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Filtering by Tag: zucchini blossoms

Today's pick from my "orto" (vegetable garden)

Rosetta

Someone asked me the other day how much food I typically get from my Oakland orto. Of course it varies depending on the time of the year, but during the summer I typically pick enough for family dinner every night. As an example I thought I'd show you what I picked from my garden today, July 22, 2010. I picked enough romano beans to cook and serve as a salad for dinner:

This handful of gorgeous zucchini blossoms I will save for my Saturday cooking class:

Lots of figs, both Adriatic and Black Mission, from my trees:

I also picked two cucumbers, three zucchini and two eggplants, which I will use in a pasta dish tonight.

Oh! I forgot! I even got a basketful of strawberries from our strawberry bushes:

and lots of sweet sweet Italian prunes. Take a look at how many are on just one branch!

There is a lot of satisfaction in growing your own vegetables. I hope that I have convinced some of you to give it a try, even if you have only pots on a terrace. In fact I extend my own garden by planting in pots; all my basil and hot peppers ended up in pots this year. I even put a cherry tomato plant in a pot, and take a look at it. It is the first one to have ripe tomatoes!

I also get eggs every day now. Here are the eggs just from the last three days. The beautiful blue-green ones  were laid by Gelsomina, our Ameraucana chicken.

My family can almost live off our small garden during the summer months, especially now with the addition of those eggs.

My vegetable garden in June

Rosetta

I promised you in May that I would post some pictures of how my vegetable garden looks after a month.  Compare the photos in the previous post to those below to see the difference a mere four weeks make.  It is amazing to see seedlings change into fully grown plants and start producing fresh summer vegetables. The zucchini are producing beautiful blossoms and fruit.  The romano beans have grown to the top of the wood poles and the beans are ready to be picked.

The tomato plants are on their way.  My dad builds the entire trellis with recycled material he has around my garden, like wood poles, metal posts left over from when we built my house, and left over irrigation tubing.  He buys nothing and recycles everything from year to year.

The poles are about 6 - 7 feet high--that's as high as we can reach to tie the tomato stems--and planted about 6 feet apart.  These poles support the horizontal bars, which he makes out of wood sticks or tubing, are placed about 12 inches apart.  When the plants start producing, the trellis looks like a wall of tomatoes. You will have to wait until August to see what I am describing.  In the meantime, if you have planted San Marzano tomatoes and would like to use this time-honored Calabrian technique, please feel free.

Take a look at the picture below to see how my dad ties the tomato stems to the trellis. He uses strips of his old worn shirts!

We always remove all the suckers once the tomato plant is well on its way up the trellis. A tomato sucker, or side shoot, is a growth that appears between a branch and the main stem. Here is a picture of what it looks like:

We leave suckers on the lowest portion of the tomato plant, as many as five or six,  and these become the main branches that will produce tomatoes.  All the other suckers that are produced by these stems will be removed as the tomato stems climb up the trellis.   You want to prune the suckers when they are small, no more than two to four  inches.  Suckers this size can be snapped off with your fingers, but suckers any thicker than a pencil should be cut with a pruner or knife to avoid damaging the plant.

The eggplant and pepper plants are growing well and my two cucumber plants are on their way to producing:

This is the best time of the year in my garden; I get to pick fresh vegetables on a daily basis.

Even my fig trees are ready to produce wonderful sweet figs. They will be ripe enough to eat right off the tree by next week.

I have two large fig plants, a Kadota (green-skinned and golden flesh) and a black mission tree. I'll have more on figs in a future post.

Frittelle di fiori di zucchine (Zucchini blossoms stuffed with mozzarella)

Rosetta

It is that time of the year again, when my prolific zucchini plants start producing beautiful blossoms. I picked the first ones last week and since I planted six plants I pick lots of zucchini blossoms on a daily basis. So far I have enjoyed them stuffed and fried, one of my favorite way to eat them. In Calabria zucchini blossoms are very popular. In fact you can see from the picture below how they are sold at the market: in beautiful bunches, picked in the morning and brought to market that day.

The most common way to eat them in Calabria is coated in a batter and fried, or mixed in with pasta.  Last year while in Calabria at one of my favorite restaurant, Dattilo, I ate them in spaghetti with clams. They are wonderful in a frittata or on top of pizza. I have a recipe for pizza with stuffed zucchini blossoms in my upcoming cookbook.

If you grow your own zucchini, you will notice that the plant produces two types of blossom, a male and a female. The female blossom is attached to the zucchini and falls off as the fruit matures. The male flower, with the long stem, serves no purpose other than fertilization, so these are the ones you'll want to pick and cook.

I pick the male blossoms early in the morning while they are still open and place them in a glass of water if I plan to use them the same day. When I want to make a dish that requires lots of blossoms, I put them in a plastic bag, blow some air into it, and close it tightly. I then store the bag in the refrigerator upright until I collect enough flowers for the dish.

If you are buying them at the farmers' market, look for flowers that are fresh and perky, and avoid the limp or wilted ones. Once they are closed it is very hard to open them (which you need to do to stuff them) without damaging the flower. You can use closed flowers in dishes where they will be chopped or sliced.

Here are the many ways I cook with zucchini blossoms:

  • Stuffed with mozzarella and anchovy, and coated in a batter and fried;
  • Stuffed with ricotta and fresh herbs and baked;
  • Mixed in at the last minute in a risotto;
  • Tossed with pasta;
  • Cut in strips and added to a frittata;
  • Stuffed with goat cheese on top of pizza.

If you are interested, please join me in my July 10 cooking class and we'll prepare the blossoms picked from my garden with the following recipe:

Frittelle di Fiori di Zucchine

Zucchini Blossoms Stuffed with Mozzarella

Batter

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup cold water

Olive oil for frying

12 zucchini blossoms, stems attached if possible

6 ounces whole milk mozzarella

6 salted anchovies filets, cleaned, rinsed and cut in two pieces

For the Batter: Place the flour and salt in a bowl and make a shallow well in the center. Place the beaten egg in the well and mix it into the flour with a fork. Stir in the water, pressing any lumps with the back of the fork to remove. Mix to a consistency that resembles thin pancake batter. When you lift some batter with the fork, it should fall in a ribbon. If the batter is too thick, add more water, a teaspoon at a time. If too thin, add a little more flour. Set aside.

Heat the Oil: Heat about 1 inch of oil in a Dutch oven or frying pan over medium heat until it is hot enough to sizzle the end of a wooden chopstick (about 365 degrees F for olive oil).

Prepare the Blossoms: Just before frying, rinse blossoms, remove the pistil and any insects that might be hiding inside.

Slice the cheese into squares or "logs" small enough to fit deep inside the blossoms so that you can fold over the petals to fully enclose the cheese. Place a piece of anchovy in each blossom along with the cheese cube and fold over the petals to close the opening.

When the oil is hot enough, dip a flower into batter and turn with a large spoon to coat. Using the spoon, transfer the battered blossom to the oil, pouring any batter that accumulates in the bottom of the spoon back atop the frying blossom, making sure it is coated. Fry the blossom on both sides just until the batter is cooked through, about 1 minute total. When done, the batter will be lightly golden, not brown. Drain on paper towels and repeat battering and frying the remaining blossoms 2 or 3 at a time without allowing them to touch each other in the oil. As necessary, regulate the temperature to keep oil at 365 degrees F while frying. Be careful when turning the blossoms as they tend to splatter when any residual water spills into the hot oil.

Serve immediately with a napkin and a salt shaker, if desired. Be careful of the molten cheese inside when you eat these.

Serves 4 (makes 12 blossoms)

Copyright, Rosetta Costantino. All rights reserved.