Serves 4 to 6
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS Delicate golden zucchini flowers stuffed with a bit of cheese and covered in a light, crisp tempura-style batter are an Italian treat. Happily, the blossoms are increasingly found at farmers’ markets throughout the summer. We stuffed ours with a blend of creamy ricotta and sharp Pecorino Romano brightened with lemon and mint. For our batter, we used both all-purpose flour and cornstarch and swapped in our stealth ingredient—vodka—for some of the water. Twisting the stuffed blossoms before dredging them in the batter kept the petals closed around the filling. Deep-frying them in 350-degree oil produced a delicately crispy coating without being so hot as to damage the fragile blossoms. Use zucchini blossoms that measure 3 to 4½ inches in length from the base to the tip of the blossom. Use a twirling motion (like winding a watch) when dipping the blossoms in the batter. Be sure to finish mixing the batter after the oil reaches 325 degrees (the final temperature should be 350 degrees). Do not omit the vodka; it is critical for a crisp coating. You may use club soda instead of seltzer, but do not use sparkling mineral water, as it contains less gas.
1 cup (8 ounces) whole-milk ricotta cheese
1 ounce Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (½ cup)
2 large eggs, divided
1 tablespoon minced fresh mint
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest ⅛ teaspoon table salt
⅛ teaspoon pepper
16 zucchini blossoms
2 quarts vegetable oil for frying
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup cornstarch
1 cup vodka
1 cup seltzer
1 Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with double layer of paper towels. In medium bowl, stir ricotta, Pecorino, 1 egg, mint, lemon zest, salt, and pepper until smooth; set aside. Trim blossom stems to 1 inch and remove spiny leaves at base of flowers. Gently peel open petals and remove stamen and any dirt inside. Briefly rinse outsides of blossoms with water. Shake off excess water, then arrange blossoms on 1 prepared sheet. Pat blossoms dry with paper towels.
2 Spoon ricotta mixture into zipper-lock bag and snip off 1 corner to create ½-inch opening. Working with 1 blossom at a time, pipe enough filling into blossom to fill green base, stopping just before orange petals begin. Gently twist petals to seal in filling, then transfer to prepared sheet. Refrigerate until ready to fry.
3 Add oil to large Dutch oven and heat over medium-high heat to 350 degrees. While oil heats, whisk flour and cornstarch together in large bowl. Whisk vodka and remaining 1 egg together in medium bowl.
Whisk seltzer into egg mixture. When oil reaches 325 degrees, pour seltzer mixture into flour mixture and gently whisk until just combined (it is OK if small lumps remain).
4 When oil reaches 350 degrees, hold 1 blossom by stem and twirl through batter until coated. Lift blossom, allowing excess batter to drip back into bowl, then gently lower into oil. Moving quickly but
carefully, repeat with 7 blossoms. Fry until crispy and lightly golden, about 2 minutes, adjusting burner, if necessary, to maintain oil temperature of 350 degrees. Using slotted spoon or spider skimmer, transfer blossoms to second prepared sheet and season with kosher salt to taste.
5 Return oil to 350 degrees and repeat with remaining 8 blossoms. Serve immediately.