Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Fiori Di Zucca - Nonna's Recipe, Vegan & Gluten-Free

The end of summer is always melancholy for me, as I relish in scorching sweaty days and dread even the slightest chill of early Fall. But, of course, there are many exciting things about saying goodbye to sweet summer nights and hello to autumn. Mostly, they involve food - pumpkin everything, apple pie, apple butter, cider donuts, roasted root veggies, and of course - the two  most important - figs and zucchini blossoms! My Nonno gave me a fig tree a few years ago, and this was the first year it hit maturity and beared actual edible figgies. It yielded about 30 figs, most of which were still on the small side but still flavorful and sweet.

This year I finally attempted making Nonna's delicious fried zucchini flowers (i fiori di zucca), which I haven't eaten in at least ten years seeing as they are dipped in egg yolk before being breaded. I was intimidated and unsure in previous years, but now I feel confident enough in my Sicilian cooking skills to tackle the old-school dishes like this.

Just a few weekends ago, Nonna and Nonno gave us a hefty bag of goodies from their garden - beans, eggplant, tomatoes, and of course - the zucchini flowers. These pretty orange, yellow, and green blossoms are large and can be be eaten in a variety of ways. You can stuff their cavernous innards with a breadcrumb/garlic/tofu mix, you can chop and include in a tofu frittata or scramble, and of course you can just simply bread them and fry em up.

We opted to keep it simple and do the bread-and-fry version.

Fill a shallow bowl (like a wide pasta or salad bowl) with gluten-free breadcrumbs and 1/2 cup organic chickpea flower.

Add dried basil, oregano, parsley, garlic powder, and onion powder to taste. I believe the more dried basil, the better the breading, but it's really up to you.

Add fresh ground sea salt and black pepper to taste.

Heat 1"-2" inch of organic vegetable oil in your skillet (cast iron works best) until you hear a sizzle when a speck of water is dropped on. Keep this on the low heat setting.

The flowers:
Wash the flowers thoroughly and remove any damaged parts or tough stem parts. The flowers are large and hearty, so they hold up well in the cooking process usually.

To make the breading stick, simply wet the flowers in a bowl of room temperature water.  Then coat extremely thoroughly in the breading, on both sides, and shove some into the inside of the flower. Alternately, you can use a light batter of almond milk & egg replacer, whipped together.

Fry lightly until golden brown, and be sure to flip with a slotted spoon so both sides fry. Drain on a plate lined with papertowels.

I couldn't believe how well the first attempt came out! The breading stuck perfectly (yay chickpea flower) and the herbs and salt and fried crispiness were beyond scrumptious. They tasted like childhood, home, and my Nonna's cooking. I felt so proud and am more than a bit sad I can only make these in the summer and autumn when the zucchini plants are blossoming.

These crispy little fritter-like treats are perfect with an apertivo before a larger meal, or as a filling side dish.