Zucchini's flower power: Enjoy the blossoms without cooking
A Good Appetite: The beautiful and delicate blossoms can be enjoyed without being cooked, as part of a salad or stuffed with cheese. Recipe: Zucchini Blossoms with Burrata and Tapenade
The New York Times
People are usually sick of zucchini before summer even reaches its sticky height.
Not so the gorgeous, ethereal zucchini blossoms.
Up until a few years ago, unless you grew them yourself, you would rarely come across those golden flowers, which are far too fragile for most supermarkets to handle. These days you can find them at some farmers' markets, although they are not nearly as prevalent as the taut green and yellow fruit. (All types of squash have edible blossoms, but the most common are zucchini.)
Whenever I see zucchini flowers, I buy them. They're just too pretty to pass up.
For years, I followed the lead of chefs and fried the blossoms, usually with something cheesy crammed into their centers. But after battering and frying, the flowers were no longer as lovely to look at, and their delicate flavor largely disappeared as they hit the hot oil. All I could taste was salty, crunchy fried matter, gooey with melted cheese. Delicious, but the blossoms themselves were moot.
This summer, I vowed to try something else. Instead of cooking them at all, I'd eat them raw.
So I tossed them into a simple arugula salad, stem and all, and was floored by their wonderful, subtle flavor — like that of the youngest zucchini, but sweeter and slightly herbal. The slim crunchy stem was the tastiest part (so don't trim it off). The blossoms were a great match with the bitterness of the arugula, and the salad was stunning.
Next, I tried stuffing them with a cheese that does not require applied heat to ooze. Soft goat cheese, ricotta and buffalo mozzarella would have all worked (and can be substituted), but I went for the richest thing I could get: burrata, which is essentially mozzarella filled with heavy cream. I spooned some into the flowers, dotting the cheese with a tangy, garlicky tapenade. Then I piled the blossoms onto a platter, slicked them with good olive oil until they shined, and sprinkled them with crunchy sea salt.
It was as luscious and as satisfying as the fried version, but more colorful, and lighter, too, for the hot weather. I served them as an hors d'oeuvre, but they would be nice for lunch with crusty bread and more burrata on the side.
I could also see the same ingredients in crostini: toasted country bread, thin smear of tapenade, a wobbly slice of burrata and the oiled blossom on top. Pretty, summery fare, without cooking.
ZUCCHINI BLOSSOMS WITH BURRATA AND TAPENADE
Time: 20 minutes
Yield: 6 servings
1 cup pitted mixed black olives, coarsely chopped
3 anchovy fillets, chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more for garnish
12 zucchini blossoms
1 piece burrata or buffalo mozzarella
Coarse sea salt
1. In a food processor, combine olives, anchovy, garlic, rosemary and lemon zest. Using the pulse button, process until coarsely chopped and well blended. Continue to process, slowly adding 3 tablespoons olive oil.
2. Cut a lengthwise slit in each blossom. Spoon about 1 tablespoon burrata and ½ teaspoon tapenade into each blossom (you may not use all of the cheese or tapenade). Pinch closed. Transfer blossoms to a platter. Drizzle generously with oil and sprinkle with salt.