September 8, 2021
If there is one delicacy that captures the essence of summer….it’s zucchini blossoms.
Star-shaped and golden, they are like tasting the sun. All of the light wrapped into a delicate blossom.
Like all beauty in life, zucchini blossoms are ephemeral. They remind us that you must seize the moment; enjoy them promptly once picked and then immediately after frying.
Available only in the summer months, if you have access to zucchini blossoms, whether from your home garden or local farmer’s market, take advantage of them and make this special treat.
A few years ago, while visiting Varese Ligure, the renowned organic farming village where my Italian ancestors once lived and farmed, I came across this gorgeous basket of zucchini flowers. I was so tempted to gather a bouquet in my hands and take them home, only I didn’t have any place to store or cook them in the hotel.
Now that it’s summer and my garden is full of zucchini blossoms, I pulled out my friend Gina’s cookbook, Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures to make her Roman style zucchini blossoms stuffed with mozzarella and anchovies.
Zucchini blossoms make the perfect parcel for a center of gooey, melted mozzarella, accented with a punch of salty savoriness from the anchovy. The beer batter keeps the exterior light and crispy to protect the delicateness of the blossom.
If you are a newcomer to zucchini blossoms and frying like I was, here is my guide for selecting, preparing and frying your blossoms to perfection.
First, some Fun Facts about Zucchini
- Zucchini is botanically a fruit!
- Zucchini’s ancestry originated in Mexico and South America
- However, one of the common varieties was developed near Milan
- Zucchini as we know it in the US today is thought that Italian immigrants brought zucchini to California (quite the circuitous route!)
- Apparently the ancient Romans loved squash blossoms (probably squash since zucchini cultivation in Europe didn’t begin until the colonization of the Americas)
- Zucchini in Italian is zucchine
- In the UK you’ll find zucchini by the French name, courgette
- If you don’t think you have a green thumb, try growing zucchini and you’ll be delighted! Zucchini really takes off on its own!
Harvesting and Preparing the Zucchini Flowers
Where to get zucchini flowers
Zucchini blossoms are in season during the summer months.
The best place to get zucchini or squash blossoms is straight from your garden! The fresher, the better.
Another option for getting ahold of zucchini blossoms is to check your local farmer’s market.
Harvesting zucchini flowers
Although you can technically pick zucchini blossoms any time of day, the morning is the best time when the flowers are wide open. As this article states, then you can see any bugs to avoid any “unwanted sources of protein” haha.
Zucchini blossoms in the morning vs. evening
Male vs. Female Zucchini Flowers
female zucchini flower with pistil male zucchini flower with stamen
Both male and female flowers are edible!
It’s easy to spot the female flowers since they are attached to a zucchini. They are best when the zucchini is still on the smaller side (see Italy photo at the beginning of this post). Otherwise, they shrivel up and dry out as the zucchini grows.
On the other hand, male flowers grow on a stalk. They are more abundant, so they are typically the ones selected for cooking.
Likewise, you can use any squash blossom for this recipe! Any variety of pumpkin or squash that produces flowers are edible.
Cleaning & trimming the zucchini blossoms
Zucchini flowers are very delicate, so it’s important to handle them with the utmost care so they don’t tear. Some people prefer not to get them wet and just use a paper towel to brush off any bugs.
If there are any bugs, don’t worry! I rinsed mine *very* carefully (because they were too stubborn to get off with a paper towel alone) and left them to dry on a kitchen towel. Just make sure they are completely dry before frying and use them right away so they don’t wilt.
Most people remove the pistil or stamen (the center of the flower that contains the pollen) before eating, although it’s not necessary.
Trim off the petals at the base of the stem. Some people like to leave a little bit of the stem, or you can trim it all the way off.
Tips for Frying Zucchini Flowers
I used to be so intimidated by frying because I imagined hot oil spitting everywhere, but if that’s the case then your oil is too hot!
The most important thing when frying is to maintain the right temperature.
I like to call it the Goldilocks method: make sure your temperature is *just right* and you’ll be golden!
The best temperature range for frying is between 350-375° Fahrenheit or 165-185° Celsius.
I don’t fry often, so I like to use a thermometer to adjust the heat accordingly. Typically, the oil continues to get hotter and hotter, so I always turn the temperature down a bit before it gets to 375° F.
If the oil is too cool…
If the oil isn’t hot enough, then it will actually cause the food to soak up oil. If your blossoms are soggy, your oil temperature likely isn’t hot enough.
If the oil is too hot…
If the temperature gets too hot, it can reach the oil’s smoke point. This can affect the flavor, burn the food, and potentially pose health risks.
If the temperature is just right, you’ll have a perfectly golden, crispy exterior.
Which oil to use
What makes an oil suitable for frying is a high smoke point (which is most refined oils) and a neutral flavor.
The good news is there are several different oils to choose from for frying.
In the US, Canola oil is a common choice because it’s inexpensive, readily available, has a neutral flavor and a smoke point of 400° Fahrenheit.
