the flowers get stuffed

It was a warm morning and we were in the garden.. talking about lunch, as you do, and also discussing an upcoming porchetta we are planning (more on that later!). The pig will be filled (ripieno or stuffed) with a savoury rice mixture. A favourite and easy way to cook rice (not to mention flavourful after absorbing all the cooking juices). From there the conversation deteriorated (new meaning to 'lost in translation") into me trying to explain to my suocero that, in NZ, the meaning of the saying 'stuffed' is akin to being tired and that to say 'get stuffed' well.. let's say that both will apply to the pig. Repeated attempts to say 'stuffed' with his thick Italian accent (all the while waving his hands around - as if to help the words flow) had me falling over with laughter, much to his amusement.

So, to accompany our glass of beer (gardening is thirsty work), I made some 'tired' zucchini flowers. Normally, we'd make pitea but not today. This 10 minute snack blends ricotta, a little fresh goat's milk feta and minced fresh herbs (I like parsley & basil) into a simple filling. A quick grating of grana (to taste) and a small egg to bind and we're in business.

The batter for frying is a simple tablespoon of the egg white from above, flour and a little water to thin the mixture. Season with salt and pepper.

Frying. Anytime I fry anything nowadays, I'm reminded of Maria Pia's cookbook where she comments on the current 'fear of frying'. We don't eat that much fried food so it's still a treat. But better to eat better food (not just any old parfried/frozen chip) when we choose to fry, no? Everything in moderation and all that.

For frying, especially small batches of fritters, I use grapeseed oil almost exclusively. High heat capability (that is, high smokepoint at 210C) and a nice mild flavour make for the perfect frying mate.

To assemble the flowers, just have them cleaned and ready, careful not to tear the petals when removing the inner bits. Place a small ball of the cheese mixture inside the flower, 1-2 teaspoons.

I know this seems like a tiny amount (it does depend on the size of the flowers), but the filling will release steam as it cooks and overstuffed flowers can burst (read: big splattering mess). When the temperature is at 180-185C, dredge the flowers into the batter using your fingers to regulate a thin coating and twist the ends of the petals together to create a crisp seal.

Flip the flowers when the edges are golden and brown evenly on both sides (they will sort of slump a little as they cook). Remove to paper towel to drain any excess oil. Let them cool slightly as the filling will be quite hot but not so long that they become soggy.

Serve with a chilled Peroni or your favourite local pilsner style.



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