How to Stuff a Flower

fried

It’s that time of year when… oh, wait, by the time you read this, it’s probably not that time of year any more. Bummer for you. But this week our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box contained 24 zucchini flowers, which, as tempura fans will know, are absolutely divine deep-fried. Last year we did just that – battered them and deep-fried them tempura style. This year, we were up for something a tad more adventurous, and so tried bông bí dồn tôm, or zucchini flowers stuffed with shrimp, if you don’t speak Vietnamese.

It’s not hard to stuff a flower, but it takes a certain light-fingered touch. First off, you pry apart the petals and remove the stamen,which can be small or large, just as with people. You will probably rip a petal or two, but this is nothing to worry about, because the filling will hold the whole delicate apparatus together. Take a teaspoon-full or so of your mixture and gently insert it into the cavity. The petals, lightly squished inwards, adhere to the filling.

Stuffing the flower

Stuffing the flower

Next, briefly dip the flower in egg whites,

Egging the flower

Egging the flower

then lightly dust with cornflour or tempura flour. Lighter is definitely better- you don’t want a thick batter.

Flouring the flower

Flouring the flower

Heat up oil in a small saucepan. Here’s a trick taught to me by Luke Nguyen: take a wooden chopstick and poke the end into the oil. If, after a couple of seconds, tiny bubbles start to froth up around the end of the chopstick, the oil is hot enough. Now fry your blossoms a few at a time so the oil maintains its temperature, 1 1/2 minutes max. Eat right away with a sprinkling of lime juice.

We tried two different fillings: shrimp with fennel, and lamb with feta and rice, Greek style. Both were awesome but here’s the recipe for the shrimp stuffing:

Bông bí dồn tôm stuffing

6 large shrimp, finely chopped

sprig of fennel (not too much, it’s powerful)

salt and pepper to taste

two cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon fish sauce

Mix up the above ingredients. If you have a mortar and pestle, pound them in that for a bit to combine.

On another note, I recently discovered a thoroughly addictive Egyptian nut-and-spice blend called duqqa. Duqqa is one of those fun products you try on every starch you can think of – pizza, pasta, bread, rice. My favourite way to eat it (so far) is on freshly baked bread with a bowl of olive oil on the side. Dip the bread in the oil, dip it in the duqqa, and enjoy.

Duqqa

handful of hazelnuts (I hear pistachios are also good)

about the same amount of sesame seeds

2 tablespoons coriander seeds

2 tablespoons cumin seeds

2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper

1/2 – 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

Heat the oven to 375 F (180 C) and roast the hazelnuts for about five minutes, or until they become fragrant. While still hot, wrap the nuts in a tea towel and rub vigourously so the skins come loose. Set aside to cool.

Dry-fry the sesame seeds in a frying pan until they are light golden brown. Put them in a bowl to cool down. In the same frying pan, fry the cumin and coriander seeds until they just start to pop. Put them in a spice grinder (I use my old coffee grinder) or food processor and whiz them into fine powder. Add to the sesame seeds.

Grind the cooled hazelnuts in the spice grinder/food processor. Add to the seeds, and season with salt and pepper. It’s important to use coarse sea salt, because that way you get an occasional burst of salt when you eat it, not a salt-saturated flavour. Mix well, and go nuts.

duqqa

6 comments to How to Stuff a Flower

  • War Pig

    I’ve had duqqa made from pistachios in the middle east. Delightful, never tried it with hazel nuts.

    I had lots of zucchini flowers as I have scads of zucchini. I use the same meat-based mixture I use for stuffed zucchini. I use it as a basic meat stuffing for bell peppers, pasta, cabbage rolls, etc.

    Ingredients
    4 medium zucchini
    1 pound ground beef
    1 pound Italian sausage
    1 small onion, chopped
    1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
    1 egg, beaten
    1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce
    1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed tomato soup
    1 cup water

    Directions

    1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees (175 degrees C). Grease or spray a 13×9 inch baking dish.

    2.Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise. With a spoon, scoop out the seeds. Chop and reserve about 3/4 of the seeds for the stuffing. In a medium bowl, mix together the ground beef, sausage, chopped onion, bread crumbs, egg and the reserved zucchini seeds. Place the meat mixture equally into all of the zucchini halves; mixture should be piled up over the top. Place the filled zucchini halves into the prepared baking dish.

    3.In a bowl, stir together the crushed tomatoes/sauce, tomato soup, and water. Spoon the tomato mixture over the filled zucchini, liberally. Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 45 minutes. You may want to place foil or a cookie sheet underneath the baking dish because it tends to bubble over and splash. If using disposable foil pans I highly recommend a cookie sheet beneath.

    NOTE: For the Italian Sausage, just buy Italian sausage links and remove the casings and crumble it up like loose sausage. While you can use regular sausage I advise at least trying the Italian once. The flavor is MUCH better, whether you use sweet or hot Italian sausage. You can even sprinkle on some oregano before baking as an added touch – gives them sort of a pizza bent. Play around with it and customize it with spices and things. I always put banana pepper rings over it before baking it for me as I love their flavor. You can also add Parmesan, Romano or other cheese over the tops.

    My grandson and his football team buddies can eat these BY THE DOZEN. I had a manager of Donatos pizza ask me for the recipe after he tried them at a dinner party of mine once. People ask me to bring these for potluck dinners as well.

    Just forego the zucchini and tomato-based sauce or else mix a little of the sauce in to soften the meat stuffing. I’d also put some grated Romano or Parmesan Reggiano into the mixture if I was using it for the flower poppers. I keep some around, in the freezer and thaw and use it as necessary. I’ve used it to fill in to lasagna when I didn’t have enough ground beef, made it into meatballs, you name it.

  • I love that anything edible has been at one point or another made into food.

    What’s the final dish like? Are they light and crispy? Do you eat the whole flower including the leafy stemmy bit at the base?

  • Muzhik

    I like the thought of eating the flowers, particularly zucchini flowers. Around here, either you eat them or they’ll eat you.

    (I’m serious. Some mornings I’ve walked out to the garden to find zucchini plants scrabbling up the side of the house, trying to reach a slightly opened bedroom window. Also, around this time of year, we usually slice the zucchini in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and use the halves to go canoeing.)

  • @Christopher – the little stemmy bit is the best part. Kind of like zucchini, funnily enough. All very light and crispy – that’s why they are so suitable for tempura.

  • Mmmmmm…. I’ll keep my eyes out for them, maybe try some mushroom filling. :)

  • War Pig

    I would recommend morels if you can find them. Very meaty, almost veal-like in flavor and texture when minced or ground and cooked.