QUATTRO FORMAGGI ZUCCHINI BLOSSOMS

Colors lifted from Van Gogh's palette make for a delightful spring and summer salad or side dish of edible flowers that truly tastes as good as it looks. While the Italians have their beloved Fiori di Zucca stuffed and deep fried squash blossoms, this recipe caters to an era of healthier eating. Baking these garden jewels proves every bit as delicious and preserves the Tuscan countryside sunshine kissed colors. Eaten like a vegetable, zucchini is really an easy going, easy to grow in the garden fruit. Only the female flowers produce the attached squash, so if growing larger zucchini is the goal, pluck only the male flowers (easy to identify by the single long stamen hidden inside--the females have a short balled cluster stamen). Once the food of peasants, these edible flowers are today's easy to prepare haute cuisine. Go ahead plant some vines and feast on flowers!

Nota bene: High quality squash blossoms are available online from May until September from GOURMET SWEET BOTANICALS.  Garden grown zucchini  6" or less in length has a lower water content and tastes better. If harvested beyond the petite size shown below, adjust the cooking time and serve only two per person. Goat cheese is a wonderful alternative to fontina and grated buffalo mozzarella may be substituted for the creamier buratta. A mild fruity olive oil rather than a bitter peppery Tuscan oil preserves the delicate taste of the squash. The blossoms may be filled, placed on the tray, and covered the night before (drizzle with olive oil just before placing in the hot oven). Summer squash blossoms may be prepared identically.

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DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 

2. Gently fold back the petals of each blossom and pluck out the pistil or stamen sticking up from the bottom.

3. Combine the 4 cheeses, egg yolks, shallot, and garlic in a bowl.

4.  Salt and pepper the cheese mixture to taste.

5. Add the basil to the cheese mixture taking care not to bruise it.

6. Spray a half sheet baking pan with olive oil.

7. Use a small spoon to fill each blossom with the cheese mixture and put the blossom on the oiled tray.

8. Lightly drizzle the olive oil evenly over all the flowers and place in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the petals turn a light golden brown and the zucchini fruit is still crisp but cooked.

9. Just before serving, lightly squeeze a bit of lemon over the plate.

SERVES 6

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 dozen zucchini blossoms

  • 8 ounces fresh ricotta

  • 1 ounce fontina, grated

  • 1 ounce Parmesan, grated

  • 4 ounces burrata, cut up

  • 2 egg yolks

  • 1/4 cup shallot, very finely diced

  • 1 clove garlic, grated

  • 1 large handful of basil, chiffonade

  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Olive oil spray

  • 1/4 cup fruity extra virgin olive oil

  • Half a lemon