The scent of stuffed zucchini flowers frying and releasing the aroma of fresh basil and lemon takes me back to my first trip to Italy.
We had arrived in Florence, following five magical days on the Ligurian Coast, fondly named the ‘Italian Riviera’, to what can only be described as oppressive heat.
It was 8am and we already had a sheen of moisture clinging to our arms, legs and faces. It was around 35 degrees already and the humidity was sitting around 90%, we arrived at our accommodation and were met by the two most incredible home hosts, Ilaria and Maurizio.
Ilaria and Maurizio hooked us up with maps and highlighted the best places to visit, the best places to eat in the tourist zones and most importantly, the best places the locals go to eat!
So we dropped our bags, freshened up (because we were a sweaty mess by the time we reached the apartment) and hit the streets.
We meandered through the winding alleys and streets of Florence, taking in the gorgeous terracotta buildings until we reach the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.
Once we were there, despite the cloying heat, we decided to take on the bell tower.
We climbed what seemed like a billion stairs that would never end (in reality it is only 414), until we reached the most incredible view.
By the time we had climbed back down the tower, we were starving, so decided to make like the locals and head toward one of the little spots on our map highlighted by Ilaria and Maurizio.
We were not disappointed!
We went to what can only be described as both a market and a food centre, Mercato Centrale. It is a giant hall, filled with many stalls highlighting fresh and local produce that is then turned into a selection of the most delicious morsels you will ever taste.
It was here that I discovered the fried beauty of stuffed zucchini flowers and I’m telling you, I don’t know how I lived my life without them! That’s probably going too far, but you get the idea, they were amazing!
Naturally, I had to come home and re-create them, because, how could I not! So, without further rambling and fond reminiscing, here’s my take on Stuffed Zucchini Flowers.
STUFFED ZUCCHINI FLOWERS
8-10 zucchini flowers with baby zucchini still attached.
Zest 1/2 lemon
2 small chilli’s, finely diced
1/4 cup basil leaves, roughly chopped
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Gluten free tempura batter mix:
1 1/4 cups rice flour
1 1/2 cups very cold soda water
Enough oil to deep fry
1. Wash and dry the zucchini flowers, gently open the petals to reveal the stamen inside. Gently slide a sharp knife into the flower and cut off the stamen.
2. In a large bowl combine ricotta, lemon zest, chilli, basil leaves, lemon juice, nutmeg, garlic, salt and pepper. Mix together until thoroughly combined.
3. Take the zucchini flowers and open the petals up, stuff with a tablespoon or so of the ricotta mixture, fold the flower petals around the mixture to seal it in.
4. Fill a large, heavy based pot, big enough to deep fry the zucchini flowers in with oil and bring to heat. The oil should be hot enough that if a piece of bread is thrown in it starts to bubble and gently fry.
5. In a separate bowl combine the rice flour and soda water. Mix until well combined and a smooth batter has formed.
6. Take the stuffed zucchini flowers and dip into the batter mixture, completely coating them, then gently place into the oil (be sure not to add too many at a time as it will drop the temperature of the oil and they will become a soggy, oil clogged mess).
Now, I like to have ultra crunchy zucchini flowers, so I take mine out, set on some paper towel until cool enough for me to handle, then I re-coat in batter and fry again.
7. Sprinkle with some sea salt and serve with a wedge of lemon. Mangiare!