from the earth. Once above the ground, I love the ruddy violet pink of the rounded root vegetable. These aren’t the spicy kind that decorated salads as a kid. They still carry a bite, but it’s lighter, more palatable.
On the trek back through the garden toward the cozinha, I stop by the softly clucking chickens and grab an egg or two from their nest and it’s off to the herb garden. In it grows fresh oregano, a few varieties of mint, a small basil plant and thyme. Thyme is the one I want, it’s mild and plays well with others.
Now that my garden shopping is done, it’s time to check the refrigerator for another ingredient; smooth cream cheese. Off to the pantry next, to gather the last couple of ingredients, that will make this all come together.
It’s time to get down to business; gently washing, mincing, mixing, stuffing and cooking.
All of it leads to this once delicate blossom becoming something I’ve never had before. Something with a satisfying crunch on the outside. Inside that first bite there’s the creamy fresh herb filling with subtle peppery bites of radish.
When the first is finished, I go for that next blossom. And the next.
- 12 zucchini blossoms
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 radish
- 8oz (approx 230g) cream cheese, softened
- pinch of salt
- Tempura batter
- flour for dredging
- oil for frying
- sea salt for salting
- Place a bowl in the freezer big enough to hold your tempura batter.
- Clean the zucchini blossoms by gently opening the flower and checking for small bugs. With a damp paper towel, brush off any debris.
- Thoroughly wash the radish and thyme. Pat the thyme dry with a clean kitchen towel and remove the stem. Trim the top and root from the radish. Mince both the radish and thyme on a cutting board and toss into a bowl.
- Add the cream cheese to the bowl and season with salt. Mix thoroughly with a fork.
- Gently open the zucchini blossoms, careful not to tear them if possible. Hold the petals open with two fingers and with a small spoon, gently (I cannot stress this enough), fill the inside of the zucchini blossom with the cream cheese mixture. Make sure to leave enough room to gently twist the tips of the petals to close the flower and set aside. Repeat with the rest of the blossoms.
- In a deep pan, heat 2 inches (about 5cm) of oil to 360F (182C) or when a piece of bread (1 inch) takes a minute to brown.
- While waiting for the oil, prepare the tempura batter in the chilled bowl.
- Place the flour in a shallow dish and dredge the blossoms in it, shaking off the excess before dipping each blossom into the tempura. Immediately place the blossoms into the hot oil. Cook until the blossoms become golden brown and the bubbles are larger and less frequent. Should be only about 2-3 minutes.
- Transfer each blossom to a plate lined with paper towels to drain of excess oil with a slotted spoon or tongs.
- If preparing in batches, allow the heat to come back up to 360F (182C) before doing another batch.
- Sprinkle the blossoms lightly with flaky sea salt to taste.
Rochelle is an Americana cooking, eating, photographing and writing in Portugal. She has a love for real food and learning to make it from scratch. As a new expat, she is slowly learning to speak the language and will soon be able to order more than just a café and pastel de nata from the local pastelaria.