Fried Zucchini Flowers with Three Cheeses

Here is one simple preparation that I will share with you.  To begin with some perspective: I rarely deep fry food, and I don’t eat much of it either.  However, I have always been intrigued by the deep fried zucchini blossoms on menus, in cookbooks and prominently featured in Italian cuisine.  So when I discovered these beautiful, delicate, floppy flowers in colors of gold and ochre at the farmers market I had to buy them.

Courgette Flowers

Once home, I scoured my cookbooks for recipes, all of which required deep frying, ready to give it a go.  As my pantry would have it, the only oil I had on hand was olive oil, which is not the best for deep frying.  So, back to the books I went, and then I saw Mario Batali’s recipe for fried zucchini blossoms.  His are not deep fried, but fried in a skillet in olive oil.  Inspired by this recipe, I filled the zucchini flowers with a mixture of three cheeses: creamy goat, nutty Parmigiano-Reggiano, salty Pecorino Romano and a little fresh mint for brightness.  I omitted any other accoutrements, so I could taste the fried blossoms straight up.  Embellishments would wait for another round.

The results, as you can see, are not the tidy plump courgette purses often pictured in recipes for deep fried blossoms.  As my flowers cooked and browned in the pan, some of the filling seeped out, creating a crispy golden crust in the pan.  I took care not to let this crust burn, scraping it up as it browned to serve with the flowers.  (This crunchy goodness is referred to as the religieuse in cheese-fondue terms, and is considered the prized delicacy at the bottom of the pot.) The end result was a rustic dish of golden brown zucchini blossoms with a crispy cheese garnish.  Perfect presentation?  Maybe not. Great taste? Absolutely.

Fried Zucchini Flowers with Three Cheeses
Serves 4 as a starter or side dish

8 zucchini flowers
6 oz. soft mild goat cheese
1 egg
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Gently remove the stamens from the flowers.
In a small bowl combine goat cheese, egg, grated cheeses and mint.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
Stuff each blossom with 1-2 tablespoons cheese mixture, taking care not to over stuff.  Twist blossom ends to close flower.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in skillet over medium-high heat.  Place 4 flowers in skillet and cook, gently turning, until flowers begin to brown, 2-3 minutes per side.  Transfer to plate.  Keep warm.
As cheese seeps out, allow to cook until golden brown.  Scrape up cheese and transfer to another plate lined with paper towel.
Repeat with remaining flowers.
Serve zucchini flowers with crispy cheese crumbled over as garnish.