Squash blossoms and zucchini flowers… My favorite summer treat.
I first ate this delicacy in Nice during my summer vacation while at graduate school in 91. I stayed at my friend’s grandma’s place in Nice, and they took me to the market in Old Nice, that’s where I had the first taste. I loved them!
The only thing was, I forgot to ask my friends what it was. I looked and looked and looked after I came back, but couldn’t find it, because in early 90s, they weren’t really known in the US. I even contemplated stuffing any delicate looking, bell shaped, orange flowers to see if I could end up with that stuffed flower. (One of them I thought about is supposedly poisonous… Thank god, I didn’t do that!)
So how did I find out they were zucchini flowers? Almost 10 years after that, I finally found them at my landlord’s garden in San Francisco! Being from Italy, they had all kinds of vegetables, and one of them was zucchini. I begged them to give me some, and they reluctantly gave me about a dozen and told me to deep fry them with ricotta inside (Italian way). Of course, I had to have some of them the way I had it in Nice. It tasted the same… I was transferred back to Nice…
When we were in Nice in 05, of course I had to take my husband to the market in Old Nice, and voila! The same stuffed zucchini flowers with many other vegetables! (See recipe from the last post.)
Squash blossoms are easy to grow at home. Given that they are hard to find, and quite expensive (50c per flower, often withered), I grow them just for the flowers.
All squash blossoms open in the morning, and close by mid-afternoon, so if you are growing them, you need to pick them early. If you are using them for frying or to chop and add them to pasta or something, it’s ok if they are withered a bit. However, I love them stuffed the most, so I pick them early before they start closing.
Unless you have many plants, you may not have enough, so here’s what I do.
Pick the male plant if you want to grow squash. I find squash and zucchini fruit themselves are cheap and easy to find, so I often pick female flowers which have a baby fruit at the end. Take the stamens (or pistil) out, rinse gently with water, and wrap them in a moist paper towel. Keep them in a Ziploc bag in the fridge, and keep collecting blossoms everyday until you have enough.
They should keep fresh for 3 – 4 days.
The back: Stuffed with rice, sausages, pesto, lemon zest and cheese (some has Pecorino Romano, some have ricotta)
Front: Stuffed with ricotta cheese with pesto mixture.