I was originally going to post this to my Tomatoes challenge, but then grant season got the better of me and nothing happened at all. And now I have a Tofu challenge in play, and I have no idea what I’m going to do with that. But right now, I’m working on the backlog of recipes that I created and scribbled down onto random pieces of paper in February (in fact, what I scribble down is a list of ingredients and quantities, trusting myself to remember the method, which is a bit of a gamble if the piece of paper then gets knocked off the desk by a cat, and batted under a couch, and then only found many weeks later), since this blog has been very nearly a recipre-free zone of late.
Anyway. Zucchini flower season is almost over for us in Australia, but for once, I can give the Europeans and Americans a thrill by posting something that is about to come into season for a change! I am constitutionally incapable of not buying zucchini flowers when I see them, which means that I then have to instantly re-jig any menu plans I’ve made, as zucchini flowers must be used the day you buy them, or at the very most, the day after. In all probability, there are better ways to cook them – in fact, I am constantly being exhorted by farmers to try deep-frying them, stuffed or un-stuffed, in tempura batter, but since deep-frying is the one un-healthy culinary habit that I do not have, I am reluctant to learn it, even if tempura zucchini flowers does sound amazing. God, that sentence was dreadful. Sorry.
Anyway, since I eschew the deep-fryer, my preferred option for zucchini flowers has always been to stuff them with a herby spinach and ricotta mix, and then bake them either in a simple tomato sauce or on a bed of roasting tomatoes. So far, nobody has complained at the lack of deep-frying, so here, for your delectation, is the recipe I normally use. I apologise for the poor photographs – the light in my kitchen isn’t very good for photography. I promise you, these zucchini flowers taste amazing, however they may look in these photos.
Your Shopping List12 zucchini flowers, preferable with the little zucchini still attached 1 kg assorted beautiful tomatoes salt, pepper 1 tsp brown sugar olive oil 2 tsp vinegar oregano, to taste 150 g frozen spinach, defrosted (or a bunch of fresh) 300 g ricotta 50 g parmesan a handful each of mint and basil leaves, chopped finely nutmeg, pepper 1 egg
Now what will you do with it?
First, wash your zucchini flowers carefully. Gently open up the flowers with your fingers just enough that you can snap off the stamens from the insides. You might also trim the stem ends, as these are not palatable. If you are using fresh spinach, wash it and de-stem it now, and then wilt it briefly in a frying pan before chopping it finely.
Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.
Start your tomatoes. Halve them or quarter them if large, and place in a baking dish large enough to hold them in a single layer.
Sprinkle with salt, pepper and brown sugar, drizzle with olive oil and vinegar, and toss well to coat. Sprinkle over oregano to taste. Bake in the oven for about twenty minutes while you prepare the zucchini flowers.
In a bowl, combine the chopped spinach, ricotta, parmesan, herbs, nutmeg, pepper, and egg. Mix until thoroughly combined.
Gently opening the flowers one by one, use a teaspoon to stuff with the ricotta and spinach mixture, and then press the tops closed.
You will probably find that you have a bit too much stuffing. I generally deal with this by stuffing long sweet peppers or small, whole zucchini, which I have halved lengthways and then carved out a long trough from, and baking these alongside the flowers.
When the tomatoes are getting nice and squishy, pull them out of the oven, turn them, and then flatten them a bit to make a bed for the zucchini flowers.
Lay the zucchini flowers in rows on top. You can sprinkle them with parmesan or breadcrumbs or both or neither, or you can drizzle them with passata first. I left them plain this time, which is less beautiful, but just as tasty.
Bake for a further 20 minutes, or until done – if you poke at the flowers a bit, you should meet some resistance, indicating that the egg is cooked.
Serve the zucchini flowers and roasted tomatoes with good bread to mop up the juices, or with roasted potatoes if, like me, you are obsessed with roasted potatoes.
This recipe is gluten-free, nut-free, vegetarian and fructose-friendly, and is also relatively low GI by virtue of the fact that it doesn’t have any carbohydrates to speak of. It is neither egg-free or dairy-free, and making it so would require an entirely different recipe. I’d start with one of Veganomicon’s cashew and tofu ricotta recipes and go from there, if going that route.
Instead of roasting the tomatoes, I often make a simple tomato sauce by sautéing a few crushed cloves of garlic in olive oil, adding a couple of tins of tomatoes and some black pepper, and simmering the lot for about ten minutes before finishing it with some basil. I then make a layer of this sauce in the baking dish and pour the rest over the top of the zucchini flowers before baking, generally with a mixture of parmesan and breadcrumbs on top. It’s delicious, and good if you are too early in the season for fresh tomatoes.
Two years ago: Recipe: Baklava