Many of us know zucchini as the long, green vegetable that comes diced up with carrots as a side dish at weddings. But zucchini goes far beyond that. Though it is considered a vegetable, it is actually an immature fruit that is the ovary of the zucchini flower.
Zucchini blossoms themselves are as delicious as the squash that we so often eat. If you grow or find them in the farmers market, look for blossoms that were picked the same day, are tightly closed, and have a light green or yellow color with no brown or soggy spots. These have a grassy flavor and delicate texture. Though you can chop them, sauté them in butter, and add them to a lemony pasta, frying these little buds is widely regarded as the most delicious preparations.
To start, simply mix up a batter as you would for onion rings (prosecco is a milder alternative to beer here), and prepare a filling of ricotta mixed with basil, egg yolk, and Parmesan cheese. Then, gently open the buds so the flower does not tear. Using your fingers or even a syringe, fill the blossom with the cheese mixture. To close the bud, wind the leaves. Finally, dip in the batter, then shallow fry until lightly golden. When they come out, salt them, and serve immediately.
As for the zucchini, they come in shades of light green, dark green, light yellow, and golden. Look for ones that are firm and uniform in color. Though these are delicious given the deep-fried treatment, they don’t need to be prepared this way, especially since they are summery sweet. Try slicing them into long, thin ribbons on a mandolin, then tossing the ribbons with Pecorino Romano cheese and pungent anchovy-garlic vinaigrette for a new take on the classic Caesar salad. Or, go the Middle Eastern route: slice the zucchini down the middle lengthwise, scoop out some of the flesh, and stuff with cooked, minced lamb flavored with cumin, cinnamon, and garlic. Then, bake it until the zucchini is golden, and serve it with dill-flavored yogurt. Whatever way you prepare it, zucchini is one of the best of summer’s bounty!