The season won’t last much longer, so it seems a good time to share the technique we use for making one of the loveliest things one can pop into one’s mouth, e.g. with a glass of prosecco before dinner with friends: fried zucchini flowers. It seems that many people do complicated things with these flowers, like using them in soups or stuffing them with goat cheese, but in my opinion this is the very definition of gilding the lily.
There’s not much to it. You heat up an inch of light oil to just below the smoke point. While that’s happening, you mix flour and water to make a smooth, fluid batter the consistency of heavy cream. You slit the zucchini flowers along one side and spread them out to form a sort, um, let’s call it a frilly dress-like shape, maximizing the surface area. You coat the flowers lightly in batter, slip them into the oil, and take them out with tongs when they just begin to brown, laying them on a paper towel. (Which should be kept well clear of the hot oil and flames.) Sprinkle generously with coarse sea salt and serve without delay. Unfortunately it can be quite hard to get any in yourself when you’re sweating over the hot oil doing this for friends, as they seem to disappear immediately. Anselm alone has been responsible for making off with the lion’s share of this course.
Appearances notwithstanding, the flowers one usually uses are the males, which grow on stems. This recipe can be used for female flowers also, which appear a bit later in the season. In Italy one can often find small zucchini (only a couple of inches long) fresh enough to come with the female flowers still attached; cutting the whole thing in half lengthwise and proceeding as above yields a lovely sort of culinary centaur, half fried zucchini flower, half zucchini tempura. Move over, Jeffrey Eugenides!
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