Do Eat the Flowers

Do Eat the Flowers
Squash and zucchini flowers can be deep-fried, pan-fried, sauteed, baked, or served raw. (Valentyn Volkov/Shutterstock)

Don’t miss the fleeting season for zucchini flowers or squash blossoms. These floppy flowers are easy to spot at the farmers markets in the summer. Sunny orange in color and delicate as tissue, they are hard to overlook. The fragile blossoms are best when fresh and unpackaged, so they’re less commonly found in supermarkets.

If you are lucky to access squash blossoms, there are many ways to prepare them. A traditional Italian method is to stuff them with a soft cheese, such as mozzarella, ricotta, or goat; a few aromatics, such as chopped herbs and garlic; and a pinch of seasoning. The flowers are then deep-fried in a pot of oil or pan-fried in a skillet. The results are crisp, golden, and oozing with melty cheese.

A lighter, easier option is to simply sauté them in butter or olive oil and serve with pasta, or layer them in cheesy quesadillas and egg dishes. The blossoms can also be served raw; their flavor is mild and vegetal. Toss them into salads, or chop and sprinkle as a garnish over soups, stews, and roasted vegetables.

This recipe showcases zucchini flowers simply as they are—scattered over a white pizza (no red sauce) with chiles and cheese. The flowers will shrivel and char while roasting, creating a colorful, textural topping. To make the pizza, you can use a prepared pizza dough, but nothing beats making your own dough. The dough recipe included below is a reliable David Tanis recipe. Once the dough is prepared, it can be used immediately, but if you have time, let it rest in the refrigerator for several hours or, better yet, overnight for best flavor. It’s a double recipe, so you can freeze one crust for later use. Defrost the frozen dough at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator.

The zucchini flowers will shrivel and char while roasting, creating a colorful, textural topping for this pizza. (Lynda Balslev for Tastefood)
The zucchini flowers will shrivel and char while roasting, creating a colorful, textural topping for this pizza. (Lynda Balslev for Tastefood)

Squash Blossom and Chile Pizza

Active Time: 15 minutes Total Time: 30 minutes Makes 1 large pizza
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 prepared pizza dough, about 1 pound (recipe follows)
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, thinly sliced, about 1/2 cup
  • 1 heaping cup thinly sliced small sweet peppers, such as Jimmy Nardello, cherry, or mini-bell peppers
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped drained jarred Calabrian chiles
  • 8 squash blossoms, quartered lengthwise
  • 1 (8-ounce) fresh mozzarella ball, patted dry and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Prepare the grill for indirect cooking over high heat (about 500 degrees F for a gas grill) and preheat a pizza stone for at least 15 minutes. (Or preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Place a pizza stone on the lowest oven rack and preheat for at least 15 minutes).

Whisk the oil, garlic, and a pinch of salt in a small bowl.

Stretch the dough out as thinly as possible and lay on a pizza peel (or rimless baking sheet lined with parchment). Lightly brush with the oil. Sprinkle the red pepper flakes over the oil. Sprinkle half of the Pecorino Romano over the pizza. Top with the onions, then the sweet peppers and the Calabrian chiles. Arrange the squash blossoms over the vegetables, then place the mozzarella around the squash. Sprinkle the oregano and black pepper over the pizza. Top with the remaining Pecorino.

Slide the pizza onto the pizza stone. Close the grill lid and grill until the pizza is golden brown, about 15 minutes (or cook in the oven). Remove and immediately brush the crust with some of the oil. Let stand for 5 minutes. Drizzle any remaining oil over the pizza. Cut and serve.

Pizza Dough

Active Time: 15 minutes Total Time: 45 minutes, plus refrigeration time Makes 2 pounds; enough for 2 large crusts
  • 2 teaspoons dry active yeast
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
Put 1 3/4 cups lukewarm water in a mixing bowl (or use a stand mixer or food processor). Sprinkle the yeast over the water and let it dissolve, about 2 minutes.

Add the flour, salt, and olive oil and mix well until the flour is incorporated and the dough comes together, about 5 minutes. It may look a little rough.

Lightly dust a work surface with flour. Turn the dough out onto the surface and knead lightly until smooth, 3 to 4 minutes. Cut the dough into 2 equal pieces, each about 1 pound.

Wrap the dough individually in resealable zipper bags and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

To use the dough, form each piece into a smooth, firm ball and place on a flour-dusted or parchment-lined baking sheet. Flour lightly, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and top with a kitchen towel. Let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 30 minutes. Each dough half will make one large pizza.

Lynda Balslev is a cookbook author, food and travel writer, and recipe developer based in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she lives with her Danish husband, two children, a cat, and a dog. Balslev studied cooking at Le Cordon Bleu Ecole de Cuisine in Paris and worked as a personal chef, culinary instructor, and food writer in Switzerland and Denmark. Copyright 2021 Lynda Balslev. Distributed by Andrews McMeel Syndication.
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