Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Zucchini Flowers, Goat Cheese, and Zucchini Pesto: Portrait of a Masterpiece

Aaron, my husband of 3 weeks, and I are very thorough people. We love to experiment and seek to develop a whim into our magnum opus. In this case, we will likely need to wait a full 12 months for our next attempt until Zucchini plants in my own garden begin to flower. Whilst I traipsed about Twitter last week, I came across a mention of Zucchini Flowers, which called to mind a Risotto con Fiori di Zucca that I enjoyed in Rome at Hostaria Costanza and which has retained the title of "best dish I have ever eaten." I have never found Zucchini Flowers, nor have I ever looked exceptionally well. But, last week something changed in me. I couldn’t go on eating pizza and fish sticks (never together), I had to return to my gourmet ways!

My new friend on Twitter, @Chef2Chef from www.chef2chef.net was ready and willing to supply me with a recipe using zucchini flowers – not the risotto I craved; just as well as I would have been disappointed in my inability to perform at the highest culinary levels. The recipe was for zucchini flowers stuffed with goat cheese, dipped in a light batter, fried and served with a zucchini pesto. Though ordinarily completely incapable of f following a recipe, this one I followed to the letter. It was terrific, although I do wish there was slightly more detail surrounding tricks of the trade.

Make sure that the goat cheese is close to room temperature so that as you put the stuffed zucchini blossoms in the frier, it doesn't cool the oil too much! Also, make sure you use plenty of cayenne if you want to add some zest to the flowers. We only used 1 cup of cold seltzer water as opposed to the 2 cups listed and that seemed to be sufficient. With the goat cheese, less is more - don't over stuff the blossoms as the dish is rich enough!



24 zucchini blossoms
1/2 c goat cheese
1 1/2 qt olive oil1 c all-purpose flour
2 c chilled seltzer water or ice-water

sea salt and cayenne pepper to taste

Zucchini Pesto

1 medium zucchini; (about 8 ounces)
2 tbsp parmesan cheese; grated
2 tbsp pine nuts30 basil leaves; (approximately - ¾ cup loosely packed)
1/4 tsp finely chopped garlic
6 oz extra virgin olive oil
1 sea salt and freshly cracked - black pepper to taste


For the Blossoms: Carefully stuff each zucchini blossom with 1 teaspoon of the goat cheese. Fold over the petals to form an envelope.

In a deep skillet or deep fryer, heat the oil to 375 degrees. Meanwhile put the flour in a mixing bowl. Pour in the seltzer a little at a time, whisking constantly to ensure a smooth batter. Season with salt and cayenne. When the oil is properly heated, dip a stuffed blossom into the batter to coat it evenly, scraping off any excess. Fry until crisp and golden, about 30 seconds per side. Remove to paper towels to drain. Repeat process with all blossoms, being careful not to overcrowd the skillet and maintaining the proper oil temperature.

For the Pesto: Quarter zucchini and cut into 1 inch pieces. Blanch zucchini for 2 minutes in salted boiling water, and then shock in ice bath to preserve color. Drain well and pat dry with cloth. Place blanched zucchini, Parmesan cheese, pine nuts, basil leaves, garlic, in food processor and start to puree. With the motor running, pour the olive oil through the feed tube in a slow, steady stream until the pesto emulsifies. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Buon Appetito, Amici!


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