Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Baby Zucchini with Flowers

I'm not going to sugar coat this: it already feels like summer in the Bay Area. It has been sunny, warm and clear most days this Spring. This year more than any other, even with the mild temperatures, I was ready for winter to be over as soon as we celebrated the new year. The short, dark days left me craving more... especially when we had a Greenhouse (or two) in our back yard waiting to come back to life as the days get longer and the sun gets brighter. Well now it has happened so fast I hardly know what to do with myself... all the seeds that I sprouted beginning in the late winter months are already bearing fruit! As far as the plants are concerned, in the hot box that is our Greenhouse, it's already summer! It is humid, hot and bursting with life.

 But even though the plants grow before your eyes as if on steroids, we can't skip important stages of the life cycle all together. So that means we have been enjoying one of Springtime's most bountiful gifts: flowers. First we had roses exploding toward the roof of the Greenhouse, and now all our edible plants are starting to blossom too. The sage is moving upwards with delicate petals of purple, the thyme is meandering with little pink bursts, and one of our collard greens has bust open with yellow blossoms that taste mildly of sweet broccoli. 
Not to mention our summer squash - a beautiful slender zucchini heirloom called Astia that is perfect for containers - is already fruiting and flowering at the same time. When summer squash is this fresh and young, it has concentrated flavor and a firm texture. Even children who love to eat their vegetables have been turned off by watery, bland preparations of zucchini. I remember watching Iron Chef: Battle Zucchini and being offended by all the judges who continued to insist zucchini has zero flavor of its own. I would just like them to give this simple preparation a try: yes, there is a zesty herbal bite to it from the fresh herb blossoms, and a bright lemony edge, but the flavor, at its core, is purely zucchini. I also mixed in a few sliced zucchini flowers to amp up the squash flavor and garnished it with more multi-colored flowers.
It is a very light dish, great an appetizer or side dish, and it is just as tasty at room temperature as it is steaming hot. With produce this magically fresh, don't overcomplicate things... keep it simple and keep it seasonal!

Baby Zucchini with Flowers
Choose the smallest zucchini you can find, as they have more concentrated flavor. Use any herb flowers you have on hand, and you can always use the leaf of the herbs too.

3-4 small zucchini, sliced thinly on a bias
3-4 squash blossoms, quartered (reserve one for garnish)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup white wine
juice of 1 lemon
herb blossoms and leaves, to taste: I used a few basil leaves, some sage flowers and some thyme flowers, sliced or torn to desired size
salt, pepper to taste

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a skillet or wok. Add sliced zucchini and toss to coat with oil. Season with salt and pepper, and stir-fry about two minutes until the zucchini is beginning to soften. Add white wine and stir-fry until liquid is evaporated, about 2 minutes longer. Add squash blossoms, lemon juice and herbs. Stir-fry another minute or so, until zucchini is tender but still firm and green, not soft or limp. Turn off heat, add salt and pepper as needed, and serve immediately, garnished with additional flowers. I used a red butter lettuce leaf as a serving vessel.

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