You are lucky if you can go out into your garden and gather blossoms from your zucchini plants. I do not have that luxury where I live, but I do have an excellent farmers’ market where I can buy young zucchini with their blossoms still attached, or I can purchase the larger male blossoms, which I prefer because they are easier to stuff.
If you buy your blossoms at a market, here is how to store these fragile beauties until you are ready to stuff them: lay them in a single layer on a baking sheet, cover them with a damp dish towel, and refrigerate for no longer than a day. Better yet, stuff them when you get them home. They will keep that way for up to a day in the refrigerator. The stuffed blossoms are rich, so allow two per person.
- ½ pound small zucchini
- ½ pound scamorza or fresh mozzarella cheese, finely diced
- 1 cup (about ½ pound) skim-milk or whole-milk ricotta cheese
- 6 tablespoons grated pecorino cheese
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- ¼ cup chopped fresh basil, flat-leaf parsley, or marjoram, or a mixture
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 18 to 24 zucchini blossoms
- 1 egg
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1½ to 2 cups ice water
- Canola or other bland vegetable oil or equal parts canola and olive oil for deep-frying
- Fleur de sel or coarse sea salt
To make the filling, grate the zucchini on the large holes of a box grater-shredder or with the large grater blade of a food processor. Place the zucchini in a colander, sprinkle with salt, and let stand for 30 minutes. Wrap the zucchini in a kitchen towel and squeeze dry.
In a bowl, combine the zucchini, cheeses, eggs, herbs, and several grinds of pepper and mix well. (The filling can be assembled up to 1 day in advance of stuffing the blossoms, covered, and refrigerated.)
If the blossoms are wilted, soak in ice water for 15 minutes to recrisp them. Remove them from the water and lay them out on kitchen towels to absorb the water. Reach inside the center of each blossom, pinch off the stamen, and discard it.
Spoon the filling into a pastry bag fitted with a ½-inch plain tip, or into a heavy-duty plastic bag and cut off a bottom corner to create a ½-inch opening. (You can use a small spoon to fill the blossoms, but the process is very messy, making the pastry bag the easier choice.) Squeeze some of the filling into each blossom. Pinch the tops closed and set aside. (You can cover and refrigerate the stuffed blossoms for up to 1 day, but they are crispiest if stuffed and fried within a few hours.)
To make the batter, whisk together the egg, flour, salt, and 1½ cups of the ice water. Add more ice water as needed to create a consistency that coats the back of a spoon. (You can make the batter up to 2 hours in advance, cover, and refrigerate it, but it will thicken as it rests, Add a little more water if necessary to correct the consistency.)
To fry the blossoms, preheat the oven to 200°F. Line an ovenproof tray with paper towels. Pour the oil to a depth of 3 inches into a heavy saucepan and heat to 350°F on a deep-frying thermometer. Holding a blossom by its stem, gently dip it into the batter, lift out, shake off the excess batter, and carefully lower the blossom into the hot oil. Repeat with more blossoms, adding only a few at a time to avoid crowding the pan. Fry the blossoms, turning gently if necessary to color evenly, until they are crisp and pale gold on all sides, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or wire skimmer, transfer the blossoms to the towel-lined tray to drain and keep warm in the oven. Repeat until all the blossoms are fried.
Arrange the blossoms on a platter and sprinkle with fleur de sel. Serve immediately.
Variation: To make a seafood filling for the blossoms, combine ½ pound fresh-cooked crabmeat or chopped cooked shrimp; ¼ cup finely chopped celery or fennel; ½ cup each skim-milk or whole-milk ricotta and finely shredded fresh mozzarella cheese; 1 egg, lightly beaten; 3 tablespoons each chopped fresh chives and flat-leaf parsley; finely grated zest of 1 large lemon; ½ teaspoon salt: several grinds of black pepper: and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Mix well, then pipe or spoon (this filling is not as messy to spoon) into the blossoms and fry as directed.
Nutritional information includes 1 teaspoon of added salt, but does not include Fleur de sel or coarse sea salt for finishing. Serving size is 1 blossom, total of 24 in the recipe.