We served this summer-time indulgence to friends this weekend and they were gobbled up in a blink of an eye! Obviously frying them takes away from the delicate flavour so distinctive of these flowers, but as we all know frying is just like bacon, it just makes everything even tastier.
Sadly these beautiful golden blossoms do not stay fresh for too long after they are picked, and will wilt within a day. If eaten the day of the purchase it will be easy for you to stuff them, but if you wait any longer the flower petals will wilt and it will be difficult to open them to stuff the flowers. In this case you can just fry them without stuffing them, which is also very delicious.
However in this house, we prefer the fried stuffed version where mozzarella cheese oozes out of them!
The recipe below, which has been adapted from a William-Sonoma recipe, is based on the traditional Roman recipe, which recommends using mozzarella cheese to stuff the zucchini blossoms. However since the typical mozzarella found at the grocery store can sometimes lack in taste, we chose to stuff them with mozzarella de bufala instead, which is a little more creamier. The anchovies also add the characteristic saltiness to make it even more flavourful.
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt, plus more for taste
½ cup of cold sparkling mineral water
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus oil for deep-frying
4 ounce ball of fresh mozzarella de bufala
5 anchovy fillets
20 zucchini blossoms
fried stuffed zucchini flowers
Before stuffing zucchini flowers you must remove the pistils or filaments which are found inside the flower However it’s a little tricky to remove the pistils without damaging the flower petals and therefore I recommend that you do this as soon as you get home with the zucchini flowers before the petals begin to wilt. If not the flower petals will stick together which will make it difficult to reach in the flower and pinch off the pistils.
Once the pistils are removed you can then stuff the blossoms shortly before you are ready to fry them.
To make the batter, mix the flour and the 1 teaspoon of salt in a small bowl. Add the eggs, sparking water and 1 tablespoon of oil to the flour mix and whisk until well blended.
Cut the mozzarella ball into sticks which are about 1 inch long and ½ wide. Pat the anchovies dry with paper towels and cut each fillet into fours.
You can fry the zucchini blossoms in a deep fat fryer if you have one or otherwise you can just as easily fry them in a heavy and high fry pan that is about 3 inches deep. In either case heat the oil to 375oF.
You will also need to heat oven to 175oF so you can keep the fried zucchini flowers warm as you fry the others.
While the oil is heating, gently spread open the petals of each flower and insert a piece of the cheese and a piece of anchovy into each flower and press the petals closed.
Once the flowers are stuffed, dip the flowers one at a time into the batter to coat the flower completely. Lift out and let the excess drip back into the bowl. As this can get quite messy it’s best to dip all the flowers and then fry them. I usually just place a sheet of parchment paper on the counter and lay the battered blossoms on the paper before I put them in the deep fryer or the frying pan.
Once the oil is heated through you can then slip the battered flowers into the hot oil and fry until golden brown on all sides for about 4 minutes. In the deep fat fryer turn them halfway through so they can brown on all sides. Afterwards use tongs or a slotted spoon to transfer them to a paper towel on top of a plate to drain. Season with fleur de sel and then place in the oven while you fry the remainder of the flowers.
You can’t beat this combination, beets and burrata. I must admit that I have only become a fan of beets, that is, roasted beets, just recently. Pardon my ignorance, but the reason I never ventured into the beets territory is simply because for all these years I thought beets always came out of a jar in their vinegary form! For some reason, I’ve never been a fan of food pickled in vinegar so I just avoided trying anything with beets. And while I’m at it, why pickle anything? Aren’t eggs just better fresh anyways and if you’re going to keep anything why not just put it in olive oil, instead of vinegar…
Anyhow enough about the pickling, let me tell you about one magical day in a restaurant in Montreal which changed my perception of beets. A friend had mentioned that the best salad on the menu of this restaurant was the beet and goat cheese salad. Well, this was the game changer for me, at that moment I discovered that beets come in wonderfully bright colours other than dark burgundy and that they are actually very flavourful especially when roasted.
So, yes roasted beets are quite good served in a salad with goat cheese, as it is often prepared, however you can bring it to another level by serving it with burrata instead of goat cheese.
If you haven’t experienced burrata yet, let me introduce you to a whole new world of fresh italian cheese which is just heavenly creamy. In my book, once you go burrata you can’t go back to mozzarella or even mozzarella di bufala. It’s just a better version of mozzarella as the mozzarella is combined with cream in a pouch made of mozzarella. It’s quite indulgent and can be served with fresh tomatoes just as is done with mozzarella di bufala or served with roasted beets as done here.
The beets and the vinaigrette for this recipe can both be prepared in advance, up to a day prior to you serving the salad, which makes for a great first course when hosting guests. It is not only bright and colourful but it’s spectacular because of the addition of the oh-so decadent burrata. The roasted hazelnuts are also a must in this salad as they add the necessary crunchy texture to the mix.
beets and burrata
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons shallot, minced
1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
4 tablespoons grapeseed oil
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
8-10 medium sized beets, golden, candy-stripped or red beets, tops trimmed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 200g packs of burrata or fresh mozzarella di bufala if you can’t find burrata
bunch of basil leaves, cut lengthwise into ribbons
¼ cup toasted hazelnuts, peeled and coarsely chopped
Preheat oven at 375oF
To make vinaigrette combine vinegar, lemon juice and shallot in a small bowl and stir in mustard. Gradually whisk in oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. You can cover and chill vinaigrette while the beets are roasting.
Toss beets in oil and season with salt and pepper.
Transfer beets to a baking dish large enough to fit all beets. I prefer to line the baking dish with aluminum foil as it prevents me from having to clean and scrub the baking dish as the beets will bleed in the baking dish. Then cover baking dish with foil really tightly so steam cannot escape. Cook for about 50 to 60 minutes, until a toothbpick can slide easily through the beets.
Carefully uncover the baking dish as the steam is very hot. Let beets cool for about 10 minutes, until you can handle them, then peel beets by using a paper towel to help rub off the peel. This will also help in ensuring you don’t stain your hands.
Quarter the beets. In a medium bowl toss beets with ½ of quantity of vinaigrette.
Spread burrata on a serving plate and season with salt and pepper. Top burrata with beets and drizzle remaining vinaigrette over the beets and burrata. Garnish with toasted hazelnuts and basil.