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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Fiori di Zucca

Max and Brittany have arrived in Rome, newly minted graduates (literally; Rutgers degrees have the official date 21 May 2008). They are helping us through the home stretch, our last two weeks here.

On one of his first trips to the market, Max saw zucchini flowers and got very excited. As he explained later, his interest goes back many years, to a dinner at Chez Panisse when we were celebrating his grandfather's birthday. The appetizer which arrived then was a squash soup, with one perfect fried zucchini flower on top. At the time, his enthusiasm for vegetables was (as he admits) probably typical for kids of his age, but "well, we were downstairs at Chez Panisse" so he dug in. Apparently the experience stuck with him for a decade, so he seized his opportunity to act on it!
Fiori di zucca is one of the classic Roman (particularly Jewish Roman) dishes. One takes the zucchini flower and stuffs it with a piece of buffalo mozzarella and an anchovy, then dips the flower into a batter and fries the whole thing. After a long afternoon of trekking through the Vatican museums, Max and Bill went off to get the missing ingredients (thus learning the word for yeast in Italian, lievito). Then Max bravely charged into the kitchen.

Here are a couple of action shots, so you can see how things look as the flower is being stuffed. Then, the results. They were amazing, and maybe the pictures give some feel for the experience. Alas no e-smells or e-tastes. It is reminiscent of a vegetable tempura, but the cheese (which melts to a wonderful consistency) and the bite of anchovy are unique.

We were incredibly impressed, and there was much joking about how Max could try culinary school if Philosophy doesn't pan out. He even seems pretty happy about the outcome himself.


Fannie Bialek said...

they look so good! I remember that chez panisse dinner now and wish I could eat some zucchini flowers now... good work max!

Adrienne said...


Blaise makes a mean serving of these, in the late summer when we get them here, and they are Anselm's favourite dish. (we just batter and fry them, but will try the proper version this year!!). Maybe at Woods Hole with you, if Cape Cod farmers' markets exist.

Tina said...

yum yum, my favorite food thing in Italia... I had them lightly fried (as in your post) and also as part of a very hot and spicy homemade pasta dish in Roma ... made me sweat!