The humble squash flower.. or zucchini blossom. The edible blooms of the same family of plants are a favourite all summer. Tucked into risotto, added to a delicious garden fresh stirfry of eggplant, peppers and zucchini, a simple soup, or folded into a frittata.. the uses are seemingly endless, but perhaps most enjoyably, showcased in their fritter form. Patae.
Unsure of the spelling, the spoken word is an Italian 'dialect'. The first spelling (in the title) is of my own design, from the pronounciation I am familiar with. The second is courtesy of a woman whose family is also of that Southern Italian region. I hesitantly use the term dialect as the origins of the language is cause for much heated discussion among the local collettivo.. however no one will debate the flavour of this regional treat.
A batter is prepared with flour, eggs, and a good dose of grated strong cheese. We use a homemade cheese similar to crotonese (which is perfect) or a golden grana padano mixed with a little pecorino romano would be ok too. Herbs, parsley and basil, are added along with some salt, cracked black pepper, often a few small and tender sliced zucchini, and the prerequisite chili pepper if you're keen!
It is a loose texture but not runny. Approximately 2 eggs per 175g (or a little over half a cup) of flour, enough to add about 2 dozen trimmed (stamens, stems and bugs removed) flowers. The amounts vary slightly but the result should be similar to a slightly thick pancake batter and can be thinned out with a little milk as necessary.
Frying is essential. In a light oil, I mix peanut and vegetable for their ability to achieve a high heat without smoking and fry the fritters until golden.
I occasionally fry just the flowers dipped in this batter or in a mixture of seasoned egg whites and corn or potato flour for a gluten free version. They can be stuffed as well but take care. If overfilled, the stuffing makes a right mess of the cooking oil and spatters all over.
Pitea signify the arrival of the summer and are a highlight of the rapidly growing garden. This is definitely a pre-meal treat. Serve with beer, on warm nights, with friends.