Vegetable oil, soybean oil, or corn oil are also common inexpensive oils with neutral flavor profiles with slightly higher smoke points of 450° F. Peanut oil is another option at this smoke point for those without allergies.
In Italy, I’ve noticed many recipes call for sunflower oil (olio di semi di girasole) for frying, which also has a smoke point of 450° F.
My suggestion is to do a little research about things important to you, such as flavor, cost, and health benefits. Then try a few out to see which one you prefer.
How much oil to use
Cover the bottom of the pan with oil, up to about two inches. This is enough so the batter won’t stick to the bottom of the pan. The zucchini blossoms will float on top and you’ll just need to flip them after a few minutes. Just tap the zucchini blossom with your tongs to see if the exterior is crispy enough.
Frying newbie alert (aka me): Did you know there is a difference between pan-frying and deep frying?
According to Cooking Light, this method of cooking food partially submerged in oil and then flipping it is called pan-frying. On the other hand, food is completely submerged in oil when deep frying.
Click here to see a list of Italian wines that are excellent pairings for zucchini blossoms. Think light, refreshing whites, bubbly, or even a fruity rosé. Or even a Peroni beer!
Roman Style Fried Zucchini Blossoms stuffed with Anchovies and Mozzarella Recipe
from Corkscrews, Cuisines and Cultures: A Treasury of Recipes, Wine Pairings, and Travel Lifestyles by Gina Zarcadoolas
Roman style fried zucchini blossoms (video + tips for harvesting & frying)
- Deep frying pan or pot
- 12-15 zucchini or squash blossoms
- fresh mozzarella cheese about 1 TBSP per blossom
- 2 oz anchovies in olive oil cut in half
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup beer a pale lager, such as Peroni (or sparkling water)
- salt (not too much since anchovies are salty)
- pepper to taste
For the batter
- Mix together the flour and beer until a smooth batter forms. (You could also use sparkling water).
- Add salt & pepper to taste. Go light on the salt since canned anchovies are already salty.
Prepare the zucchini blossoms
- Clean the zucchini blossoms either with a paper towel, or by submerging them in cold water very gently (especially if there are bugs).
- If desired, cut out the stamen or pistil (center of the flower that contains the pollen). Some people leave it in, so it's up to you!
- Trim off the petals at the base of the flower and trim the stem all the way off or leave an inch or two if preferred.
- Stuff the blossoms with a mozzarella ball or a piece of fresh mozzarella cheese and half of an anchovy.
- Pinch the ends of the flower petals together and twist them like a candy wrapper to close.
- Dip the stuffed blossoms in the batter one by one to coat.
To fry the blossoms
- In a deep frying pan or pot, cover the bottom of the pan with oil (around 2 inches).
- Heat the oil to between 350-375° Fahrenheit or 165-185° Celsius. You can use a thermometer to adjust the heat accordingly to maintain the perfect temperature.
- Drop several stuffed blossoms into the hot oil. Allow them to cook for 2-3 minutes on one side. Flip and cook for around 2 minutes or until golden.
- Using a strainer or skimming spoon, remove the blossom and put it on a plate lined with a paper towel to soak up any excess oil.
- Serve immediately! Zucchini blossoms are best enjoyed hot and do not keep.
- Buon appetito!
A note about anchovies
Americans tend to associate anchovies with the yuck factor. In fact, one of my most vivid first grade memories is making “pizza” on English muffins. there was an array of toppings that we could choose from, one of them being anchovies. We were all eww-ing over the fact that anchovies were fish (Fish on pizza??? Such a strange concept for us young Americans!). Then one brave little boy tried an anchovy and proclaimed it disgusting and salty.
I never came in contact with an anchovy again until Italy, and I could not get enough of them. Canned ones are salty, but if they are good quality, not overly so, nor should they be too fishy tasting. They can be a great pizza topping, a dish on its own, or melted into pasta sauce to give it a little of that je ne sais quoi.
When back in the US, I tried to make some of my favorite dishes with anchovies, only to find that some canned ones actually are terrible (ie, too salty & fishy). The best anchovies that I have found in the US are actually the canned ones from Trader Joe’s. They’re from Italy and only a couple of dollars.
About Gina & Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
Gina is one of the people I cherish on social media, and in fact, she was one of the first friends that I made through Instagram years ago. Her warm, bubbly, fun-loving personality comes through the screen. I can always count on Gina for meal inspiration and food and wine pairings. She writes the absolute BEST wine descriptions too!
I was so honored that Gina asked me her opinion of her cookbook title when it was in the works, and I loved it! I could not think of a single thing to change because it perfectly captures the essence of her cookbook.
Gina’s cookbook is a treasury of her Italian, Middle Eastern & Caribbean recipes that are all inspired by her multicultural heritage and international travels. She tells the significance of each dish through stories, and each recipe comes along with a wine pairing suggestion