Whenever I think of spring, I think of flowers. In spring Italian markets are filled with bright yellow-almost orange edible zucchini flowers. There are two types of zucchini flowers: female and male flowers. The female flower is a golden blossom on the end of each new zucchini, while the male one grows directly on the plant stem. Like zucchini, zucchini flowers are good source of vitamin C, potassium and folate.
Zucchini flowers can be sautéed, stuffed with cheese, battered and fried, or added to pasta and risotto. Risotto is one of my favorite ways of eating zucchini flowers. This is a healthy, delicate, colorful and elegant dish. The flowers add a sweet taste to the risotto. This is a perfect vegetarian and gluten-free dish.
RISOTTO AI FIORI DI ZUCCA (ZUCCHINI FLOWER RISOTTO)
Preparation time: 25 minutes Cooking time 16-18 minutes Servings: 4 large-6 small
1 l (approx. 1 quart) vegetable stock
450 g (1 pound) new zucchini with flowers
80 g (3 oz) unsalted butter
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
300 g (11 oz) Italian Carnaroli or Arborio rice
120 ml (½ cup) dry white wine
50 g (½ cup) grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground white ground pepper
1. In a saucepan over medium low heat, warm up the stock. Cut off the flowers from the zucchini and remove the pistil. Wash the zucchini and the flowers. Dice the zucchini and slice the flowers into thin strips
2. In a large saucepan heat 50 g (about 3 T) of butter. Add the chopped shallot, and sauté for 2-3 minutes over medium heat. Add the rice and stir thoroughly for about 3 minutes, in order to “coat” the rice well with the butter and shallot. (This helps regulate absorption of the liquid during cooking.). Add the wine and stir until completely absorbed
3. Add a soup ladle or two of the stock until the rice is just covered, and stir continuously with a wooden spoon. When the stock is almost completely absorbed, repeat this process for about 9 minutes. Add the diced zucchini and the flowers and one more ladle of stock. Cook for another 6-7 minutes until the stock is nearly absorbed. If you prefer softer zucchini, add the diced zucchini at the beginning with the shallot. It depends on the rice’s cooking time, which should be clearly indicated on the package.
The end of the cooking is critical for the final texture of the dish, so when the rice is nearly tender to the bite, but with just a hint of resistance (al dente), and the liquid you have added up to this point has been mostly absorbed (the risotto should still seem a bit “soupy”), add the Parmesan and butter to taste, about 30 g (2 T).
4. Remove your risotto from the heat. At this point, keep stirring the risotto to blend in the cheese and butter. You can also add some salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Let it stand for 1 or 2 minutes. Arrange the risotto on a serving dish, serve immediately (plan your timing well – it is very easy to overcook risotto!).
Note: When you buy the zucchini flowers, choose firm flowers that are mostly closed. They keep a few days in the refrigerator in tightly sealed containers. – Paola