In my opinion, these unassuming flowers are utter decadence! I love them so much I’m willing to share my zucchini flower recipe that got me to the Top 50 of MasterChef Australia (2009) so you can appreciate them too.
Firstly, yes, these delicate little flowers that are the prelude to your zucchini are edible. There are two types of flowers; the male has a thin stem attached and the females develop into zucchinis. The baby zucchini’s grow from the base of the female flowers and once reaching a certain size, the zucchini flowers drop off, however you want to get them at that in-between stage where there’s a miniature little zucchini with flower still attached. The zucchini’s are so tender at this point – it even makes my mouth water to think about them – and my favourite part of the whole zucchini flower experience.
The season is very short lived, so take advantage while they’re still around. You can buy them commercially through good green grocers. If you don’t see any, just ask an assistant because sometimes they don’t have them stocked out on the shelves or they can get them in for you. I got mine from the Vic Markets in Melbourne. They’re not cheap – approx $2.50 per flower with zucchini attached – but I promise well worth it! Look for flowers with firm flowers to the tip and either closed or slightly open. If you can, take a peak at the stamen inside the flower. It should be a brilliant yellow or golden but not brown. This stamen needs to be removed before cooking.
There are numerous different ways to utilise zucchini flowers from Spanish, Italian and Greek cuisine. I’ve even read that in Mexico and Central America the egg-yolk coloured flowers are used in soups and as quesidilla fillings. Some recipes even call for just the flowers chopped up into salads. If you ask me, this is a waste of a perfectly good zucchini + flower ensemble. I know that in Italy, the flowers are stuffed with a mild cheese and anchovies, battered and deep fried quickly which melts the cheese to a gooey, oozey filling and tenderises the zucchini. I’ve actually created a vegan friendly take on this Italian version, which in my opinion is better because the zucchini flowers aren’t overpowered by the rich oilyness or saltiness and takes advantage of other gorgeous summer produce.
Zucchini Flowers with Eggplant Cream and Tomato Concasse
12 x zucchini flowers, stamen removed and zucchini tip trimmed
1/2 eggplant, scored, stuffed with minced garlic and roasted at 180 degrees for 1/2 hr wrapped in foil
2 x tomatoes, peeled and seeds removed*
1/2 red onion, sliced
1 tsp brown sugar
small handful of fresh basil, washed
1/4 c. pine nuts (can use cashews as they are nice and creamy too)
50ml olive oil
salt and pepper
Balsamic vinegar reduction, to drizzle
Vegetable oil for frying
1/4 c. corn flour
1/4 c. plain flour + extra for dusting
pinch bi carb soda
1 c. heavy beer (can be substituted with cold water and 1 tsp apple cider vinegar)
- In a small saucepan, cover the base with olive oil. Add the onion and cook on low for about 15 minutes to caremelise. Check regularly and stir so the onion doesn’t burn and stick to the bottom. Add 1 tsp of brown sugar to sweeten and aid caremelising.
- Dice the tomatoes finely and mix with the caremelised onion and some of the oil from cooking the onions. Season lightly with salt and pepper and set asside.
- Place eggplant in blender with pine nuts, basil and process until smooth. With the motor still running, drizzle in olive oil in a thin stream through the feeder. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
- Stuff a tsp of the eggplant mix into the flowers, being careful not to tear the flowers. Don’t overstuff them otherwise you wont be able to close the flowers. Seal the flowers by twisting the tops together. Don’t worry if a bit of mix oozes out, it will be sealed with dusting flower prior to battering
- Heat frying oil in a wok or fry pan.
- While the oil is heating, mix the dry ingredients of the batter together and whisk in the liquids
- Once the oil is brought to temperature, lightly dust the flowers with flour, dip into the batter then fry for about 45 seconds – 1 minute until the batter has coloured slightly. You don’t want to over cook them. Scoop out and drain on kitchen paper while you prepare the plates
- Assembly: spoon equal portions of the tomato concasse on each plate, drizzle with balsamic reduction and place flowers on top. For MasterChef I also flash fried basil leaves as decoration.
* Score the bottom end of each tomato with a “x”, place in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow to sit for 1 minute. The hot water will make the skin curl up slightly making the tomatoes easier to peel. Take the skin off the tomatoes and quarter, squeezing out the seeds and inner membrane.