Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Big Bite of Summer

Summer cooking in Provence does not leave a lot of room for free will. Exceptional ingredients come in tidal waves; no sooner have you finished gorging yourself on cherries in June than it's all melon, all the time.

My favorite of the recent culinary tsunamis are the zucchini flowers. Beautiful, delicate, with a surprisingly intense flavor, they are often simply fried and served as "beignets". I prefer to stuff them - goat cheese and fresh mint from our garden, beef with wild rice, tomato and feta, "brousse de brebis" (our local ricotta) and green olive tapenade.

I like to serve them before the meal. A teaser, really. There is something about biting into a flower that surprises, then delights, my guests. They are so good right out of the oven that this food blogger actually forgot to take a picture of the finished product. My husband, who hasn't eaten hot food in three years, can tell you how rare that is...

Wishing you a big bite of summer!

Zucchini Flowers Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Fresh Mint

Like so many of the best French dishes, this recipe highlights one or two exceptional seasonal ingredients with a minimum of fuss.

3 oz. fresh goat cheese
1 egg
2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
Salt, pepper to taste
Extra virgin olive oil

Heat your oven to 350F (180C).

Lightly beat the egg, crumble in the goat cheese, and mash together with a fork. And mint, fennel seeds and salt and pepper to taste. Stuff the flowers (don't rinse them first, but be sure to check for ants hiding inside!). Twist to close.

In a large casserole dish, pour in a small amount of olive oil. Roll each flower in the oil until lightly coated. Bake for 15-20 minutes until lightly browned and fragrant.

Serves 2 as an appetizer, 4 as an amuse bouche.

Tip: You'll probably find zucchini flowers at your local farmer's market - unfortunately, they are too delicate for the supermarket.


  1. If you have a minute, could you tell more about frying them 'like beignets?' I recently sautéed them with onions and summer squash, but am interested in what you do.

  2. I stuff and then dip in a tempura batter and fry. We grow a lot of zucchini plants since its the blossoms we savour so much and each person gets at least six for a meal since we are vegetarian as well.

  3. These are more common in the south but we can sometimes get them in the markets here in Burgundy. I've had them deep-fried in Nice but otherwise never knew what to do with them. Now I will try this for sure. The fennel seed is an interesting addition. It seems like an under-used spice, it has a great flavor.

  4. I don't know why I never thought to bake them instead of frying (which I don't like to do), Thanks again for another great hint. Stuffed Z. flower are one of my favorites, love your recipe.

  5. I just finished your wonderful book. I am a New Yorker and got to visit Paris a few years ago and fell in love with it. I had a question. I want to ask if piment d'Espelette is the same as smoked paprika here? I haven't found anything with that name here. The dish sounds so yummy. When the heat lessens here, I plan to work my way through a lot of the recipes. Thank you.

  6. Hi Winnie - Here's the link I found. It's says you can use hot paprika as a substitute.Bon appetit!

  7. I found zucchini blossoms at the market today and immediately thought of you! Followed your recipe, but my goat-cheese/egg mixture looked kind of runny/smooth... more like something I would "pour" into the cup of the flower, not "stuff" into it. Is that typical or is it a function of our American goat cheese/ size of our eggs? Still tasted good though! The kids even ate some!

  8. As soon as I read this recipe I made it for my family...every single person loved it and that is very rare in our house. Thank you.

  9. How many flowers does this stuffing fill?