There are a few things that I just can't walk past without purchasing while perusing the farmers' market. One of those things are zucchini blossoms (if you're curious, other such things are ramps and fiddlehead ferns, but I'll cover those at a later time). Maybe their appeal has to do with their short seasonal window, or maybe it is their delicate, sweet flavor and striking orange color. Either way, they are a lovely reminder of how romantic and whimsical food can be.
Zucchini blossoms, or flowers, are in season when zucchini are in season — during the warm summer months. The way they grow depends on whether the flowers are male or female. The male flower grows on a thin stem, while the female flowers grow directly out the emerging zucchini squash. Male flowers drop off after they have opened and pollinated the female flowers, so if you're growing your own zuccchini, cut the male flowers. Only the females will develop into squash.
Choosing squash blossoms is very similar to choosing decorative flowers. Look for vibrant, fresh-looking flowers that are tightly closed. Since the flowers are very delicate and perishable, it is best to use them the day of purchase, but they will keep for a day or two in the refrigerator in a sealed plastic bag.
When you are ready to use your blossoms, the first thing you'll want to do is give them a gentle rinse in cool water and then allow them to dry completely on paper or clean kitchen towels. Next, carefully open them with your fingers to check for any bugs that may be hiding inside. Then you'll remove the piece sticking up from the base of the flower (which is called the stamen on male flowers and pistil on females).
Squash blossoms are delicious when served in a variety of ways. To add a fun pop of color to summer salads, chop up the zucchini flowers and toss them in with mixed greens. For a new take on pizza, try topping your homemade pie with sliced zucchini, caramelized onions and whole zucchini flowers. Or, add flair to a basic zucchini risotto recipe by wilting in chopped zucchini flowers right before the risotto is finished. But, my all-time favorite way to prepare zucchini blossoms at home is to stuff them with ricotta cheese and fresh basil and then fry them until light and crispy, like in the recipe below.
Serves 4 as an appetizer
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