It all started with the gorgeous zucchini blossoms I spotted at the Natick Farmer's Market. I find these orange beauties irresistible and my love for them won over my hate of deep-frying. Isn't there some other way to cook zucchini blossoms? No, at least not a good one. Trust me, I've tried.
To complicate matters, Jason was out disk golfing, and it was just me with the kids, a scary amount of veggies from the farmer's market to unload, and a big bouquet of flowers to fry. Against my better judgement, I decided to go for it.
Heating up big pots of oil and getting rid of it (or storing) is a pain, so I decide to breaking a few rules. Instead of a gallon of oil most deep frying recipes call for, I decided to only use a quart and fry in small batches. Since each batch only cooks for 2 minutes, it turned out just fine. I cooked my blossoms 2 at a time and kept the done ones on a rack in a 200F oven. In 10 minutes lunch was ready. The only remaining problem was what to do with the oil. You can't dump it down the sink. The common wisdom is to filter it and store it for the next time. The problem was that I deep-fry about once a year, so my oil goes rancid before the next time. That's when I thought of duck fat. Of course! Why not freeze it? It wasn't that much oil, so fitting it into my freezer would not be a problem. I let the oil cool to room temperature and poured it through a fine mess strainer into a tall deli container (the kind you get in a Whole Foods bulk isle), labeled it and threw it in the freezer. You know, it really wasn't that bad -- the whole deep-frying thing.
For the batter, I used the tempura batter from Washoku cookbook by Elizabeth Andoh. There are only two ingredients in it: self-rising flour and ice-water. If you don't have self-rising flour on hand, don't worry. I don't either. You can easily make it by combining all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt. This is tempura batter to end all tempura batters. One of the best I've ever had!
Sammy got a bit impatient with picture taking and decided to take matters into her own hands.
Tempura Zucchini Blossoms
(or whatever veggies you want to deep-fry)
Note about oil: For high heat cooking, I use grapeseed oil. Other good options are safflower, peanut, canola, or vegetable oils.
For the Batter (adopted from the Washoku cookbook by Elizabeth Andoh)
5 oz (1 cup) all-purpose flour (I used King Arthur unbleached)
1.5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp Diamond Crystal Kosher salt (or 1/2 tsp table or fine grained salt)
1.5 cups ice-water
at least 1 quart oil (see note above)
zucchini blossoms or whatever you want to deep fry
optional filling (ricotta, white bean puree, leftover risotto, etc)
- Preheat the oven to 200F. Prepare a baking sheet lined with a rack.
- Remove the green leaves around the base of zucchini blossoms and remove the pistil (the stick in the center). The best way to do it is to reach in with forceps and rip it out. You remember from my last post how useful the forceps are, right? Otherwise, make a slit in the flower so that you can remove the pistil with a knife.
- If you want, you can stuff the blossoms.
- Heat up a pot of oil to 370F (I use a 2 quart saucepan for 1 quart oil).
- The batter should be done last minute. Pour the ice-water into a medium bowl (measure it out without ice-cubes). Sift flower, baking powder, and salt over the water. Whisk very briefly just until ingredients come together. The batter should be lumpy!
- Coat the blossoms with the batter and fry without crowding the pot for 1 minute per side. Crank up the heat when they go into the oil to help the temperature recover. Monitor vigilantly with a thermometer. There are deep-frying thermometers, but I used my Thermapen for this and it worked fine. Flip after 1 minute to crisp up the other side. Remove to a paper towel lined plate and sprinkle with a bit of salt immediately. Keep warm in the oven on baking sheet lined with a rack while frying the rest.