Travel opens our eyes to art, history, and culture – but it also introduces us to culinary adventures we may have never imagined otherwise. On our first trip to Sicily to discover our family roots, we noticed the local markets were filled with huge yellow flowers and we were curious as to what could be made of these lovely blooms (besides attractive flower arrangements).
Our relatives gave us a step-by-step tutorial in how to stuff and fry zucchini blossoms, and we’ve continued this tradition in our home kitchen now for decades.
If you have your own garden and plant zucchini or other squash varieties, you may have noticed that the flowers grow both on a single stem (male), as well as on the developing squash (female). The male flowers are the ones to pick for this recipe, but even the female ones with a small developing zucchini are tasty.
If you’re not a gardener, an Internet search for “where to find zucchini flowers” in your town or city should yield positive results. They are readily available all summer long at farmers and specialty markets.
While these flowers can be battered and fried on their own, our Sicilian family recommended we stuff them for best results. We quickly observed that no one in Sicily cooks with recipes (just with the heart), so we now do the same.
Start with goat cheese, ricotta, fresh mozzarella and/or burrata (in equal proportions depending on how many flowers you have to stuff), add some fresh cream to make the mixture a bit more liquid, and blend in chopped parsley, chives, a bit of crushed garlic and sea salt (the Sicilian town of Trapani is known around the world for its salt, by the way).
Once they are stuffed, the Sicilian technique is to just twist the top of the flower shut and lightly compress the blossoms so that they are as flat as possible without losing their filling.
Dip them in egg (we also sometimes use heavy cream) and coat them gently in breadcrumbs. While zucchini blossoms are the most popular for this recipe due to their size, you can use any squash blossom in this recipe with similar results.
Another tip our Sicilian relatives taught us is never to compromise on the quality of your frying oil. While it may seem extravagant to use organic, extra-virgin, cold-extracted olive oil for frying, this is what will bring your final creation from ordinary to sublime.
You won’t need much oil, just enough to coat the crumbs. Gently fry the blossoms on low heat until the crumbs take on a golden glow; turn and repeat the process. It just takes a few minutes on each side, so make sure you keep your eye on the pan!
They may look like just any other battered and fried vegetable, but rest assured, these blossoms will melt in your mouth. The creamy cheese stuffing enhances the flavor of the delicate flowers to produce a culinary match made in heaven.
Such a delightful meal needs to be paired with the right wine. We selected one of our favorites: a sparkling prosecco organic wine from the Mionetto winery in Italy, which has been in operation since 1887. Its fruity, dry flavor helped elevate our simple zucchini flower meal into a true gourmet experience.
A visit to Castellammare del Golfo in Sicily not only allowed us to discover our family roots, but inspired us to learn several venerable recipes and cooking techniques during our visit. That being said, you don’t have to travel across the globe to unearth tried and true culinary secrets and interesting recipes.
Interview the cooks in your family, especially those among the older generation, and take note of how they create their favorite dishes. In the words of Irish playwright Bernard Shaw, “There is no sincerer love than the love of food.”