29 July 2012

I Danced the Dance and Celebrated with Zucchini Blossom Risotto with Prosecco

Zucchini Blossom Risotto with Prosecco


A number of years ago I found myself in a small pedestrian-only hamlet on a small Greek island in the sun-baked Agean Sea. The warm, thyme-scented breeze stroked my hair as I wandered up the uneven cobblestoned streets where laughing children smiled their shy smiles and giggled as they passed by on their way to some after-school adventure. As I continued down the street waving tentatively to the locals I happened upon a handwritten menu board outside a quaint taverna with kolokithokorfades on the menu. The bait was set and I was lured in. I had spied these lightly battered zucchini flowers all over Greece in the 5 weeks I had been travelling there, but each and every time this elusive seasonal treasure was disappointingly sold out just as they were that day. This was my last week in Greece and I still had yet to try this delicacy.

I was sitting at the taverna to meet Costas who would drive me past the secluded beaches to their home on the other side of the island where I would spend a life-changing 8 days in the company of his wife, noted cookbook author Aglaia Kremezi, exploring the island, the culture and the cuisine with old-friends and new. It was at their cooking school at Keartisanal that we recreated dishes following the seasons. We wandered out to their garden to pick the prized zucchini but much to my delight the elusive zucchini flowers as well. We sat in Aglaia's kitchen and created a crustless zucchini pie, a zucchini studded orzo, zucchini foccacia and the elusive stuffed zucchini flowers lightly battered in a light, airy ouzo flavoured batter. I finally had my first taste of kolokithokorfades


For years the flavour of these seasonal treasures has haunted me. No matter how much I tried to convince our local farmers to bring zucchini flowers to the market they eluded me. In early summer when the days started getting longer and lazier and the aroma of grass seemed to linger in the air golden flowers started budding, heralding the birth of new, beautiful zucchini. Copious amounts of zucchini!!! An overwhelming amount of zucchini! 


If you haven't figured it out by now, zucchini is one of the most beloved vegetables in Greek, Mexican and Italian cuisine. It won't be zucchini season when I am in Italy this fall, but I can reap the rewards here at home for now. But the true gem, the prized treasure, is the zucchini blossom itself.  

When the zucchini harvest is at its peak, there are more zucchini blossoms than one knows what to do with. Zucchini blossoms, are the lily-like flowers of the zucchini plant. These goldenrod coloured flowers, beautifully accented with splashes of green and orange, are a summer delicacy. Most gardeners just ignore the blossoms while waiting for their prized zucchini to grow. If you have ever grown zucchini, you will know how quickly they multiply and so cooking the flowers or blossoms at the beginning of the season is a kind way of slowing down their prolific production. Once a year, there is a rare opportunity to take advantage of this culinary delight and I revel in it.

They can be stuffed with herbed ricotta or feta, battered and fried like fritters, layered in frittatas, or cooked as part of a vegetable mélange. The blossom's flavour is so subtle, so delicate, as to be almost impossible to describe. It is reminiscent of its parent vegetable, yet nothing like it. It is sweet, yet almost imperceptibly so. In other words, you'll just have to try it yourself to know what a blossom tastes like. No matter, they are certainly addictive! It is something you must experience to fully understand.


In my own experience, I look forward to the blossoms and each year scheme to find them. I have haunted the farmer’s markets and market stalls to no avail. Only my neighbors gardens were waiting for me to scoop up the brightly colored treasures. This year the only recourse was to grow my own. As a condo dweller imagine my delight when I was awarded a plot in our neighbourhood community garden. I planted 4 plants just to have access to a multitude of blossoms.


I pick the flowers in the middle of the day, when they are fully open. The female flower is a golden blossom on the end of each emergent zucchini. The male flower grows directly on the stem of the zucchini plant on a long stalk, and is slightly smaller than the female. Both flowers are edible and need to be eaten the same day they are picked.


The very first dish I created from my prized zucchini blossoms was of course the Greek recipe from Aglaia Kremezi Zucchini Blossoms with Feta and Mint that I have dreamed of . This year since I had a garden of my own I had an over abundance of blossoms and my second dish was reminiscent of my dreams of Italy with a soothing risotto with just enough colour from the blossoms for this unassuming dish. Plated, the risotto glowed–little flecks of orange, a striking contrast against the white rice. To make this dish even more celebratory I used Prosecco instead of wine. The beautifully light zucchini flower, the acid fruitiness of the Prosecco and the salty Parmiggiano really are a heavenly combination. So raid your garden, or your neighbours garden, and if you try Zucchini Blossom Risotto, you will find yourself plotting ways to get more of these rare delicacies. The season is short so enjoy them while you can...and of course there is plenty of Prosecco left over to continue this celebration of summer!





**Zucchini Blossom Risotto with Prosecco**
based on a recipe from about.com


1-1/2 cups (300 g) Vialone or other short-grained rice
1 quart simmering vegetable or chicken stock
1 small zucchini, cubed
10 zucchini blossoms
1/4 cup Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated
1/2 white onion or leeks, minced
olive oil
1 cup sparkling Prosecco (warmed)
2 walnut-sized chunks of unsalted butter
salt and pepper to taste


Wash the blossoms gently, removing the stems and pistols, and pat the yellow petals dry. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pot and gently sauté the onion, stirring it with a spoon, until it has begun to turn translucent. Add the cubed zucchini and cook for another 2 minutes.  Add the rice and turn to medium high; cook, stirring until the grains have become translucent 3 - 5 minutes. Add half the Prosecco, then lower the heat and begin adding broth a ladle at a time, stirring gently. When the rice is almost done, thinly slice the zucchini petals and stir them in too; check seasoning, stir in the butter and the cheese, and turn off the heat. Let the risotto sit covered for about 30 seconds, then sprinkle the remaining Prosecco over it. Stir again, and it is ready to serve.


