It’s that time of year. I usually get about 100 zucchini dropped off at my back door. People are panicking: Every time they go to the garden, there are many more. If they wait two days, there is a Flintstone club hanging off their zucchini plant. It’s pandemonium.

Only one or two zucchini plants will provide enough zucchini for the summer fix. If you are one to overindulge, but want the invasion to slow down, consider this: Eat the Zucchini flowers or blossoms. Zucchini blossoms have a delicate squash flavor and a soft, velvety texture. Eaten raw in salads they maintain their texture, similar to other edible flowers, whereas cooking tenderizes them very quickly. You can use them in soups, salads, and toss in your frittata or omelet, put on pizza, or the most popular ways – stuffed and fried.

There are two types of flowers on the zucchini plant: male and female. Both are important to the development of zucchini, but only the female creates the zucchini. So you can keep your bodacious harvest and only use male blossoms. The male blossom is long stemmed and has a single stamen, while the female is distinguished by its shorter broader flower, short stem and multiple stamen. Both can be used, though. Be sure to remove the stamen before using.

Pick your zucchini blossoms the day you plan on using them. Pick them in the morning, while the flowers are open. The shelf life is only about 24 hours and the earlier in the day you pick, the easier they are to use. If you need to store them, wrap them in paper towel or put in Tupperware with the lid on loosely. Do not put anything on top of them as they bruise easily.

If you do not have zucchini plants, you may find zucchini blossoms in high-end grocery stores or farmers markets. Or, ask Mark at Duda’s Farm or any local farmer to pick as many flowers as you need. They will oblige, if you give them a day or two. If purchasing, blossoms should be bright orange and not wilted. The stems should look moist and have a fresh, green look to them. Most are sold in clear clamshell containers to prevent bruising.

So “stem” off the invasion and create a unique dish for your family this summer. You are not limited to zucchini blossoms; any squash blossom will do.

Zucchini Blossom Frittata

Ingredients

2 tablespoons butter

6 eggs

1 dozen zucchini blossoms, cut lengthwise

3 green onions

Pinch cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or parsley

1/2 cup shredded cheese (optional)

In a nonstick pan, heat up butter. Add chopped green onions and zucchini blossoms; cook until wilted. Arrange blossoms in a pan like a bicycle wheel for presentation. Scramble the eggs and add salt, peppers and herbs. Slowly pour the eggs over the blossoms and onions. Cook the eggs until they are nearly cooked. Broil in the oven to finish, adding cheese if desired. If the pan is not oven-safe, flip frittata over to finish. Serves 4 to 6.

Ricotta-stuffed zucchini blossoms

Ingredients

12 zucchini flowers

1 cup ricotta

¼ cup mozzarella

2 tablespoons parmigiana cheese

½ zucchini, shredded

2 tablespoons minced onion

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 eggs

1/4 cup milk

Breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a pan, sweat the onion and zucchini in olive oil. In a bowl, mix the three cheeses, one of the eggs, salt and pepper. Add the sautéed onion and zucchini to cheese mixture. Stuff into zucchini flowers; leave enough room to fold over the top. Mix the remaining 2 eggs with milk. Dip the stuffed flowers in egg wash and then in breadcrumbs. Arrange in greased 8-by-8 baking dish and bake for around 20 minutes. Serve with your favorite tomato sauce.

Cream Zucchini Blossom and Corn Soup

Ingredients

¼ cup butter

3 tablespoons flour

1 onion diced

2 dozen zucchini blossoms

3 cups vegetable or chicken stock

1 small zucchini, diced

1 ear of corn

1 cup cream

Salt and pepper

2 slices prosciutto (optional)

Sweat onions in butter until they lose their whiteness. Cut kernels from corn cob and add to butter, and chop 10 zucchini flowers and add to the butter. Sweat another minute. Add flour and cook a little longer, then whisk in stock and add zucchini. Simmer 15 minutes. Puree with immersion blender or carefully in a food processor or blender. Return to pot. Return to heat. Remove flower leaves from 10 more blossoms and simmer 15 minutes. Add cream and adjust with salt and pepper. Bake or pan fry prosciutto until crispy. Crumble and garnish on soup. Makes six cups of soup.

Chef Joe Carei has been an award-winning chef in Fayette County nearly half of his life. The former PA Restaurateur of the Year now operates Ellie Mae’s Catering and Food Clubs. He can be reached at joe@elliemaescatering.com.

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