According to weather reports, the remote lowland of permafrost in Oymyakon, Siberia, where the winter temperature may drop below -70 Celsius (-95 F), was warmer than Finland in the past June and July. This summer seemed like a long rainy afternoon that lasted until the middle of August. Then the clouds suddenly gave way to the sun for two weeks, and then it started to pour down and thunder again.
Our little lodge is so cozy – wood crackling in the stove and all – that I was hardly disturbed by the weather, unlike the seeds and seedlings in our garden. They simply refused to grow. And, those that finally sprouted in July (yes, in July!) were immediately savored by the same white-tail-doe whom we see sporting with a fawn on our backyard. She has gusto for beans and zucchini-leaves, but dislikes spinach, and is indifferent to beetroot and swizz chard. Had I failed to build a fence around the garden, she would have left nothing to harvest. As naughty as she is, she is a majestic animal; despite of trying to be upset with her, I'm not able to.
Like every summer, I stuffed zucchini blossoms this year, too. Again, I was like being bewitched. For some reason, I don’t get the recipe right: either I forget an ingredient or a procedure while being clueless that I’m doing something incorrect.
Last year I neglected to dip the flowers in tempura batter before deep-frying them – a serious mistake, causing the blooms to explode in hot ghee. Although I specifically reminded myself of the mayhem this year, I repeated the blunder again! However, now – instead of being humble – I blamed the wok, the stove, the ghee, and the zucchini mother who sacrificed her buds before I realized no one or nothing else was culpable for my mental haze. I mean, who forgets what she is doing while doing it?
To save the situation, I plunged a slotted spoon into the ghee and scooped out the gruel of spinach, ricotta, feta, spices, basil and what was left from the delicate flowers, and filled a pie crust with the mixture. That day we ate cheese and zucchini flower tart for lunch. It tasted more terrestrial than tempura, but filled the belly nonetheless.
Some days later our zucchinis bore new blossoms. I picked and washed them, and unplugged the pistils in order to pipe the tiny envelopes of petals with homemade chenna (fresh cheese), feta-like salty cheese, basil, black pepper, Himalayan salt, and kala namak. When I was whisking the batter of rice flour, pinch of salt and ice-cold water, it dawn to me that I had ran out of ghee! There was just enough fat to shallow-fry the flowers. As a result, the dish became quite heavy, similar to a patty you would expect to be served by a grey-haired, black-wearing yiayia (grandma) in a roadside tavern of a Greek village.
What about the third time, was the spell lifted? I’m not sure. Although I had all the ingredients (I even used creamy mascarpone as the base stuffing and carbonated water instead of icy tab water for the batter), and followed the cooking instructions, I wasn’t impressed by the result. The charm of tempura is that you have to eat it immediately when it’s still hot and crispy. If it sits for five or ten minutes, it begins to taste unhealthy and pointless. It is finger food you should fry in an outdoor grill during a party, and eat from a newspaper slip with a lemon wedge.
Maybe next summer I’ll get the zucchini blossoms rock and include the recipe. How do you like to eat them?