Posts tagged zucchini

Zucchini Fatigue and a Frittata

I thought I was done with zucchini. As you may remember, a couple of weeks ago I believed I had cooked it in every way possible, even frying up some of its blossoms for an afternoon feast. Well, another shipment of zucchini and yellow squash from my CSA last week had me suffering from a severe case of zucchini fatigue.

(In case you are wondering, zucchini fatigue is a very real, albeit small-scale epidemic. I hear it hits every year around mid-August.)

Lucky for me, the New York Times came to my rescue with Laura Sbrana’s recipe for a zucchini frittata. Reading through the article I wondered why I didn’t make frittatas more often, as they are perfect for quick and healthy weeknight dinners. A frittata is basically an Italian omelet, its ingredients mixed with eggs instead of folded inside. It is cooked in a pan over low heat on the stovetop, and usually finished under the broiler.

I had seen recipes for zucchini frittatas before, but Sbrana’s required a special touch: Zucchini blossoms would be snipped into pieces and sprinkled across the frittata’s surface before it finished cooking. I couldn’t resist using these flowers in such a beautiful way. What can I say, I’m a sucker for artistry.

I made a few adjustments to the recipe based on what I had in my refrigerator, and I also stole some zucchini flowers from our friends’ garden on the way home from work. (They’re on vacation, they’ll never know.) I tossed slices of squash and zucchini with eggs, low-fat milk, green onions, parmesan, and basil, poured everything into a pan, and let it cook over low heat, tilting the pan every now and then to make sure the eggs cooked completely through.

Sbrana’s recipe recommends flipping the frittata on the stovetop instead of finishing it under the broiler, but as I seemed to be flipping-impaired, I stuck with my broiler method. After the frittata was cooked, I cut a few slices and dug into a fluffy and fresh mass of eggy zucchini delight. I loved how the zucchini and squash retained their elasticity after cooking, and I vowed to work frittatas into my dinner rotation more often. So bring it on CSA, throw some more zucchini my way. I dare you.

Recipe for Zucchini and Squash Frittata (Adapted from Laura Sbrana’s recipe in the New York Times)

  • 1 medium zucchini, cut into thin rounds
  • 1 medium yellow squash, cut into thin rounds
  • 2 medium green onions, diced
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup low-fat milk
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped basil leaves
  • 4 zucchini flowers
  • salt
  • pepper
  • Extra-virgin olive oil

Over medium-high heat, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy 12-inch skillet or 3-quart sauté pan. The oil should just cover the bottom of the pan. When the oil is hot, add the zucchini and squash and season with salt and pepper. Add the onions and season again.

Cook the vegetables until they start to soften, stirring often; this will take about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.

Whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Whisk in the milk, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, cheese, and half of the basil.

Put the pan with the vegetables back on the stove, over medium-high heat. Add the remaining basil and cook briefly, until the basil wilts and you can smell its perfume. Pour the egg mixture to the pan with the zucchini and squash.

Reduce the heat to medium-low. As the eggs begin to cook, use a spatula to lift them away from the sides of the pan. This will keep the frittata from sticking to the pan. Tilt the pan as you lift the eggs, so that the uncooked egg flows underneath and continues to cook.

When the eggs appear cooked through, remove the pan from the heat. Turn on the broiler. With kitchen scissors, snip the zucchini flowers into small pieces over the frittata. Place the frittata under the broiler until it begins to brown. This will take about 5 to 7 minutes. Check it often, so that it doesn’t burn. Remove from heat.

Cover the frittata and pan with a plate, and turn the pan onto the plate so that the frittata slips from the pan. Use a second plate to flip the frittata again. Let the frittata rest at least 5 minutes before serving. Serves 4 as a main dish. Serve with a green salad if possible. Enjoy!

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Farmers’ Market Find: Zucchini Flowers

August celebrates the apex of summer and its abundance of fruits and vegetables. Corn, tomatoes, sweet peaches and plums, they’re all in season right now. And zucchini. How can we forget about the zucchini?

It’s everywhere these days. For the past few weeks I’ve been sautéing it and tossing it with pasta, grilling long, thin strips of it in my stovetop grill pan, and baking it into bread. I didn’t think there was anything left for me to do with it, but then I came across a box of zucchini flowers at my local farmers’ market.

These delicate, yellow-orange blossoms were too tempting to leave behind. They can be cooked in a variety of ways, but I was most familiar with two Italian preparations for fiori di zucca: They can be fried, which is how my mother makes them, or they can be stuffed with a cheese filling and fried, as Jim and I recently saw on Jamie Oliver’s wonderful cooking show, Jamie at Home.

(If you can’t already tell, there’s no escaping the frying involved with this project. Just go with it.)

Zucchini blossoms are not hard to work with, but they should be cooked right away and they need to be handled gently. Interestingly, they come in female and male versions, with the females attached directly to the zucchini and the males growing on a separate stem. 

After watching Oliver’s program for guidance, we stuffed the blossoms with a filling of fresh ricotta, basil, and lemon zest. Similar to the versatile stuffed chard leaves I made a few weeks ago, a variety of cheese-based fillings could work in this recipe. Next we dipped the flowers and zucchini into our Oliver-inspired batter, threw them into a batch of hot olive oil, and fried away.

Jim and I wound up with too many fried zucchini flowers for just the two of us, but no matter. We did our best, crunching our way through the hot, browned batter to the creamy, lemony ricotta filling hiding within. The flower petals added a fresh sweetness in the midst of the crisp coating and lush cheese center. I wonder what August will bring us next. And more importantly, can it be fried?

Recipe for Fried Zucchini Flowers Stuffed with Lemon Basil Ricotta (adapted from the television program Jamie at Home)

  • 8 zucchini flowers and any attached zucchini
  • 1/2 lb of fresh ricotta (do not use packaged supermarket ricotta)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh, chopped basil
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1/2 bottle white wine
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • pepper

Prepare the flowers: Gently rinse the zucchini flowers. Spread the petals open to reveal the bulbous pistil or stamen inside, at the base of each blossom. Remove it from each flower with a paring knife.

Prepare the filling: Combine the ricotta, basil, and lemon zest in a small bowl. Mix thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Fill the flowers: Take a plastic freezer bag and scoop the filling into it. Cut off one of the bottom corners of the bag to create a type of pastry bag. Open each blossom, spread the petals back gently, and squeeze a small amount of the ricotta filling inside—you should be able to fit a couple of tablespoons of filling inside each flower. Fold the petals over each other to seal the filling in the flowers. Don’t worry if they look messy or don’t seal perfectly.

Make the batter: Be sure to make this batter after you prep the flowers. You don’t want to the batter to sit around and start to thicken. Combine the flour, baking powder, and 3/4 teaspoon of salt in a mixing bowl. Slowly add the white wine while mixing your dry ingredients. The batter is ready when it resembles a thick, liquidy pancake batter.

Fry the flowers: In a large, high-sided skillet or Dutch oven, heat your olive oil. Add enough olive oil to cover the bottom of your pan and the flowers. 

When the oil is hot and shimmering, dip the flowers in the batter, let the excess batter drip back into the bowl, and add them to pan. They should sizzle quickly and start to brown. When deeply browned on all sides, remove the flowers from the oil and set them on a plate lined with paper towels to drain.

Serve immediately. Recipe serves 4 as a side dish or appetizer. Enjoy! 

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