DIsn’t it time you made baked stuffed zucchini flowers (also known as squash blossoms)? They’re an easy, quick, light, healthy, Italian, vegetarian starter.
Firstly, should I be calling these baked stuffed squash blossoms or baked stuffed zucchini flowers? It’s a little confusing but squash blossoms and zucchini flowers are the same ingredient. Also acceptable, are baked zucchini blossoms. And then of course to add further confusion, many Europeans call zucchinis, corgettes. Well, that’s just the way it is in our global world now!
Zucchini flowers are at their peak from late spring all the way through to fall. So, keep a sharp eye out for them. That’s when making baked stuffed zucchini blossoms comes into its own.
Whatever we call them, stuffed zucchini flowers contain a secret ingredient and that is the king of cheeses! Read onto find out what that is and how Italians use it.
Grading of Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese
Well the heading gives it away! The king of cheeses is indeed Parmigiano Reggiano. Luckily for us we participated in a tour to observe how Italians make this classic, Italian cheese.
When sold by a retailer (in Italy at least) parmigiano reggiano is designated with a colored seal denoting its age. The flavor becomes more intense as the cheese ages. So, the recommended use of the cheese varies as well:
- Red seal (aged over 18 months- creamy) serving suggestions:
- excellent served with aperitifs and apples.
- Good for cooking with (as we will in this recipe).
- Silver seal (aged over 22 months- firm structure, distinctive taste, crumbly) serving suggestions:
- Gold seal (aged over 30 months- strong, “strevicchio”, highest nutritional value, crystals, crumbly, distinctive taste) serving suggestion:
- excellent served with balsamic vinegar or honey.
- great with a “big” flavored red wine or dessert wine.
In the Emilia Romagna area 24 month old parmigiano reggiano sells between 14 and 19 euros a kilo. ($7.50 to $10 USD per pound). That is significantly cheaper than we pay at home!
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When making the baked stuffed zucchini blossoms, I really encourage you to use parmigiano reggiano. For sure, you can use any parmesan cheese. But you get a better depth of flavor from parmigiano reggiano!
Access to Fresh Produce
One of the great pleasures of driving around Italy in the late spring and early summer is to observe the lush and rather magnificent-looking fields full of agriculture. And then there are the well-maintained, vegetable gardens in most homes.
Corn, wheat, grapes (for wine) tomatoes, zucchinis and other crops are all lush and healthy looking. It is little wonder the fruit and vegetable stores and the produce in markets looks so good. When you pick up a tomato it has that lovely, home-grown smell.
Not only does food look good here but it tastes good. Another interesting food observation when you travel around Europe is they don’t really waste anything. Its not just steak you see in a butcher store but the offal and bones as well. Everything that can be sold is sold.
People here want to spend more time on making things like stock, preserves, sauces, pickles, terrines, bottled vegetables and the like. When summer produce is at its peak and prices are cheap, people here buy up to make some of the these items.
Better Eating Habits
Depending how old you are, you probably remember your grandmother or mother doing the same thing. In my view, until recently, this practice has been slowly dying out. As a child I remember our family gathering in the kitchen and talking as your mother or grandmother worked on the bottled tomatoes.
There are promising signs though. We see lots more interest in farmer’s markets and some old cuts of meat are making a comeback. And, there is definitely an interest amongst younger people to experiment with old fashion fruits and vegetables.
Baked Stuffed Zucchini Flowers or Squash Blossoms
It’s not just tomatoes that taste good in Italy but zucchinis as well. Did you know Christopher Columbus brought the original vegetable (actually a fruit by the way) back to Italy? There it developed into what we now call zucchini (summer squash).
And in testament to not wasting anything, zucchini flowers here are very popular. It really pleases me to say they are commonly available now in Australia, the US and other places. So buy some zucchini flowers from your farmer’s market or local fruit and vegetable store and make baked stuffed zucchini flowers.
Our version of baked stuffed zucchini flowers is not fried, so no real cleaning up afterwards and maybe a little healthier than the fried versions. I usually stay away from “delicate flower” recipes. But trust me, these baked stuffed zucchini flowers are not fiddly. And they are to sure to impress!
Tell us what you think.
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