Growing up watching the Nonna generation gather golden blossoms from their gardens early morning, it was difficult for me to appreciate why they considered flowers a food source, after all the more Americanized kids were ripping open bags of Lays Potato Chips. In those days, ethnic food was viewed much differently than it is today and frequently in a less than positive way; especially by the children and grandchildren of immigrants who only wanted to fit in with their school friends.
Zucchini blossoms were a part of life, whether they be stuffed with cheese, anchovies or simply fried; a ritual of summer. Like any other Italian dish, each family had their own way of preparing these delicate treasures. Of course they were all were delicious but it wasn’t until fairly recently that I felt as though I sampled the best of the best when talking about Fried Zucchini Flowers or Fiori di Zucca Fritti.
Some years back on one of our family trips to Italy we stayed in a bucolic Agriturismo outside of Udine, Friuli in a village called Ravosa di Poroletto. Set in a meadow surrounded by vineyards and forest, La Faula is run by Luca & Paul who have worked tirelessly to provide the utmost in hospitality.
That particular year as they do each summer, the couple was hosting a young German student who was preparing for a career in the hotel business. As the kitchen was always a welcoming place for guests at La Faula, we stood by each evening as Luca taught the young lady how to simply fry the freshly plucked Zucchini Blossoms.
A straightforward combination of the local sparkling water, salt, pepper, and flour was what Luca used for the batter. When asked how much sparkling water, how much flour – the response was always “quanta basta” or when it is enough.
Quanta basta, how many times have I heard that expression. A few generations back, there was no recording of recipes, dishes were passed down through the family by watching & helping. The family cook, generally the mother or grandmother, knew these things by sight, smell, touch – the ultimate sign of someone who understands food.
I have followed Luca’s instructions for nearly 10 years, never measuring the ingredients. But this is a food blog entry and my readers need a guide post to follow. Using the most detailed recording of ingredients I prepared the Fiori di Zucca Fritti, strictly measuring as I went along.
This is a dish that is solely dependent on simplicity of quality ingredients and must be served immediately. I promise you that there is nothing more satisfying than a properly fried Zucchini blossom with a chilled glass of white wine on a summer’s evening.
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- 12 fresh zucchini flowers, picked on the day you are using them
- 12 fluid ounces of cold Pellegrino or other cold sparkling water
- 1¼ cup of all purpose flour - I used OO Flour imported from Italy
- Fine sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Sunflower oil, quanta basta
- Flakey sea salt
- The zucchini flowers should be inspected for any sign of dirt or insects, if you see anything suspicious simple wipe away. Be sure to carefully open the blossom and look inside as well. Do not, under any circumstances wash the flowers. Set aside.
- Heat about 1 inch of sunflower oil in a heavy skillet over a medium-high flame, I prefer to use a well seasoned cast iron skillet.
- Pour the cold sparkling water into a medium sized bowl. Using a whisk begin to add the flour about ⅓ of a cup at a time, gently whisking as you do not want to loose the bubbles. Season with the fine sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper. The batter should be similar to a rather thin pancake batter.
- Set the batter and the flowers along with a paper towel lined tray along side the skillet with the hot oil. Place 6 of the flowers into the batter, completely submerging them. One at a time pick up the flowers insuring that each is well coated with the batter but allowing any excess batter to drip back into the bowl. Place the coated flowers into the hot oil, always away from you until you have done so with all 6. Allow the blossoms to fry until lightly golden on one side, then turn each using a set of tongs until the second side is golden. Remove to the paper towel lined tray to absorbs some of the oil, turning once. Immediately repeat with the next 6 blossoms.
- Transfer the fried blossoms to a serving plate while still hot, sprinkle with flaky sea salt and serve immediately with a chilled glass of prosecco.