While strolling through the local farmer’s market this past weekend, I came across a bag of these beautiful zucchini flowers.
Immediately, I was transported back to my summers in Italy as a little girl when my grandmother used to make these for me from the few little zucchini plants she had in her tiny garden. They were such a treat then – and I was hoping they’d be just as good when I made them! I was not disappointed! Making them is so simple, once you realize what the heck you need to do with these delicate flowers!
First and foremost – these flowers are very delicate and should be used as quickly after picking as possible (definitely no more than a day or two). First I very gently rinsed them off in some cold water and put them on a towel to pat dry. Then I cut off the stem and removed the pistol inside. I opened them up flat…and now they were ready to become the treats I remembered so dearly.
I took the petals and coated them with some beaten egg that had been seasoned with salt and pepper. (I added a bit of Prosecco to the beaten egg – some people add beer or mineral water!) Then I dipped them in some flour and placed them immediately into some hot olive oil in the frying pan. I cooked each side until they were golden brown. I laid them in a dish covered with a paper towel to absorb the oil and patted the tops with another paper towel. Once I was pleased that the excess oil was off of them, I placed them in a serving dish and sprinkled them lightly with some salt. That’s when I devoured them! They were SO good 🙂
While at the Farmer’s Market yesterday, the tomatoes were at their finest – deep red and oh so sweet!! I immediately bought some at regular price because I knew that we would be enjoying them for a delicious salad once we got home. They were perfect in every way. As I was paying for them, an idea quickly popped into my head. What about all those “ugly” tomatoes that are already too ripe? Would they sell them to me? So…I asked! Oh, yes, they are under the table in a bin and we are selling them at half price! So, back to the tomato table I went and began my forage in the “ugly” tomato bin. Yes, some were cracked….yes, some were even starting to get moldy….so I realized that I was going to have to check each one carefully to make sure they were acceptable. I came out with a bag of “ugly”, but not sickly, tomatoes. These were going to become some marinara sauce!! I couldn’t wait to get started.
Once home, I put a pot of boiling water on the stove. I washed the “uglies”, cut a little slit in the skin on both ends, and dropped them (2 at a time) into the boiling water for about a minute. From there I transferred them to a bowl of cold water to stop their cooking. I continued this process until I had blanched all the tomatoes. Once done, I started peeling the skins. They all came off perfectly. Now I had a collection of whole peeled tomatoes on my cutting board. OK, so now I needed to seed them. This proved to be a bit of a challenge. Many years ago I had bought a Moulinex food mill, which I have to say, I have never used. Unfortunately, I couldn’t really remember how to assemble it, but after a few trys, I got it! So….not remembering if the food needed to be cooked or raw, I tried to seed my yet uncooked tomatoes. No luck! Turned the blade one way – nothing. Turned the blade the other way – again nothing. It was starting to look like I was going to have to seed the tomatoes by hand. OK…so I began the process, but of course, some seeds stayed behind. Now, I don’t mind a few seeds in my sauce – I never really seem to notice them. Therefore, I didn’t let this bother me. Seeded and chopped, the tomatoes were now ready to be cooked. I placed a healthy amount of olive oil in a pot and sauteed a generous amount of chopped onions, garlic and celery until they were soft and a bit golden. To this I added the tomatoes and some chopped basil, along with some salt and pepper. I let this simmer slowly for about an hour, adjusting the spices as needed.
Once again, I decided to try the food mill to see if I could break down the tomato chunks (and yes, pull out the remaining seeds) on my cooked tomatoes. The mill turned easier with the softer food, but all I got was tomato juice!!! Forget it, I decided! So, I got out my trusty hand-held blender and worked away at the sauce. The consistency was perfect! The sweetness of the tomatoes created a beautiful marinara sauce which I divided into several containers and put into the freezer to enjoy whenever I need this tasty summer treat! Even though these tomatoes were ugly, they sure turned out some of the sweeetest sauce ever!