With so many fruits and vegetables available year-round, it’s rare in the modern world to enjoy a food that’s really, truly a limited-time offer.
You can get an apple in June, when, by all rights, all the apples from the previous autumn should already be a fuzzy memory. But it seems it’s always apple season somewhere, and we’ve come to rely on that constant availability.
But due to a brief season and great delicacy, the zucchini blossom (or courgette blossom, as J would say) is what I like to think of as “now or never” foods.
But the blossoms are a-blooming right now at the farmers’ markets (and in gardens, presumably), so friends… your once-a-year opportunity has arrived.
When it comes down to it, it’s very simple to stuff a blossom. I didn’t know this until I worked in a restaurant, but after having now stuffed more blossoms than I care to count, I can assure you, the process is dead easy. Like breading a fish fillet. You really can do this, and the results are lovely. People will be impressed.
So be quick, now! Snap up a half-dozen and a little crottin of goat cheese or maybe a mild, creamy feta — you’ll need just over an ounce, but get two to three ounces of cheese, and you’ll have a bit extra left over for topping tasty summer salads. I’m sure you could also make a nice stuffing out of firm tofu or polenta if you wanted to go dairy-free.
Just take a sharp paring knife (or a pair of kitchen shears) and slice (or snip) into the blossom along one side. Gently open the petals and remove the pollen-covered pistil inside (that’s the firm, yellow tube-shaped part). If you’re dealing with organic veggies, watch out for any unfortunate bees or ants that may have become trapped inside the flower and died. Just give a small eulogy and brush them away.
Fashion a small, football-shaped portion with about a teaspoon of the cheese and place it where the pistil once was. Close the petals firmly around the cheese. Voila! You’re half-way there.
I like to remove the green leafy bits from the base of the flower (I believe they’re called sepals) before moving on. If you like, you can do this much ahead of time and just keep the stuffed blossoms chilled for a few hours before it’s time to make dinner.
When the time for cooking arrives, you have a few options as far as the breading goes. I’ve always loved to dip the blossoms in a simple egg wash (one egg lightly beaten with a teaspoon of water), then roll them in panko. Simple as that.
This summer, J requested a gluten-free version, so we’ve been coating zucchini blossoms in seasoned spelt flour. Cornmeal/polenta could also be nice.
It’s such a flexible recipe, I’ll be so bold as to use this rule of thumb: *If you can use it to bread a fish fillet or chicken breast, you can probably coat a zucchini blossom in it, too. *
Quick Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms
The cooking process is just simple pan-frying: Just dip a stuffed or unstuffed blossom in the egg wash, roll to coat in whatever coating you’ve chosen: panko/flour/crumbs, and then move the prepared blossom to a skillet you’ve heated over a medium-high heat with a few tablespoons of your favorite high-temperature cooking oil. (We often use canola/rapeseed oil.)
Cook each blossom about a minute before carefully turning it (a pair of tongs helps for this). Continue cooking and gently turning the blossoms until the whole surface crisps, about three minutes total.
You’re only looking to brown and crisp the coating. The blossom and stuffing only need to be warmed.
Move the cooked blossoms to a paper towel to cool slightly.
Serve hot alongside your favorite summer entrée. Stuffed blossoms make a lovely appetizer, a side dish for grilled meats and seafood, or a garnish atop pasta dishes.
We had them with quick-sautéed zucchini slices and the supremely tasty pork chops of Tamarack Hollow Farm.
If you’re in NYC, you can pretty much score the whole meal — blossoms, goat cheese, eggs, zucchini and some superb chops — at the Union Square Market on Wednesdays and test your newfound stuffing skills right away.
But hurry! Summer is short (you only get a limited number in your lifetime) and zucchini blossoms truly are a limited-time offer.