Fresh Zucchini Flowers
Last Saturday at the Woodstock Farmers' Market I could not resist buying a bag full of zucchini flowers (from Salute! farm and vineyard) and a nice big zucchini from a wonderful organic vendor of which unfortunately I didn't catch the name, but I will make sure to do that next week. I love zucchini, they are very versatile as I can make them with rice, pasta, quinoa or really with any kind of cereal, I can make zucchini frittata or just have them as a side dish, they are always good. Even more than zucchini I love zucchini flowers: first of all they are just beautiful with their bright orange color, they are one of those things for which you wait all year long, for they are available only for a short period of time, and since they spoil very fast you also have to cook them very quick. They are very popular in the roman cuisine, either stuffed with mozzarella and anchovy and fried or on pizza with mozzarella ( no tomato please!) they are always delicious. I think looking forward to have a food only on a specific time of the year is something beautiful that the industrial food culture is destroying. In Italy, even with supermarkets, we still appreciate the fact that there is a season in which some fruits are just not available, and in which some vegetables that are available all year long ( like tomatoes) just taste so much better. Moreover if I had fried zucchini flowers everyday I would get bored with them, having them once or twice a year makes them special, and it becomes a reason to celebrate. Another Italian food tradition that I miss here is that of the "sagra" that is exactly a celebration of a food that is in season or that is traditional from a certain town or area. For example in spring there are many "sagre" of the strawberry, or in the fall are very common the "sagre" of chestnuts. During these festivals many stalls sell products and dishes made starting from the ingredient that is being celebrated, and there is really no limit to the inventiveness of the Italians when it comes to food! Everything is of course accompanied by music, wine and more food. So, today I decided to have my own "Sagra della Zucchina" and I made a Focaccia with zucchini and onion and deep fried zucchini flowers. Both recipes are quite simple and very tasty!
Focaccia with Zucchini
Focaccai with zucchini before going in the oven
- 300 grams of flour
- 1 cup of lukewarm water
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- 1 packet of active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- olive oil
- 1 small onion
- 1 medium-large zucchini
Last slice of Focaccia with Zucchini
- Mix the yeast the water and the sugar and let the yeast get activated for a few minutes
- Pour the yeast mix in the flour and the salt and mix. The resulting dough has to be a little sticky and not too easy to work with
- Let the dough rise for 1-2 hours in an oiled bowl ( turn the dough in the bowl once to coat evenly with oil)
- In the meantime dice the onion and slice the zucchini and cook them in a spoon of olive oil until they are soft and tender
- When the dough is ready, spread olive oil on a pizza pan and then gently smash the dough on it working it with your fingers to form the typical depressions of the focaccia. Brush lightly with olive oil and salt.
- Let the focaccia rise covered for another 30 minutes
- Spread evenly the zucchini-onion mix on the focaccia and put in a pre-heated oven at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes or until the dough looks ready
- Take the focaccia out of the oven and brush it lightly with a mixture of olive oil and water.
Fried Zucchini Flowers
Fried Zucchini Flowers
- Zucchini flowers
- 3 tablespoons of flour
- 1 cup of water
- vegetable oil
- Take the pistil out of the flowers being careful not to brake them (some people take the stem out too but I prefer leaving them since they are very handy when it comes to dip the flowers in the batter and even to eat them)
- In a large bowl mix water, flour and salt. The resulting mixture should have no lumps and it should be liquid enough without being too thick or too runny
- Put the mix in the fridge for at least 20-30 minutes
- In a large fryer heat the vegetable oil ( it has to be enough to deep fry the flowers). A trick to know if the oil is warm enough is throwing a little piece of bread in it: when the oil starts bubbling around the bread then the oil is ready.
- Grab a flower by the stem, dip it in the batter then shake the excessive batter and put the flower in the frying pan. Repeat until the fryer is full.
- Using a pair of tongs gently turn the flowers once while cooking
- When the flowers feel "crunchy" remove them from the pan using the tongs and shaking the excess oil out. Place the flowers on a paper towel to dry the excess fat.
- Repeat the last three steps until the flowers are all fried.