It’s Monday, and although I am sad that today means another 6 days of boring routine till another weekend of adventure, I sit content in front of my computer, with my mug of coffee, as I reminisce on a great weekend past.
No need to bore you with an entire summary (basically because I have already have, read more about it here and here). This post is strictly about what I considered to be the most important part of my birthday festivities: the food. This year I decided to scrap the traditional night out on the town in favour for a much-needed, much craved, weekend grill fest. And I must say, I could not have been happier with my choice.
Since pictures say a thousand words, I’ll get straight to it. So here is a breakdown of my recent BBQ bingeing. No actual recipes were used (obviously) except for the fried zucchini flowers and simple ricotta antipasto dishes, both of which I got from my brand new David Rocco Italian cookbook (perfect b-day gift from EC). Since both are somewhat appetizer dishes, I’ll begin with those.
As we were only two people, and we had a ton of other food to come, we only made about 8 flowers. So I knew we would have a bunch of leftover ricotta. We were already starving at this point, and our BBQ preparations had barely begun, so I quickly flipped to a recipe in David Rocco’s Dolce Vita that had caught my eye. Simple and tasty, this was the perfect not-too-filling pre-arduous-cooking snack. Just mash-up a bowl of ricotta till it’s creamy, drizzle in a bit of olive oil, season with salt, pepper and some grated lemon zest and you’re done. We ate it with some freshly oven-warmed Oil Boule from Ace Bakery–heavenly.
Zucchini flowers remind me of those ever-so-dreaded end of summer days spent in my garage making homemade tomato sauce. If you’re unfamiliar with it, making the sauce is an annual ritual in pretty much every Italian family’s household. I won’t get into the nitty-gritty but the process basically involves chopping, mashing, stewing and jarring several (plus ten) bushels worth of ripe tomatoes. As a young girl, I found any excuse to get out of helping, usually with no success and often found myself front and centre, dressed in my Sunday worst rags, scraping away the discarded skins until I could barely feel my arms. The only thing that made it worth it? Ordered in pizza from Pizza Prima or Ponte di Legno, for one, and a healthy dose of my mom’s battered and fried zucchini flower. When I just so happened to stumble across those glorious yellow blossoms in Fortino’s this past weekend, my mind was made up and I knew I would not be satisfied unless they were included in our weekend’s menu. The zucchini gods must have been beckoning me, because, aside from a perfect timing in harvest, my new culinary treasure courtesy of EC featured just what I needed: a recipe for stuffed Fiori Di Zucchine a la David Rocco.
The process takes a gentle hand, a bit of patience, and a tolerance to the scalding pain of flying oil splashes, as I would soon learn. The recipe called for mozzarella as the stuffing, but I decided to substitute it with fresh ricotta–since it’s one of my favorite choices for cheese in summer and also because I had another use for it in mind. So cautiously I stuffed the delicate little blossoms, and slowly I dredged them in the prepared batter, and quickly I dropped them into the pan of scalding oil–what started off as such a turtle-paced process ended in me shielding my skin from the splatter of oil as I desperately and furiously tried to flip them all before they burnt to an inedible crisp.
Fiori di Zucchine
adapted from David Rocco’s Dolce Vita
12 zucchini flowers
1/2 cup (125mL) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (125mL) white wine
1 egg, beaten
1 large ball fresh mozzarella, cut into thin strips (you can substitute this with any cheese you’d like)
12 anchovies (I omitted this, because I didn’t have them on hand, but I think it’s definitely worth a try)
Extra-virgin olive oil, for frying
The flowers are easy to clean, but remember, they are very very delicate, so do not rinse them under water. Use a clean dry dish cloth to wipe off any dirt, and take a look inside to make sure they’re clean.
To make the batter: Pour the flour into a bowl and add the wine. You don’t want the batter to be too runny or too thick. Mix well with a fork, pressing down to get rid of any lumps. Then wisk in the egg.
At this point you could just batter and fry the fiori di zucchine; they taste great on their own. But why stop there? In Rome, zucchini flowers are always stuffed with mozzarella and anchovies and that’s how I like them. Avoid the temptation of overstuffing them, though. Fill them gently. Don’t worry if the cheese sticks out a bit; the batter will cover everything and act as a seal.
In a frying pan, heat about 1 inch of extra-virgin olive oil over high heat. It’s very important that the oil be really hot, so the flowers get crisp and don’t absorb the oil. Dip the stuffed flowers in the batter, making sure they’re fully coated, and shake off any excess. Once the oil is very hot, gently lower the flowers into the pan and fry them on all side until they’re nice and golden. Take them out and place them on paper towels to absorb the excess oil, then sprinkle with salt.
Now on to the grill, from here on we simply freestyled our dishes. My BF, GF, created another one of his mysterious marinade mixtures consisting of who-knows-what dug out from the depths of my refrigerator. My fish dish was inspired by a favourite of mine from my time in Terracina last summer. I used a fresh sea bass fillet (which I asked the young man behind the counter to clean, gut, slice and de-scale for me), seasoned the outside with salt, pepper and oil, stuffed the inside with a combo of bread crumbs (made from crushed rosemary croutons) and grated Parmigiano Reggiano and Asiago cheese. I thinly sliced a few pieces of lemon for that added freshness, wrapped it up in foil, and threw it on the grill. I think it ended up taking about 30 minutes once it was all said and done–and it was cooked to perfection!
Oven-made dishes are my comfort zone, but the grill, now that’s a beast I have yet to conquer. I left GF with BBQ duty, a task he enjoys thoroughly, as my desire for either charred meat or undercooked fish was minimal. He more than pulled through and we enjoyed two very satisfying meals on two very beautiful days. I added the photos I had, but my fingers became too sticky too quickly and my mind and tummy too distracted to be too thorough.
Overall, was our adventure a success? Definitely so. Has my fear for the grill subsided enough so that I may potentially take over GF`s post? Not quite, but I have overcome my fear of fiery balls of oil, so you know what that means. Unfortunate for my waist line, but lucky for my taste buds, fried food may just be making a more frequent appearance chez femme fraîche…