Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Fried Zucchini Blossoms

I think I've mentioned before that my kids have been stalking the garden for their favorites, and one of the things that they have been searching for are the beautiful yellow flowers of my zucchini plants.  Some kids might see these and pick them off and present them to their beloved mother as a token of their love and affection.  Not mine.  Mine want to eat them.  And that love and affection part?  I know it's there, but let me tell you, all bets are out the window when it comes to limited treats like these...let the Hunger Games begin!

Zucchini blossoms are completely edible, and they have a flavor all their own.  Not really zucchini-like at all.  Light, with a crunch, and a little juicy.  Also, makes you feel cool because you're making the most out of the garden by using more parts of the plant.  I tend to think of fried zucchini blossoms as a very Italian dish, and some people like to stuff the blossoms before they fry them.  But you know me, I like quick, simple, and delicious, so here's my straightforward version:

Find some good male zucchini blossoms.  These are not the blossoms that are found in man caves or that feed you cheezy pick up lines at a club.  They're the flowers on your zucchini plant that are not attached to a fruit.  Look for the blooms on thin stems, and go ahead and pick away.  I always leave a few on the plant for later, and because I feel like they might serve a purpose for the plant, so I don't want to eliminate all of them.

Once you have your blossoms,

Give them a quick rinse and shake under water.  You'll need to open them up while rinsing too, because little bugs love, I mean loooooove, zucchini blossoms.  I've gotten one bee too, so check carefully.  What I usually do is just kind of slit one side of the blossom to check and rinse.  Some people remove the stamen, but I like the body and crunch that it adds, so I leave it intact.  Shake them dry and lay them on paper towels, then blot them dry.  You want as little water as possible on them, but don't rub, because they are delicate.

Put a medium pan with a thick bottom over medium to medium high heat and pour in about a half inch of olive oil to heat.  I know that there are culinary rumors out there that heating olive oil turns it into evil poison full of trans fats, but with a little more research you find that you would have to be eating every meal from a restaurant-sized vat of overheated olive oil for it to have any sort of negative effect on you.  And if that's the case, my friend, you have bigger problems on your hands.

While the oil is heating, whip up a quick (and I do mean quick) batter.  Grab equal parts flour and milk, and whisk it up with a pinch of salt with a fork until you have a loose batter.  The amount will vary, depending on how many blossoms you're cooking.  I just eyeball it.

You want it loose.  If it's too thick, add more milk.  If it's too thin, add more flour.  You want it nice and drizzly.  It's going to seem kind of thin, but trust me, it makes a nice, light batter.  Kind of like a good tempura.

Check if the oil is hot enough by flicking a drop of batter into it.  It should bubble up right away and start to turn golden quickly.  When it's ready, start the zucchini blossom machine.

Put your blossoms in the batter one at a time.  Drop them in, give them a quick flip to coat them, pick them up and let any excess batter drip off, and then carefully put them into the hot oil.  Carefully!  Hot oil is nothing to mess with, unless you have people storming your castle.

 Put a few in the pan at once, but don't overcrowd it.  You don't want them touching each other, and you don't want to cool the oil down too much.  When the bottoms start looking golden, turn them over carefully with tongs.  These are quick, maybe a minute or 2 on each side.

Using the tongs, carefully remove them from the pan and place them on a paper towel lined plate or tray.  Give them a quick sprinkle with salt.  I use kosher salt for just about everything, but whatever you have on hand will work.  Move on to however many batches you have left.

And here's the hardest part of the method: you have to let them cool slightly before eating them.  Again, hot burns.  Also, in my house, I have to keep the snitches away, as little fingers tend to sneak up and take them as soon as they sense that they're ready.  You still want to eat them while they're hot, just not the instantly burning kind of hot.

You can see here that by my second batch, there are a few already mysteriously missing from the plate.
Are they health food?  No, but I don't think they're awful for you in moderation.  It's a fun appetizer to pull off if you have just a few people over for dinner.  They will be amazed as you pluck off the flowers and then turn them into little morsels of deliciousness rivaling any pub fare.  Although, word of warning, I did this for friends that were over last summer, and we were able to sneak into the kitchen for me to fry them up without the kids (who were playing in the pool on the back deck) noticing.  I told them that it was the only way there would be any of them left for us to eat.  But as we were finishing up eating the snack, my oldest walked in and quickly figured out what was going on.  Let's just say, I know they like the zucchini blossoms a lot, but I wasn't expecting the tears.  Oy.  I'm hoping I can just chalk it up to being overtired from an awesome summer day of playing with friends.

Moral of the story: make lots.  Or learn to be sneakier.  The end.

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