With so many fruits and vegetables available year-round, it's rare in the modern world to enjoy a food that's really, truly a limited-time offer.
You can get an apple in June, when, by all rights, all the apples from the previous autumn should be long gone. But it seems it's always apple season somewhere, and we've come to rely on that constant availability.
But due to a brief season and great delicacy, the zucchini blossom is, I believe, one of just a handful of what I like to think of as "now or never" foods.
But the blossoms are a-blooming right now at the farmers' markets (and in gardens, presumably), so friends... your once-a-year opportunity has arrived.
Quick, now! Snap up a half-dozen and a little crottin of goat cheese or maybe a mild, creamy feta — you'll need just over an ounce, but get two to three ounces of cheese, and you'll have a bit extra left over for topping tasty summer salads.
When it comes down to it, it's very simple to stuff a blossom. I didn't know this until I worked in a restaurant, but after having now stuffed more blossoms than I care to count, I can assure you, the process is dead easy. Like breading a fish fillet. You really can do this, and the results are lovely.
Just take a sharp paring knife (or a pair of kitchen shears) and slice (or snip) into the blossom along one side. Gently open the petals and remove the pollen-covered pistil inside (that's the yellow tube-shaped part).
Fashion a small, football-shaped portion with about a teaspoon of the cheese and place it where the pistil once was. Close the petals firmly around the cheese. Voila! You're half-way there.
I like to remove the green leafy bits from the base of the flower (I believe they're called sepals) before moving on. If you like, you can do this much ahead of time and just keep the stuffed blossoms chilled for a few hours before it's time to make dinner.
When the time for cooking arrives, you have a few options as far as the breading goes. I've always loved to dip the blossoms in a simple egg wash (one egg beaten with a teaspoon of water), then roll them in panko. Simple as that.
This summer, J requested a version made without wheat flour, so we've been coating zucchini blossoms in seasoned spelt flour.
It's such a flexible recipe, I'll be so bold as to use this rule of thumb: if you can use it to bread a fish or chicken breast, you can probably coat a blossom in it, too.
The cooking process is simple pan-frying. Just dip a stuffed blossom in the egg wash, roll to coat in the panko/flour/crumbs, then move the prepared blossom to a skillet heated over a medium-high flame with a few tablespoons of olive, canola or veg oil.
Cook each blossom about a minute before turning. Continue cooking and gently turning the blossoms until the whole surface crisps, about three minutes total.
Move the cooked blossoms (a pair of tongs helps for this) to a paper towel to cool slightly. Serve hot alongside your favorite entrée. Stuffed blossoms go especially well with grilled meats and seafood or as garnish atop pasta dishes.
We had them with sautéed zucchini and the supremely tasty pork chops of Tamarack Hollow Farm.
If you're in NYC, you can pretty much score the whole meal — blossoms, goat cheese, eggs, zucchini and those superb chops — at the Union Square Market on Wednesdays and test your newfound stuffing skills right away.
But hurry... summer is short, and zucchini blossoms really are a limited-time offer.