fiori di zucca

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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