Monday, July 27, 2009

Summer Annuals Good Enough Eat

Fig.1. If you find flowers this beautiful, leave them whole

Zucchini flowers blossom just as the little fruits begin to take shape. The female blossoms are the ones which hold the small emerging zucchini or “marrow”, the male flowers derive solely from the stem or stalk of the plant. The male flower is smaller than the female but tastes the same.
Foodies are used to seeing them fried, but there are plenty of other ways to enjoy these very seasonal marvels. They can be sautéed and served as a side, or as a simple pasta sauce “in bianco”. They can be incorporated into an omelette or even in risotto; and go very well when mixed with onions, mushrooms and any and all herbs currently overtaking your garden. In Mexico they inventively use zucchini blossoms in soups, tacos and quesadillas.
My Grandfather always protested giving me any zucchini blossoms because he felt it stunted the zucchini’s growth; fortunately, my Mother and Grandmother always found a way to obtain some. The preferred method of cooking them was to chop them up, mix in batter and fry them in oil.
These days I buy my zucchini blossoms from the Birri Brothers in the Jean Talon Market. Get there early or call ahead and ask Joe or Frank to put some aside for you.

Fried Zucchini Flowers Stuffed With Ricotta

Serves 4 to 5 as appetizers.

1 cup of all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon of olive oil
5 tablespoons of white wine
1 egg, whisked
¾ cup warm water
1 1/2 cups of ricotta (you might need more or less depending on the size of the flowers.)
2 tablespoons grated parmesan
3 anchovies, chopped (optional)
12 zucchini flowers, cleaned and dry
Salt and pepper
Vegetable oil, for frying

Combine the flour, olive oil, wine and egg in a bowl. Add the water a little at a time and mix. Stop adding the water when you get a smooth and runny batter, let the batter rest for 1 hour.
Combine the ricotta, parmesan, anchovies and salt and pepper in a bowl and mix. Using a spoon, fill the flower with the cheese pressing the petals gently together when full so they stick to the cheese and stay closed. Dip the flowers in the batter and fry in oil (make sure your oil is 360 degrees) until golden brown. Drain on paper towels, sprinkle with salt and eat them warm.

Fig.2. Make sure the flowers are properly stuffed, and,
when dipped in the batter let any excess batter drain
back into the bowl.

Note: These can also be made without the ricotta, either chopped up or left whole, just add some parmesan to the batter.

Fig.3. These are best warm, sprinkle with salt and enjoy.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


Fig.1. These vegetables were done with a little balsamic vinegar, olive oil,
chopped garlic and ginger, and salt and pepper. Let any marinade
drain from the vegetable pieces before putting them on the grill to
prevent any flare-ups.

In keeping with grilling, let’s talk about vegetables. A visit to the Jean Talon Market yesterday was just the inspiration I needed. Picked up some white radishes, garlic flowers and some yellow zucchini and eggplant which I planned to grill.
The biggest mistake people seem to make when they grill vegetables such as zucchini is that they are sliced too thin; your vegetables should be no smaller than a ¼”, a thicker cut will allow for proper substance, texture and taste.
I also like to lightly score my sliced vegetables which allow whatever flavours you wish to add to properly permeate your veg. And when it comes to grilling sliced vegetables, the rule is hot and fast. It’s nice to be able to recognize what’s on your plate. A few weeks ago I was served grilled red peppers and eggplant that had been rendered mushy and unrecognizable, and, being the model guest that I am, looked into the eyes of my host, lied and said they were good. Well, no more! From now on, when an injustice is done to any food or dish, I’ll imagine that I’m talking to my wife and be brutally honest.