I’m a simple girl of simple pleasures. I find pleasure in tuning into the right radio station at the right time for the start of the right Taylor song, when bread and ricotta are so fresh they’re still warm, and beating my sister in Scattegories. And flowers. Like many girls, I love fresh flowers. But not the type that sit in a vase, slowly shifting their aroma from sweet to that of rotting foliage. No, I’d much rather prefer the type you can eat.
It’s summer currently, which means many things. Dad’s forever complaining about the weather forecast, it’s BBQ’s practically every night, and the garden is blooming with tomatoes and zucchinis. The tomatoes- I can ignore them until February, when it’s National Wog Day and they’re preserved into hundreds of bottles to add to the upcoming year’s pasta dishes. The zucchinis though, well I find immense pleasure in going into the garden early each morning and picking them when they’re in full bloom; more pleasure than simply receiving a pre-picked bunch of (inedible) roses.
Zucchini flowers can be on a stem, or attached to a budding zucchini. Pick the one on the budding zucchini and you’ll stop it growing (found that out the hard way, sorry dad), but the ones on stems are perfect for enjoying their beauty, then consuming. The ones on stems are closed most of the time, for a brief time are open and beautiful, then quickly shrivel back up (a bit like my sister). My theory on why zucchini flowers are so expensive to buy is because of this narrow window of opportunity when they're beautifully opened, making them perfect for stuffing with delicious flavours. As most of us aren’t this diligent, Nonna has taught me a great tactic for still being able to make the most of these gorgeous things: Pick them at any stage (pre opening, opened, or once closed back up), throw them into a freezer bag and pop them into the freezer, then slowly add more to the bag as you pick them each day. Collect enough until you can do awesome things with them like make Zucchini Flower Fritters. So easy, so delish, I’m usually eating them straight out of the pan as Nonna cooks them, burning my mouth but not caring coz as I said, they're delish. And whilst they’re not some superfood, nutritional superbomb, like any vegetable, they’re a fun, low kilojoule way of getting extra nutrients in. Potassium, folate, vitamin C, plus antioxidants- why say no?
Unfortunately, when I suggest Zucchini Flower Fritters as a meal my dietetic conscious kicks in (sometimes, oblivion would be bliss) and I cringe at the lack of protein in these (really, they're fried balls of batter with flowers) so I’ve turned to another style of fritter that definitely makes up for that lack of protein. Japanese Tofu and Vegetable Fritters are a dish I’ve adaptable from a Japanese cookbook (which came all the way from Japan, so you know it’s legit) to use Australian supermarket-friendly ingredients. Now tofu, I believe, is such an underrated ingredient. Sure it is tasteless, and can have the consistency of rubber, but I love the way you can transform it into any flavour you wish, and if you can find a good quality one, it can melt like silk in your mouth (if silk melted). It’s a great source of protein- there are 9 essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein) that the body can’t make and needs to ingest from food (the other 11 amino acids can be made by the body). High biological value proteins contain all 9 of the essential amino acids in quantities needed to support the body’s work, and generally foods from animals- meat, chicken, eggs, fish and dairy foods- are of high value. Conversely, protein from plant sources (legumes, nuts and grains) are low value. However an exception is soy protein, which is high biological value and used to make tofu- which is why tofu is so great for vegetarians/ vegans. It gives us the amino acids we can’t make ourselves. Anyway, hopefully that’s a better reason as to “why tofu is great” compared to “it’s like tasteless rubber”.
So without further ado, try these two fritters. Do like I did and serve both at your next Italo-Japanese dinner party, enjoy one for the taste and one for the sexy high biological value protein. And why not go that one step further and take a bouquet of fresh flowers of the zucchini variety- I know I’ll be impressed ;)