At least half of the challenge of being a great cook is thinking quickly on your feet – living in the moment, as it were. Recognizing the simple, subtle tastes, little nuances and fleeting moments. Spring is full of these.
Last weekend, we took a spontaneous day trip. Though the weather was chilly, and we had packed and used our winter beanies, walked the beach in down jackets, it was here that the first moments of spring were realized in the waning afternoon – zucchini blossoms, right there, resting delicately in a small box at the porch at Toby’s. This handful that I discovered had passed their prime, so I had to wait until this last week when an impromptu mid-day trip to Monterrey Market revealed serendipity again. A whole box of perfect blooms with baby courgettes attached. Dinner! Voila!
An Italian grandmother at my local market in Torino once scolded me for attempting to cook with day old blooms – she insisted that I was not really in tune with the texture, flavor, or moment in my kitchen as she shook her knowledgeable, yet weathered finger at me. She was and is right – once procured, zucchini blossoms are lovely enough to derail whatever other ideas you had on the burner and they will wilt with disappointment and the inevitability of time; when you find them, cradle them, cook them carefully and, if you are so lucky, often, for their “moment”- the time when the blooms are open and they have yet to succumb to full-blown zucchini-dom – is a short one. Luckily, it doesn’t take but a few moments to take these from gentle flower to fruit-of-delicious-labor.
Most zucchini blossom recipes you’ll find are for fried blooms in true italian fashion – this is delicious, but certainly would imply that one wouldn’t indulge in gelato at the same sitting. Crime. I like to stuff them with a simple filling and then bake them (or grill in a basket,) rendering them tender, flavorful, delicate and especially delicious. And I cannot emphasize enough – through the hunt for these little morsels might be a tedious one, enjoying them this way is incredibly EASY.