Chili Scented Zucchini Flowers with Pickled Onion Sauce

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When I presented Jeff with the latest zucchini flower incarnation..he openly scoffed, until he took a bite. (Those are his fingers in the photo…he just couldn’t wait…!) Neither one of us are fans of stuffed zucchini flowers; either the filling is so hot and steamy it burns your tongue, or the filling oozes out, or the flavor of the stuffing overwhelms the flower. And if it has a big, thick coating to hold in the stuffing, it gets extra demerits in the fried flower ranking system.

Fried zucchini flowers and pickled onion sauce When I presented Jeff with the latest zucchini flower incarnation..he openly scoffed, until  he took a bite. (Those are his fingers in the photo…he just couldn't wait…!)  Neither one of us are fans of stuffed zucchini flowers; either the filling is so hot and steamy it burns your tongue, or the filling oozes out, or the flavor of the stuffing overwhelms the flower.  And if it has a big, thick coating to hold in the stuffing, it gets extra demerits in the fried flower ranking system.

I was inspired to create an alternative to the stuffed zucchini flower conundrum. Don’t put the stuffing inside the flower… make a dip or sauce for dunking! This gives you the  advantage of being able to play with contrasts in temperature and texture. No more burnt tongue…instead a piping hot, crispy flower is dipped into a piquant sauce.

And thusly Chili Scented Zucchini Flowers with Pickled Onion Sauce was invented.

Robiola and pickled onion sauce
For the sauce:
Equal parts robiola cheese and pickled onions

Robiola is a fresh, very soft, buttery cheese. You could use a whipped cream cheese or sour cream as a substitute.
Puree the two ingredients into a soft, fluffy puddle of goodness and pour into a pretty serving bowl.

Robiola
For the flowers:
1 egg white, whipped into stiff peaks
2-3T flour
1-2 T water

Salt, Chili Powder, Smoked Paprika: combine equal parts in a small bowl.

Oil for frying: use a canola or grapeseed or other neutrally flavored oil

Whip the egg whites into stiff peaks. In another small bowl add the flour and stir in a little cold water; keep adding the water until you have the consistency of sour cream. Now whip the flour mixture into the egg whites, keeping every thing light and frothy.

Wash the flowers, remove any of the prickly little green fronds that are at the base of the flower where it meets the stem.  If the flowers are very large, gently remove the inner stamen as they can be bitter.  Leave the stems on if you feel like it, they look pretty, but you won’t be eating them.

Gently coat each flower with the egg white mixture.

Battered flowers
Use a flat bottomed, wide saute or fry pan, preheat the oil to 350F/180C.  I use a digital thermometer, but a candy thermometer that you can immerse in the oil also works well. Guessing at the oil temperature doesn’t really work at all and I’ve been frying stuff for years!

Working in small batches, fry the flowers, turning once. Remove from the oil when the crust has formed on the outside of the flower and it is beginning to brown.

Frying flowers
Be careful removing the flowers from the oil.  With tongs, turn the flower and drain the oil before you remove it from the fry pan. There will be steam inside the flower so when it drains out, it will cause some splattering. Wear longs sleeves and use long tongs.

Drain the flowers on paper towels.

When you finish frying the flowers, turn up the heat on the oil to 365/185C. Quickly refry the all flowers for 10-20 seconds.  This is the secret to making the flowers extra crispy.

Drain any excess oil, liberally sprinkle with the chili/salt mixture and serve immediately along side the pickled onion dipping sauce.

Who says there is nothing left to be said when it comes to fried zucchini flowers? Inspiration comes in many ways, this time it was having a lot of those pickled onions on hand.

Buon’appetito! Crunchy flowers and pickled onions

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