One of summer's fleeting pleasures: zucchini flowers. Photo: Jennifer Soo
What are they?
The long, fragrant blossoms of the zucchini plant; both male (those attached to the vine) and female (those attached to the zucchini). The flowers can be stuffed and steamed, deep-fried, baked or used in fritters and omelettes. The current trend is to simply scatter the pretty tangerine-coloured petals over salads and crudo. It all works.
Where are they?
Burst of sunshine: Zucchini flowers with mozzarella and anchovy. Photo: Edwina Pickles
Inspired by the fact that he suspected a cheeky rabbit was enjoying the zucchini blossoms in his vegetable patch, head chef Cameron Johnston of Sydney's beachside Bathers' Pavilion gently dries the delicate petals to serve alongside braised rabbit wrapped in jersey milk skin, a crumble of chorizo and finely sliced and marinated baby zucchini.
''They're a real burst of sunshine on the plate,'' he says.
At Melbourne's Fatto Bar & Cantina, head chef James Kummrow fills the flowers with a mix of fresh prawn, leek, capers, anchovy, and tarragon, dips them in a chickpea flour batter before frying and serves them with a garlic-buttery Hervey Bay king prawn and a tomato-based dressing with fregola (Sardinian pasta).
''We wouldn't dare take it off the menu,'' he says.
His tip? ''Freshness is paramount, so use them as soon as you can.''
Why do I care?
Because they are one of summer's fleeting pleasures. And possibly because you're growing more zucchini than you know what to do with.
Can I do it at home?
Yes. And while you're at it, slice up a couple of extra zucchini into matchsticks and batter and deep-fry them as well, for ''shoestring'' zucchini fries.
Serve hot, straight from the pan, with a fresh tomato salsa and a crisp glass of white.
12 small zucchini with flowers attached
100g mozzarella, drained and diced
6 anchovy fillets, halved
oil for frying
freshly grated parmesan for serving
For the batter
200ml ice-cold sparkling water
125g plain flour, sifted
1 level tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1. Gently open up the petals of each flower and remove the pistil or stamen, which can be bitter.
2. Push one teaspoon of diced mozzarella and half an anchovy inside, and lightly twist the end of the petals to seal.
3. Heat oil to a depth of two centimetres in a heavy pan until it reaches 180C.
4. To make the batter, beat the egg and add the ice-cold water, lightly mixing with chopsticks. Add the flour, baking powder and salt all at once, mixing lightly until it's quite lumpy and thick.
5. Coat two zucchini and flowers in batter, and fry until golden and crunchy, turning once. Drain well and repeat with remaining zucchini. Scatter with parmesan or sea salt, and serve with a fresh tomato salsa.
The Bathers' Pavilion, 4 The Esplanade, Balmoral, 02 9969 5050
Fatto Bar & Cantina, River Terrace, Hamer Hall Arts Centre, 100 St Kilda Road 03 8698 8800