I first cooked this in Rome so I was spoiled with access to ingredients that may be harder to track down in other places. It’s worth the search time.
Traditionally Fiori di Zucca has anchovy, which I chose to skip over, making the dish a little more accessible to kids. If you want to include anchovy, use anchovy filets packed in oil and press the filet into the ricotta mixture before closing the petals around it (step 2).
I adopted this recipe by combining two Jamie Oliver recipes. The critical note for success on these is thatthey should be served hot out of the oil – once cool they can get a bit soggy. While still warm they are heaven.
8 zucchini flowers
Oil for frying*
For the filling:
7 oz. ricotta cheese (crumbly or fluffy)
2-3 tbsp. of grated parmesan cheese
¼ cup of fresh mint leaves finely chopped
Dried chili – I used 2 whole dried Calabrian chilies because that was what was available but you can use chili flake and season according to how hot you like it.
Ground black pepper
1 cup self-raising flour
1 cup beer (I like to use an Italian beer such as Menabrea or Peroni but any pilsner will do)
1 egg white
1. Open the flowers and gently rinse them. Remove the stem and stamen (the pointy thing inside – it’s bitter) and set aside to dry.
2. Mix together the ricotta, parmesan, mint, chili, and the zest from the lemon (save the lemon for finishing). Season with salt & pepper. Open the petals of the flower and spoon about 1 tbsp. of the mixture into the center. Smooth the petals back in place to create a little pouch. It’s ok if there’s a bit of ricotta peeking out. Set aside.
3. Make the batter in a fresh bowl by mixing together the flour and the beer. Whisk the egg white until its firm and then mix it into the batter.
4. In a larger deep pot heat 4 inches of oil to about 350°F. If you don’t have a thermometer, you can test the temperature by dropping a little bit of batter into the oil. If it bubbles and turns golden and floats to the top you’re ready to fry.
5. Dip the flowers into the batter, coat completely, and gently slide into the oil one at a time. Don’t over crowd the pot – the flowers should not touch. You can carefully coax them away from each other using tongs or a slotted metal spoon. Fry until golden brown then lift out and drain on a paper towel. Continue to fry in batches.
Serve immediately with a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of salt. I personally love to sprinkle a few drops of balsamic on them but go easy because it can quickly overpower the more subtle lemon and mint flavors.
*Note: I prefer olive oil because the flavor goes nicely with the other Italian things but frying in olive oil is a controversial topic. There is a camp that claims that the smoke point of olive oil is too low for frying. I’ve read that it can range from 325-410°F, which seems to me to be too large a range to make any hard rules about. There’s also a split on whether the quality of the olive oil matters: some say you must use extra virgin, others say extra virgin has a lower smoke point than refined oils. For this recipe we’re heating the oil to 350°F so I think olive oil is a good choice and because of the quantity of oil required for deep frying, I’d recommend using a lesser quality, more cost effective oil. A neutral oil such as vegetable is also fine.