Discover more from Backstory Serial
The alpha and omega of the meal
The first time I had stuffed zucchini blossoms was at a restaurant in Parma much like La Serratura, where Anastasia and Matteo have their first date. I’d never tasted anything like them.
Luckily, it turns out they’re fairly easy to make.
Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms
Before anything else, gently clean the blossoms, removing the stamen or pistil.
[yield: either 2 to 4 servings depending on whether you’re sharing them with Anastasia]
Cooking oil (amounts vary depending on the size of the pan—you’ll want at least ¼” of oil to fry the zucchini blossoms)
12-16 Zucchini Blossoms
½ cup whole milk Ricotta Cheese
1-ounce grated Pecorino Cheese
1-ounce mozzarella Cheese, shredded
Sea salt and black pepper
¼ cup flour (00 or all-purpose)
¾ cup sparkling water
¼ cup grated Pecorino
1 TBS chopped Italian parsley
Lightly beat the egg and then mix all the ingredients together.
Place mixture into small pastry bag.
Squeeze approximately one teaspoon of the ricotta mixture into the blossom and gently seal, twisting the petals at the top. Remember, this is all about the blossoms—the purpose of the filling is to enhance, not overwhelm, their delicate taste. As tempting as it might be, do not use too much filling (even though it’s delicious on its own).
Refrigerate the blossoms while preparing the batter.
Lightly beat the eggs.
Mix in the milk, flour, cheese, and Italian parsley. The batter should have the consistency of pancake mix.
Add enough oil to a large sauté pan so it’s about a ¼ inch deep.
Dip each blossom into the batter, allowing any excess to drip off. Add four or five to the oil when it reaches a temperature of 350°.
Fry for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.
Remove from oil and drain blossoms on paper towel.
When ready to serve, add grated Pecorino, salt and pepper to taste (optional) and garnish with Italian parsley.
Arugula Salad with Peas Shoots and Roasted Pine Nuts
The best salads are often those with the fewest ingredients. It goes without saying that these need to be as fresh as possible—preferably locally sourced. This is exactly the case with the arugula and pea shoot salad—add some roasted pine nuts and a delicate lemon-poppyseed dressing and the results are sublime. This salad tastes like spring in Tuscany.
[Nota Bene: Traditionally in Italy, salad is eaten after the main course. This isn’t as true as it used to be but La Serratura is a very old school restaurant.]
Pea shoots are microgreens which are simply young vegetable plants that are harvested while still seedlings. They’re the seedling of any pea plant like snap peas, snow peas, or English peas. They are tender, extremely nutritious, and have stronger flavor than sprouts.
[I couldn’t find pea shoots at the market near me and when I ordered them, I got bean sprouts instead—which are not at all the same thing. So I subbed the pea shoots with endive, which is fine but this is a much better salad, as well as one that pairs better with the lemon poppyseed dressing.]*
The hardest part of putting the salad together is roasting the pine nuts. You can either do this in a skillet or, if you have a lot of them, in the oven on a baking sheet. Either way, don’t use any oil.
In a skillet:
Place skillet over a medium flame and add the pine nights. Make sure to stir them with a wooden spoon frequently. It should take between two and three minutes for the nuts to become golden brown.
In the oven:
Pre-heat oven to 350°. Place the pine nuts in a single layer on the baking sheet (no oil!). Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring half-way through.
Whichever method you choose, be aware that pine nuts can burn quickly, so keep an eye on them. In order to make sure they don’t overcook, remove from the heat as soon as they’re done. Burnt pine nuts do not taste good.
Lemon Poppyseed Dressing
Ingredients [yield: 6 servings]
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/8 cup honey
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 tablespoon poppy seeds
1/8 cup diced red or Vidalia onion (optional)
The simplest way to make this delicious, light dressing is to leave out the onion. Place all of the ingredients in a Mason jar, and then shake until thoroughly combined.
If you do use the onion, blend all ingredients, except the poppyseeds, in a blender until smooth. Pour the dressing into a Mason jar, add poppyseeds, and shake. Either add directly to the salad or refrigerate for a few minutes.
*Speaking of pairing, both of these courses will go very well with a bottle of Pecorino wine (no relation to the cheese!) that is produced in the Abruzzo region.