With the summer months arrives one of my most favorite of all family traditions – zucchini flower fritters, which we fondly call “pitei” in our house, the Calabrese word for the Italian equivalent of ‘fritelle.’ Like the McDonald’s McRib or Seinfeld’s fictional Mackinaw Peaches, the zucchini flower is ‘limited-time’ only – an exclusive and delicious edible flower that blossoms only in summer months as zucchini plants grow wildly out of control and take over the garden. Unlike the McRib, however, these fritters are true to my family’s commitment and passion for crop to table foods that use minimal, simple ingredients. As a child, I would wait patiently in the kitchen for my Mom to fry these up, and when I lived in Italy, I would make them alongside my Zia Concetta – learning from both, and adding my own spin, here is my take on a ‘hundreds of years’ old recipe that you can make as a quick appetizer, a creative use for those bright orange flowers, and as a way to get the little ones to eat their veggies. Buon Apetito! Pitei di Fiori di Zucca (Zucchini Flower Fritters)
10-12 freshly picked zucchini flowers, chopped
6 basil leaves, sliced chiffonade
1/2 cup thinly sliced and finely chopped zucchini
1 cup milk
1/2 cup warm water
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. finely ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. baking powder
In a large bowl, whisk together all of the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda and powder, salt, black pepper). In a smaller bowl, beat the eggs, add the milk and water, and whisk until well blended. Add to the dry ingredients and continue to whisk for a couple minutes. Add the basil, zucchini flowers, and zucchini and mix until well-incorporated and batter is similar to pancake batter.
Over medium, heat about 1/2″ canola oil in a large skillet. When a small droplet of batter bubbles and sizzles, you are ready to fry. Drop into the oil about a tablespoon to a tablespoon and a half of the batter. Fry each side for about 3 minutes – until golden brown. I use two forks to carefully flip the fritters. Remove and place on a paper-towel lined plate to absorb excess oil. Garnish with grated parmesan and some basil chiffonade. DID YOU KNOW? Zucchini flowers should be picked early in the morning when they are ‘open’ and in full bloom. This allows you to shake any dirt or garden bugs out of them, and makes rinsing them a lot easier. Once rinsed, place on a clean kitchen towel before using. During the day, the flower closes – so set your alarm!