Last month, I spent six days wonderful exploring the beautiful region of Piemonte with my husband, and some of my fondest memories will be of the regional dishes that we enjoyed. We visited Alba on a Monday, and unfortunately, all of the top rated restaurants that I wanted to dine at were closed so we ended up at a small, family run business in downtown Alba, called Osteria Dei Sognatori. We checked in with the restaurant late afternoon and were told that if we came early, there would be no problem getting a table. The restaurant is small, and they pack in as many folks as possible, using many communal tables. My husband and I were lucky enough to get a tiny table on our own and quickly found out that there is no menu, and that you had to choose from a few daily specials for each course that the chef prepared that day. We asked our waiter’s advice and were encourage to try the antipasti selection so we did. We were brought some small dishes to share, mostly local specialties, and each was more delicious than the last. One of my favorites was a small platter with pan-fried zucchini flowers lightly battered, stuffed with a little piece of Fontina cheese, and served with very ripe tomatoes.
I am a big fan of zucchini flowers and have baked them, breaded them, battered and fried them, but have never simply pan-fried them and after my first bite, I decided that I needed to make these tender morsels as soon as I returned home. Fontina cheese is a specialty of the mountainous areas of Piemonte, and it is very creamy and light tasting. I brought some regional cheeses back to Umbria with me when we left Piemonte, so I was all set to make these lightly stuffed zucchini flowers. After making this recipe twice so far, I found it better to serve the tomatoes on the side, and that these pan fried flowers are best served immediately as they will become soft as they cool. I prefer to use sunflower oil or peanut oil to fry these flowers as olive oil has too low of a smoking point to use for frying. I did make more than we could enjoy at one meal and so I had leftovers the following day, and although the flowers had softened the next day, they were just as tasty!
Osteria Dei Sognatori
Via Macrino, 8, 12051
Deborah Mele 2016
Pan Fried Zucchini Flowers Stuffed With Fontina Cheese
For The Batter:
- 1 Cup Unbleached All-purpose Flour
- 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
- 3/4 Cup Warm Water
- 1 Large Egg, At Room Temperature
For The Stuffing:
- 20 Thin Slices of Fontina Cheese, Cut To Fit The Zucchini Flowers
- 18 Medium to Large Fresh Zucchini Flowers
- Oil For Pan Frying
- 2 Large, Very Ripe Tomatoes, Cored, Seeded, And Finely Chopped
- 1 Garlic Clove, Minced
- 1 Tablespoon Finely Minced Fresh Basil
- Salt & Pepper To Taste
- 1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Whisk together the flour, salt and water in a medium sized bowl, and let sit for at least 30 minutes.
- Mix together the tomato topping in a small bowl and cover until needed.
- When ready to prepare the flowers, whisk the egg into the batter.
- Make a slit lengthwise in each flower and remove the stamen.
- Carefully place the fontina cheese inside each flower, covering it with the flower petals.
- Heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet to high heat.
- Add enough oil to the pan to reach 1/8” up the sides.
- When the oil is very hot, dip each flower in the batter and add them to the pan, frying three to four at a time.
- Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes on each side until golden brown, then place on a paper towel lined plate.
- Repeat this all flowers have been fried, reducing the heat as needed so the oil doesn’t burn.
- Serve immediately, passing the tomato relish alongside to spoon over the fried flowers.