You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison. Best Blogger Tips

31 comments:

  1. Look absolutely nice Val:)

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  2. The sound of this risotto is mouthwatering delicious. I've got zucchini flowers in my garden and am going to give this a try.

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  3. A pefect looking risotto! I bet it tastes amazing.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  4. What a lovely description of your time in Greece, I feel like I've been there myself! And your risotto looks just amazing, so pretty with the flecks of orange blossom!

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  5. Thanks for the zucchini blossom risotto with prosecco recipe.
    I'll create one for sure, my kids are gonna like it :)
    submit your food photos on a Food Photography site so the readers can enjoy your creations.
    It's a food photography site full of all DIY food pictures from members around the world. submit by yourself and let me know when you did, so I can share it.

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  6. what a beautiful beautiful post... so elegantly written and wonderfully evocative of Greece... I WANT to be there now... but I guess a bowl of this amazing risotto will have to do! xx

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  7. I ahve never thought to use Prosecco(Love drinking it as a treat though)..what a novel idea to me..

    I am so glad you have that plot..I find zucchini and encouraging plant to grow..and am enjoying the look of the yellow..Tell me..I read that if you remove the fmaale bloom..the zucchini stops growing..is it true?

    I have so many males in my green plants..

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  8. There are times when I miss a garden so much! How wonderful to have an abundance of zucchini blossoms. I remember well and also remember giving them away I had so many!
    Great risotto recipe, Val. I love the Prosecco addition.
    Also wonderful memories of your trip to Greece. I've only been once (and was sick when I was there) but I was enchanted.

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  9. This is so pretty and delicate. Sometimes I think I grow zucchini for the blossoms! When I was in Italy last September, the groceries had zucchini flowers - in shrink wrap! You never know. aving this - my zucchini were done early but it is nice to see the blossoms not always fried - even though they are delizioso that way.

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  10. I take some of the female blossoms to cut down on the number of zucchini I will have from each plant. I planted 4 plants and so far have had at least 8 zucchini from each plant. Still plenty even then to share.

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  11. I grew zucchini for a couple of years until my husband complained how it grew out of containment and over 'his' lawn and killed the grass. I did have the opportunity to make some filled and fried stuffed zucchini blossoms though - what a treat. This risotto sounds just as wonderful.

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  12. DearSavouring Time...I am here to tell you you can still have zucchini. In my garden this year I tried a compact variety of zucchini. I planted 4 plants and they simply grow like a bush and do not spread anywhere. A wonderful plant!

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  13. What a lovely, lyrical post, Val. The blossoms sound delicious and demand to be tried. Have a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

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  14. Love this!
    I have tagged you in a special bloggy post. Come by and see~

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  15. Your own blossoms make the risotto truly special, I am sure.

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  16. My zucchini did so poorly this year…cut worms! They started out so beautiful…I gave a bunch of the blossoms to my girlfriend. Now I have nothing left…if I did, I would be making this wonderful dish! Scrumptious looking!

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  17. I so enjoyed reading your description of being in Greece -- I've always wanted to go. I'll get there some day :) I've only had zucchini blossoms a couple of times, but never like this. Another idea to put on my never ending list. I'm fascinated to learn that zucchini can grow on a compact bush. Maybe I'll skip a season on the tomatoes and try zucchini in my big pot.

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  18. You make me long to visit Greece even more than I already do.

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  19. You are so lucky to have so many blossoms from your garden. This is a stunning dish.

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  20. What a gorgeous risotto!

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  21. So glad I dropped in for this visit today ... reading this post was like walking those cobbled streets of your Grecian island ... and a zucchini risotto in the bargain! Just beautiful, Val!

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  22. It's always nice to have a recipe for zucchini blossoms other than the fried version (not that I don't love that too).

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  23. I love zucchini too but have never tried zucchini blossoms. This risotto looks wonderful.

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  24. that looks SUPER creamy, val. great recipe!

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  25. You have to rub it in about your 5 weeks in Greece on the verge of your Italy sojourn??? Actually, I do enjoy reading about it and I liked both zucchini dishes you recently posted.

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  26. I always enjoy your stories Val. I have not been able to get my hands on any flowers and I have searched. Your risotto is so special...

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  27. Oh my. Fancy and what a lovely pairing. Looks delish and I learned a little bit too!

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  28. Charming post Val! The risotto sounds dreamy...
    LL

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  29. In Ontario the squash blossoms came early, as has everything else so far, and were only available for two weeks at the market. I absolutely love them and have saved your recipe for next years harvest. Check out how I cooked them on WitsEnd2. Can you tell me where you got your button for Canadian Food Blogger?
    Thanks!
    Sharon@WitsEnd2.blogspot.ca

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  30. Val, I've a a BUMPER crop of zucchini blossoms this year and sadly, mostly during my "non-bending" weeks after my surgery. So I sadly gaze out of my window to see those beautiful golden flowers before they wilt mid-afternoon. This has to be an incredible way to use them . . . risotto! YUM! I'll keep this recipe for sure!

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  31. What a great idea to make a risotto with zucchini blossoms. Zucchini in all shapes an sizes was ruing the market this summer. I found the flowers at the farmers market on KLO past Gordon, the one with the cut your own flowers field, forgot the name. I hope I can find them in Calgary's farmer market as we are leaving today. Great blog Val.

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Welcome to my home. Thank you so much for choosing to stay a while and for sharing our lives through food. I appreciate all your comments, suggestions, daily encouragement and support.

Val

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