Zucchini in bloom?

I like my vegetables, but I by no means have a green thumb.  Prior to shopping more frequently at farmer’s markets I was fairly accustomed to seeing my produce displayed at Whole Foods, wrapped in plastic, or dare I say it in the frozen foods aisle.  Yikes!  

Anyway, the joy of the market is getting to see all parts of the produce at their peak.  Let me introduce you to the part of the zucchini most people never meet: 
Image by Galina Stepanoff-Dargery, via Virtual Gourmet
I’ve always heard of these prepared battered and fried (like a very delicate onion ring) or stuffed with a ricotta based filling.  After walking the Bloomingdale Farmer’s Market with my Italian born mother-in-law we brainstormed on how to best use these little flowers.  She made a risotto, and I made up my own, crispy, light recipe – and if you can still find these guys, it’s worth taking 10 minutes to make.

First you have to rinse and dry the flowers, and remove the pistil.  I am sure there is anatomy lesson somewhere here, but I am not going to bother.  Basically picture the flower like the colored Christmas lights – you are going to cut off what on the light is the black part and pull out the bulb (or the pistil).  If this analogy hasn’t confused you enough onto step 2.

The ingredients for this impromptu experiment could not be more simple.
I was trying to keep it light so I splashed some Extra Virgin Olive Oil and then dipped in a mix of Italian bread crumbs, Parmigiano-Reggiano, salt and pepper.  
Then I put the lightly coated flowers in a shallow pan with olive oil over medium heat.  I really just aimed to brown them slightly and crisp them up.  Because I did not use a traditional batter, when they were “done” was more of a personal estimation.
When they were all done I patted them with paper towels to remove any excess oil and sprinkled on freshly grated cheese.  Again, bread crumbs, oil and cheese are hard to screw up so any extra cheese just means it’s extra amazing.

And, what do you know – all gone!

The zucchini flowers probably taste more authentic when eaten on an authentic Deruta table, special thanks to my mother-in-law again!

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