Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Fiori di Zucca con Insalata di Polpo Estate - Crispy Zucchini Blossoms with Octopus Summer Salad

One of our favorite farmer's stand, Blooming Glen, is bringing back the "wow" produce from last summer...massive zucchini blossoms. We decided to take advantage of the large cavities of these blossoms to stuff them after a quick-fry and a light dusting of cheese.

The result is a Crispy Zucchini Blossoms Stuffed with Octopus Summer Salad.

Fiori di Zucca con Insalata di Polpo Estate

Why Octopus? We were going to go with something a little more light & sweet, like crab-meat, scallops or shrimp, but we notice that Whole Foods had baby octopus on sale for $5.99#.

Baby octopus, unlike their full-grown siblings, are much less of an ordeal to clean & cook; no need for elaborate tenderization procedures here...just cut the head off and make sure the body is clear of ink sacs and any odd bits. Discard the heads and rinse the remaining body & legs.

Next, the octopus bodies go into a marinade for about an hour; we used a mixture of lemon juice, capers & caper brine from the jar with a healthy dose of olive oil. I threw in a few green peppercorns after the fact just because I was curious what the milder spice would do...in the end it wasn't a noticeable addition of heat.

With the "polpo" marinating, it was time to prep the blossoms. We clipped the "fruit" off the end, a miniature version of what most people associate with being the zucchini. Next, we sliced the mini-zucchini into matchsticks, making sure to trim off any hint of seedy center...I probably could've used a veggie peeler or mandolin to get the same effect of thin green zuchini shavings.

Elizabeth seeded & finely diced some heirloom tomatoes from the farmer's market.

Next, the zucchini strands were blanched in hot water, then shocked in a ice-bath.

"Summer Salad" - The veg mixture was combined together with some kosher salt, cracked pepper, olive oil, lemon juice and diced garlic scapes...yes, garlic scapes. If you're not familiar with these, take a moment to brush up with this link...for the rushed reader, simply imagine a garlic-flavored crunchy green bean...these added not only crucnhy chew, but a pop of subtle garlic flavor to the intense tomato & zucchini flavors.

With the salad chilling it was time to apply soem heat. The marinating octopus went onto a super hot grill plate to char-grill. Just a few moments and these cephalopods were ready to be pulled off, cooled and chopped up.

While the octopus grilled away, Elizabeth prepped the blossoms for frying. Normally we stuff these with cheese or batter them before frying, but lately we've come to enjoy the simply delicate crunch of a lightly floured & fried blossom...naked blossoms is one way to describe it.

Elizabeth sprays them with some olive-oil non-stick before shaking the flower in a flour-filled bag to coat; we use rice-flour as opposed to all-purpose because it creates a tighter crust with more crunch, but regular flour is fine...just make sure to add a pinch of salt to avoid a bland coating.

Next, the flour-dusted blossom gets handed off to me for a quick dunk in the boiling oil; I use the tongs to maintain the right shape of the final blossom...in this case, I actually insert the tongs up into the blossom and spread the folds of the bloom back to prevent them from closing up as it bubbles away in the bath...after all, we're going to be stuffing these with the zucchini-tomato salad, then topping with octopus, so we'll need to have them splayed out for an easier time.

The blossom comes out of the fryer and then it's a race against the clock...a heaping spoonful of the zucchini-tomate salad goes into the blossom, the we top it with a sprinkling of chopped octopus and finally dust the entire plate with some mild pecorino cheese to give it some aroma and provide some flavor to the delicate crispy petals of the fried blossom.

The final result is a colorful tribute to the flavors of a high-summer garden with a little unusual protein thrown in to compliment the somewhat unordinary crispy texture & taste of the stuffed cheese-dusted zucchini blossom crisps.


  1. Wow - that's really impressive. What wine did you drink with it?

  2. Thanks Tim!

    I want to say it was a Pinot Gris...the name escapes me, but I was drawn to the description of 'mineral' and 'spring floral' on the label...it was crisp and dry and really let those pecorino, zucchini & grilled octopus flavors stand out.

  3. OK, dug the bottle outta the recycling bin...

    It's actually a Spanish white (wrong night...last night was Pinot Gris).

    100% Garnacha Blanca varietal...Las Colinas Del Ebro...picked it up at PLCB on 12th & Chestnut for under $12.

    Again, good crisp white with a somewhat herbal nose and mineral notes...reminded me of a Loire/Pinot Gris mix, if that were even possible.

  4. Looks delicious. A few times while in WholeFoods I was on the brink of grabbing those octopi. Did you find them to be very fresh? Had they been frozen?

  5. Thanks Gaetano!

    Having never run across a spoilt octopus in the few times I've cooked them at home, I can't say a could recognize 'freshness'...the flesh was firm when I prepped them and they didn't have any odd smells as they hit the grill pan...I'm going to Google fresh characteristics now for octopi!

    I didn't ask, but I'm pretty sure they were previously frozen.