September 14, 2015

Zucchini Blossoms

September 14, 2015
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Maybe next summer I’ll get the zucchini blossoms rock and include the recipe. How do you like to eat them?

Thank you.






17 comments :

  1. Lovely dishes and pictures! Our summer was terribly hot and we got nearly no rain at all...

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  2. Lovely article! i still struggle with the zucchini flower, and I can still find a bunch of 'em here in Italy. My mother used to make them with just a bit of fresh mozzarella inside, dip into the batter (sparkling water and some flour) and then fried. Since I can't fry anything in my kitchen (house too small and also, small windows) I stuff them with ricotta, sauteé zucchini, garlic, tomato, basil. Put them stuffed in the oven with a sprinkle of parmesan or pecorino, some breadcrumbs and olive oil. Depends on how dry is the ricotta, I add and egg.

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    1. Thanks for the tip of baking them in the oven. I still have some flowers in the garden, will try :-)

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  3. Oh my goodness!! Just reading those cold temperatures gives me the chills. I live in Montreal, Canada, where it gets pretty chilly but man...that's so cold! Very happy to see these cute little blossoms on here. They look awesome!

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  4. I love this story. To me, it is perfection. Better than any fancy recipe. Thank you so much.

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    1. Dena, thanks for being always so positive!

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  5. We were in Finland for the first time in late August and it was magical. I guess we picked the right time to go :)

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    1. Yes! Late August was very warm and sunny.Usually we have such a weather the whole summer. Finnish summer is magical even if it rains :-)

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  6. Hi Lakshmi, its a great recipe, usually we have zucchini flowers dipped in besan and rice flour paste and simply fry it in oil, but the cheena stuffed version sounds wonderful. Can't wait to try it someday......

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  7. Hi Lakshmi, Is your book out? i would love to buy it.

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    1. Pure Vegetarian is available:

      Roost Books
      Penguin Random House
      Amazon
      Barnes & Noble

      You can also order the book via any bookshop around the world by the ISBN: 9781611801446

      Please read the post: here

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  8. you know I completely empathise! I was trying to grow squash this year. Butternut squash. Twice I got the pollination right but the fruit dried out. But my beautiful plant gave me a lot of flowers. Most of it , I stuffed and lightly sauteed in butter. I have a recipe coming on my blog on that. What I resonate with in your post is all the realism of the kitchen :) silly and genuine mistakes and the ability to laugh at them and yet cherish them! God knows, I make a lot of them :D That's what makes food and cooking real...

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    1. Will check out your recipe, Asha :-) Thanks for sharing.

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  9. FoodGeekGrazeSeptember 19, 2015

    i love love love them in quesadillas. the cheese is up to you (just make sure it is moist enough to enable a seal). pumpkin or sunflower seeds make things even better. cilantro or parsley are both great. spreading a savory jam or chutney make it sing. whole wheat, flour, or corn tortillas are lovely... but, i must tell you... the corn does seem to become one with the flavor profile of a blossom in the most lovely way. no tortillas? any flatbread will do. lavash blossom pizza = drives me mad with happy. have you wandered into soup territory with your harvests? the beloved mexican soup, "crema de flor de calabaza" is a definite bowl licking choice. i once ate some shredded blossoms that were added to a mushroom risotto that made me squeal with joy (it was at a restaurant so i did not squeal too loudly... i hope). maybe you can work some of these into your next harvest, yes? hope all is well with you and your's. sending beautiful your way. cheers :-)

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    1. Thanks for the tips! While reading your comment, I developed a taste for a soup: Mexican or not, will try to come up with a recipe. I actually made a pumpkin soup the other day, with blossoms, but it didn't turn out that well.

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  10. Merhabalar, çok leziz ve iştah açıcı bir görüntüsü var. Ellerinize sağlık.

    Saygılar

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  11. The Bengali way of course... dipped in besan, poppy seed and kalonji batter and deep fried :) I think a tart would be perfect! Lakshmi I cannot imagine you making any mistakes. It feels there is art and perfection in your mistakes too!

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