I grew up in a predominantly Italian household where heritage and tradition were present in our daily lives and, even more so, on special occasions. These ideals have been instilled in me and I respect them and feel grateful that our kids (the next generation) will also know the importance of family history and tradition. With my family, as is true in most cultures, food is often the main event for important days. When we get everyone in a room, which is hard these days, you better believe the table is full of the most delish Italian treats.
On any given holiday, if you are lucky enough to have a spot at our table, you are going to leave fat and happy. The spread is in a league of its own and we always put thought and effort into the menu. From the antipasto to dessert, the food is fresh and delicious and there is rarely anything left over. That’s the only sad part of this story.
We always have cheese and what never seems like enough prosciutto. If you don’t know what prosciutto is, read this then go ahead and crawl out from the rock you have been hiding under and get yourself some. There is nothing better than a paper-thin slice of that delicious cured meat wrapped around a piece of fruit or a hunk of cheese.
One moment while I wipe the drool from my chin.
Olives and artichoke hearts are a staple. Another fan favorite these days is a good, crusty bread with fresh Italian butter. Both the kids and grownups get in on this bread and butter. It is my family’s jam. Did you see what I did there? Get it? Jam? Butter? Bread? Oh, forget it.
If you could be at one of the dinners I host, you would find that I stay pretty close to tradition when it comes to the Italian food I serve. There is always a pasta, meat and salad. At our most recent family gathering, I made lasagna. The crowd was pleased which, in turn, catapults me into euphoria. I am a food pusher and have an affliction. I like to roam around and watch people put my food into their mouths and then listen to them moan. It gives me pleasure. No other way to describe it.
This go around we had grilled sausage. I’m not talking Johnsonville here. No siree. This stuff is jammed with provolone and fresh tomatoes and the long drive to get it is well worth it. Tony’s Deli knows their stuff when it comes to stuffed sausage. If you ever find yourself on the north side of Chicago, hit them up. You will not be disappointed as it is a full-service Italian grocery story with an impressive deli and every Italian staple you desire.
To round out our meal, I always request a guest bring a salad. It usually comes in the form of arugula or romaine, drizzled with olive oil, salt and lemon. But all of this wasn’t the main event. There was an additional dish which was the food-focused draw that brought our family together on this summer night and a tradition that I want to share with you.
It is our annual summer tradition to stuff and fry zucchini flowers. Better said, “fiore Di zuccha tempura”. Stay with me now. Right around this time of year, plants and vegetables are thriving and zucchini flowers are in full bloom. In Italy, we eat the bloom that proceeds the zucchini. The cooking process is labor-intensive, thus the reason the entire family gets involved, but the finished product is absolutely the most delicious gosh darn thing that you ever did taste.
This is one of The Knife’s favorite summer dishes and he is the driving force behind us getting in the kitchen and taking it down to the ground together. We had such a great time stuffing these bad boys and eating them, I wanted to share it with you.
The first part of the process was spearheaded by the MidSis.
Here she is plucking the stamen out and getting them ready to be stuffed.
Don’t they look so good you want to eat them?
The kids are getting big and got in on the action. Here is my niece Margot watching intently.
She and her cousin Mia helped with the stuffing. Their little hands and fingers were key! The blooms are delicate!
Mia was on cheese filling duty. We cut up fresh mozzarella and made a ricotta mixture.
Kitchen hack alert! We put the ricotta mixture into a baggie, snipped a small corner off the end and filled our flowers.
Once the flowers were all stuffed we started to prep for the frying process.
We filled a pan nearly halfway with canola oil and turned the heat on high. This was our test flower.
Here we have Neen’er Wiener (this is what the kids call her) frying up the zucchini flowers. The mess is worth the final product. Promise.
We lay them on a paper towel for a moment to let some of the grease drain. They are best served almost immediately. Just pop em in!
Are you hungry yet?
Isn’t that the most delightful thing you have ever seen? We think so!
Fried and Stuffed Zucchini Flowers
Zucchini Flowers- shop at your local farmers market
1.5 lbs fresh ricotta
salt and pepper
fresh grated parmesan
Fresh mozzarella – cut small
anchovies – cut small (a little goes a long way)
2 Tbsp. – fresh chopped parsley
5 eggs scrambled
Flour – enough to dredge the flowers in
A lot Canola oil for frying
To start, gently rinse the flowers with water and remove the insides. Prepare the ricotta stuffing my mixing together the ricotta, 3 eggs, grated parm (to taste) and salt and pepper and chopped parsley. In the meantime, place a piece of anchovie and fresh mozzarella in the flower. Then pipe a little ricotta filling into the flower.
Get your oil hot.
Scramble your eggs and add Pellegrino to them. You want the eggs to be on the watery side. It makes for a better, lighter, fried flower.
Dredge the stuffed flower in flour, gently tap off any excess and then dip in egg. You are ready to fry.
Place the stuffed flower in the oil. When it gets nice and golden flip and then repeat. They are in the oil for a minute at the most. Remove. Place on a paper towel and then serve.
We made variations of fried flowers. The kids aren’t into the stuffing so we kept them plain and battered only. Some flowers did not have anchovies but cheese only. Others had everything.
There was a surprise in every bite.
Love it. Live it. Share it.