Cooking, gardening, and coexisting with nature are funny things to think about as hobbies. They’re the mechanics of survival! But they can also be fun, and satisfying, and that’s what this weekly post is all about!
Last week’s post can be found here.
Hello out there! It’s another beautiful sunny day here in Vancouver, and that means gardening! I did a lot today. I transplanted a bunch of young pepper and kale plants from one of my propagation trays, and got rid of some slugs. A local robin helped out with the slugs.
The garden is producing a decent amount of food for me, which is all I really can ask of an urban garden in the middle of a big city. We also don’t get a ton of sun, so I’m way ahead of the curve.
Probably the best things that I grew last summer were flowers. Edible flowers! Lots of flowers are edible, but these ones come with a vegetable that a lot of people plant: zucchini. If you’ve ever seen these flowers and wondered what to do with them, read on!
So how do you even eat a flower? If you get ‘edible flowers’ from the grocery store, it’s probably a little package of violets and stuff that you sprinkle on a salad or use to decorate a plate. Zucchini flowers are different. They have substance.
When I was a kid, I went down the street to my friend’s house, and his Nonna (Italian Grandma) offered me zucchini. It was just fried and tasted amazing. It was stuffed with something. I went home and raved about zucchini, and then was mystified when it was served to me a few days later. What the hell were these weird flat, flavourless discs?
It turns out what I ate was a zucchini flower (or blossom), stuffed with something tasty, then fried. It took years for me to figure it out. I think I saw a food television show where someone stuffed a blossom, and it all clicked.
Too Much Zucchini
I also remember plenty of gardeners around complaining about too much zucchini. I remember my family being given large, unwanted zucchinis. I don’t know what happened to them, but we never ate them sliced and fried again.
I can’t imagine too much zucchini now. We grew a good sized one last year that I made into muffins, and now I’ll take as much as I can get. And if there’s still more, I have neighbours. And if there’s still more I have coworkers. No zucchini will go to waste.
In the meantime, we are flush with flowers! I’ve picked a dozen or so a day for the last 4 days. I’m excited to eat them, and had a whole bunch for dinner. But how?
It’s a Recipe! With Pictures!
Let’s go to some visual aids.
Here’s a zucchini flower.
There are 2 kinds, male and female. We want the male kind. They grow on stalks. The female kind grows on the end of the zucchinis.
We want to pick them the same evening they opened. They’ll start to shrivel pretty quick if we don’t. You can see how the petals are kinda wrinkly because they opened and closed. If they’re all smooth, they’re going to open tomorrow.
Here’s a bunch of cut flowers. These are big ones with substantial petals. We’ll come back to them.
This one was a double. It was also too small to stuff, so I chopped it up for the filling. Clearly we’re using garlic. Let’s check out the filling.
There were a lot of smaller flowers. I had a few days worth. They’re in the food processor with the garlic, about a cup of green olives with pimentos, and a handful of yellow beans and a couple of snap peas, both from the garden. You can do this with all sorts of stuff. I like the garlic and olives together, and then add greens and beans and stuff to bulk it out.
Not quite puree, but definitely spreadable. Nice and orange from the flowers. They don’t taste like much, so adding colour is nice. This would be great with other herbs, like basil, and stuff like capers and even pickles. You can also substitute pesto.
To make the mix creamier, I mixed in some ricotta cheese. This is herbed ricotta, and I made it myself.
Making ricotta is really easy. I used fresh milk, but it’s fantastic to make with milk that’s expired but still okay. You heat it on medium with some salt. I used herbed salt. Then add acid, like the lemon juice here. The ratio is about 1 tbsp acid to cup milk, but it’s flexible and depends on strength of acid. You can totally use vinegars. You let it cook for a few minutes with the acid inside, and then let it cool down a bit.
As it cools a bit, you take a sieve and put it in a bowl, then line it with cheesecloth. Pour the mix over the cheesecloth and let it drain, then squeeze out some of the moisture. I let it sit and drain for about an hour before using it. You can also use store-bought, and I would have, but it was very expensive.
Back to our flowers. This is how we get them ready for stuffing. Slice off the stem end, then pull out the little stamen left inside.
Cutting off the stem end makes a nice round hole to stuff. The spoon was a little big for some of it, so I used my fingers.
Stuffed! Lots of work, but getting there!
Now for a shallow fry on med-high heat. I’m using butter, but oil works just as well. I used a pair of tongs to turn them delicately. It’s easy to squish and/or tear them.
Served up simply on crackers. These are Breton basil crackers. They taste like regular Breton crackers.
They were amazing! One bite each. The perfect summer appetizer or meal if you’re like me and you eat the whole plate!
Now that the flowers are coming on strong, I’ll keep some filling ready in the fridge for quick stuffing. That way I can have a few every day.
If you’re really savvy about cooking, and you have a deep fryer, you can dip the stuffed flowers in batter and turn them into something really special.
What do you think? Does this post make you salivate for flowers? For zucchini? Got a better recipe? Let us know in the comments!
Thanks for Reading!