Stuffed Zucchini flowers (blossoms) with smoked cottage cheese
Time: prep. 20 mins
bake 15 mins
Yields: 4 portions
Summer is ending and slowly we will have to say goodbye to all the exuberant variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Then there are those zucchini flowers or blossoms that very often I really feel sorry about eating them, as gorgeous as they are; but since I have declared war on food waste, I would never use them for a simple and ephemeral decoration! I am more interested in what they can provide us with in terms of nutrition.
Just like their fruits, zucchini (or squash), flowers have the same properties: they are rich in vitamins A (about 40% of the daily requirement), C, E and K; and key minerals for the body such as calcium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, copper and zinc; and rich in antioxidants such as the carotenoids beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin. These nutrients strengthen the immune system, improve eyesight, reduce blood pressure and keep the heartbeat regular; they also strengthen bones, are supposed to improve prostate disorders and keep thyroid levels stable. The rich presence of fiber and water (about 95% is water) causes bowels stimulation, preventing constipation. As they do not weigh anything, they may not be fundamental for our nutrition; however by using them as “containers” for some ingredients richer in macro and micro nutrients it is easy to obtain a substantial meal, while remaining light!
Yes, you got it: the recipe for stuffed zucchini flowers with smoked cottage cheese does not involve any batter, nor frying, but without sacrificing the yumminess; moreover it is a very tasty way for giving a second chance to any cheese which is close to its expiry date.
We have until the end of September to prepare this recipe, so every opportunity is good to fill up ourselves in a sustainable way. Talking about seasonality and hearty fillings, there is another deliciousness that is in season in these weeks: figs; rich in calcium and potassium, therefore allies against osteoporosis, as well as perfect to add a qourmet touch to stuffed pumpkin flowers.
As always, I emphasize the importance of knowing the seasons of fruits and vegetables (see this guide to always be informed about what you need to put in your shopping basket); because although it is possible to find them out of season thanks to greenhouse production, they will never be as tasty as those grown naturally under the scorching summer sun
Ingredients for stuffed zucchini flowers
24 fresh zucchini flowers
200 grams of smoked cottage cheese (alternatively you can use smoked tofu or sheep/goat ricotta)
2 grated garlic cloves
2 ripe figs, sautéed briefly in a pan with a little oil
10 chopped black olives (and/or capers to taste)
2 tablespoons of parmesan cheese (if vegan, nutritional yeast)
1 or 2 tablespoons of wholemeal breadcrumbs (I toast the leftover bread and then crush it)
1 or 2 tablespoons of cow or plant milk if needed
salt and black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon wholemeal breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons of evo oil
2 tablespoons coarsely grated walnuts
In order to prepare stuffed pumpkin flowers you do not need manual skills, but patience and time at disposal, not so much for stuffing as for cleaning the flower.
After a brief washing (be careful of little animals: if flowers are from organic farming the “luck” of finding them is high), we must remove the pistil, the stem and the lateral excrescences; at the end of this work we should have obtained only the flower composed by the leaves.
To stuff them there are those who remove the pistil by cutting or pulling it, delicately opening the flower; or those who, like me, cut the final part of the flowers where the leaves are attached to the stem: a little deep so as to remove the pistil as well. This results in flowers with two entrances, which is not a problem since the stuffing in question is very dense, so no risk of it leaking out.
Quickly sauté the shredded figs with a little oil, just to get a thin crust.
Then combine the smoked tofu or ricotta cheese with the other ingredients and start delicately stuffing the flowers.
Place them in a tray lined with baking paper; using a small brush, wet the surface with olive oil and cover them with the mixture of breadcrumbs and hazelnuts.
Bake for 10 minutes at 180 degrees and 5 minutes under the grill.
Maybe you are thinking that baking, although it cannot be compared to the very high temperatures reached by frying, can damage all their properties… The answer is yes and no: because while vitamin C decreases with cooking, vitamin A increases (1, 2, 3). Therefore, in order to balance the loss of vitamin C, I suggest combining these stuffed zucchini flowers to a rich salad, generously dressed with lemon, such as this potato or purslane salad.
Enjoy your dish and good revolution to everyone
1) Livny O, Reifen R, Levy I, Madar Z, Faulks R, Southon S, Schwartz B. Beta-carotene bioavailability from differently processed carrot meals in human ileostomy volunteers. Eur J Nutr. 2003 Dec;42(6):338-45. doi: 10.1007/s00394-003-0430-6. PMID: 14673607.
2) Ghavami, A., Coward, W., & Bluck, L. (2012). The effect of food preparation on the bioavailability of carotenoids from carrots using intrinsic labelling. British Journal of Nutrition, 107(9), 1350-1366. doi:10.1017/S000711451100451X
3) Lee S, Choi Y, Jeong HS, Lee J, Sung J. Effect of different cooking methods on the content of vitamins and true retention in selected vegetables. Food Sci Biotechnol. 2017;27(2):333-342. Published 2017 Dec 12. doi:10.1007/s10068-017-0281-1