There is so much poetry in cuisine, perhaps summed up in the all too uncommon practice of using vegetable flowers as food. Not just as garnish, but as food. The thing is, we Anglo Saxons tend to think that flowers are meant to be cut and put in a vase or sprinkled over things, and in the case of vegetables, left on the vine or bush or plant to turn into vegetable or fruit. I certainly grew up thinking that.
Enter my Italian adventure when I researched the ITALIAN FARMHOUSE COOKBOOK. It was then that I fell in love with Italy, and the Italian sense of ingenuity which affects everything it touches. There is Italian art, engineering, design…and then there are zucchini blossoms! What could be more ingenious than attacking the ever-present mid-to-end of summer problem typified by runaway zucchinis on the vine, than by eating them before they mature, in the form of the flower. It took an Italian to figure that out, though who knows? Perhaps the Chinese, the Etruscans, and the Greeks were doing it well before time began.
Remove Pistils to Find Poetry
Whomever began eating zucchini blossoms knew what they were about. These tender, golden flowers have a subtle flavor. The pistil needs removing before cooking, as it can be bitter, but once it’s gone the flowers are pure poetry. They can be stuffed – in the Italian fashion, ricotta would be the thing – they can be sauteed as I’ve done it here when there are just a few, they can be cut in ribbons, anointed with olive oil and tossed with hot pasta. And they can be chopped, sauteed, and added to everything from a frittata to an omelet, soup to a salad.
Eating Blossoms Solves BIG Problem
So think about this – eating the zucchini flower solves the problem of the too-big zucchinis that really aren’t very good. They provide poetry on the plate and working with them in the kitchen is a privilege because they’re so lovely.
Pick While Open
If you’ve got a garden filled with zucchini flowers you’ll want to pick them while they are open, remove the pistils and cook them as they fade quickly. If you want ideas about stuffing, go to ITALIAN FARMHOUSE. Otherwise, make this lovely little dish where the blossom is cooked along with the baby zucchini, and serve it alongside grilled or roasted chicken, a steamed fish fillet, a hearty beef rib. Or, if you want to turn it into a first course, simply shave Parmigiano over it. And if you think of other things to do, I’d love to hear about them!