One of the first and best products of my garden project thus far has been the bounty of blossoms from my zucchini plants. I planted two types of zucchini: a standard variety and also an heirloom variety called romanesco that I put in the ground as seeds. Both have been doing very well but the standard plants are a bit ahead of the game and were quickly bursting with giant feathery yellow blossoms. When I used to live in NYC it was pretty easy to find blossoms at the green markets, but here in the boonies of N.J. I can’t find them anywhere–clearly I needed to grow my own stash because a stuffed, lightly-battered, fried zucchini blossom is one of life’s culinary pleasures…who knew that such a thing could be so good, and who in the world was the first person to think of it?
Now you don’t have to stuff a blossom, you can just dip it in batter and fry it in oil and it becomes a lovely thing to munch on with a crisp glass of prosecco. But stuffing them clearly puts these garden morsels over the top. I used to fill them with a combination of goat cheese and herbs mashed together, which is delicious, but then I found this version in the Phaidon cookbook Vegetables From An Italian Garden and I love it too, also good if you can add in some herbs like flat-leaf parsley or basil:
Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms (adapted from Vegetables From An Italian Garden)
Remove the stamen from the center and clean the blossom (if it is from your own garden it will have some dirt in the folds) with water very gently, you don’t want to bruise the petals. Pat dry with a paper towel.
Make your batter: For about 10 blossoms I used 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour and with a fork stirred in about 1/4 bottle of beer ( I used a bottle of Newcastle Ale I had in the back of the fridge, a lager variety would also be nice, just don’t use something watery like a Bud Light, if possible) and a small handful of salt. Put batter aside while getting blossoms stuffed and oil ready.
For stuffing blossoms: Take about 1/4 of fresh mozzarella (it should be right out of the fridge, not warm or at room temp) and cut into small slivers that will fit inside of the blossom. Take a few anchovy fillets, packed in oil, and also cut them into smaller slivers, one for each blossom. Open up the blossom and gently insert one slice of cheese and one anchovy. If you have basil on hand you can add torn bit of leaf as well. Twist the blossom shut at the top and place on a work surface next to your batter and stove top. Repeat with remaining blossoms.
You can wait to heat your oil until all of your blossoms are stuffed but it won’t take that long so you can start beforehand: I filled a medium saucepan half way with grapeseed oil, you can also use vegetable oil, just not olive oil. Heat oil on medium high until shimmering (you can test when it’s ready by adding a small piece of bread and seeing if it immediately bubbles on the edges and starts to brown).
With the oil ready you should have your batter and blossoms right next to the pot: one at a time dip a blossom into the batter (pinching the open, twisted end shut as you do so) until fully coated. Let excess batter drip off and then immediately place blossom in hot oil. The blossoms will fry very quickly (a matter of seconds per side), so you should have a large serrated spoon ready to flip them once to brown on both sides and then remove from the oil immediately to a plate covered with a paper towel.
Finish remaining blossoms (I prefer to do them one at a time to make sure they don’t get burned but if you are more skilled than I you can do a couple at a time) and serve them on the paper towel-lined plate with a big wedge of lemon on the side.
When you bite into the stuffed blossom you will have the crunchy shell of the petals deflate around the melted cheese and salty anchovy–all the flavors melt into one another perfectly. I promise you they’ll go fast, so make a batch before the season of the blossom ends!