Zucchini flowers aren’t just for decoration

July 22, 2010 in Provisions,Recipes

I remember being confused by all the bright yellow zucchini flowers on the market stands when I arrived in Nice. My family had a few zucchini harvests in our suburban garden, but as far as I could remember, we chucked the flowers and sauteed the slices.

I was intrigued when I saw fleurs de courgettes in the displays of street food vendors, as well as on the menus of Niçoise restaurants. Apparently, the farmers weren’t just selling the pretty flowers as centerpiece decorations as I had originally thought. They’re edible–and by the looks of things, quite popular.

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There are two basic ways to eat zucchini flowers: fried or stuffed.

The fried way is pretty straightforward: take those delicate flowers and dip them in a deep-fryer to make beignets. While you can find them at various street food vendors around Old Nice, I don’t think any have beat the ones I tried at La Merenda (4 rue Raoul Bosio). This tiny restaurant doesn’t look like anything special from the outside–and a lack of answering machine and crazy opening hours make reservations necessary but hard to come by–but it only does traditional Niçoise specialties, and it does them well. I think the secret to the success of their beignets de fleurs de courgettes is their freshness. While street vendors typically prepare them ahead of time, La Merenda makes them to order and serves them with a bit of the finest fleur de sel. Perfectly crispy, without overpowering the delicate taste of the flowers. A must-have in Nice.

Fleurs farcis

You can also stuff the zucchini blossoms and bake them–fleurs farcis. Popular stuffings include ricotta cheese and honey, mozzarella cheese and basil, or ricotta with herbs. Fleurs farcis are less common at street vendors, but are usually on the menus of any sitdown restuarant that focuses on Niçoise specialities. I particularly like L’Escalinda, with its red-checkered tablecloths staggered on the steps outside the restaurant. The fleurs farcis here are delicious, particularly served with a nice marinara sauce.

I haven’t attempted les fleurs myself–it’s a lot of work, particularly when all my favorite street vendors are right outside my window. However, My Melange has a great simple recipe for stuffed zucchini blossoms.

Bon Appétit!

  • When I first discovered the zucchini flower here in Florence I was shocked too! I'm not much of a cook so I'll admit I didn't even know zucchinis had flowers, haha.

    They are definitely a delicious treat! I think we found a restaurant here in Florence that stuffs them, THEN fries them! It was a while ago so I'll have to go back and check it out again. Yum!

  • Oh yummy, they're one of my favourite things to eat! My boyfriends mother stuffs them with ham and cheese then deep fries them into beignets, absolutely delicious!
    Have you tried Socca and Panisse yet? They're 2 of my other favourite Niçois treats!

  • camorose

    I had no idea you could eat them–so I'm just as clueless! You'll definitely have to share the Florence restaurant with me in case I ever make it down to Italy. I had no idea they were so popular in Italy as well–although I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Glad to know you enjoy them as well!

  • camorose

    I've tried socca, but was hungover and wasn't overly impressed. Definitely need to try it again–any places you recommend?
    Haven't tried panisse yet, but I'll make sure that's on my list! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Thanks for the nod to my recipe Christine 🙂 They are a little bit labor intensive, but totally worth it, IMO. I'm lucky this summer – my friend's garden has been fruitful – so they are keeping me in good blossom supply. YUM!

  • camorose

    There is no shortage of them in Nicoise markets, but I haven't attempted them yet. I swear I'll try to make them myself before the end of summer 🙂

  • adventurouskate

    I was about to say what Annie just said! In Florence, we made them by stuffing them with provolone and gently frying them. SO DELICIOUS, and I have yet to eat them outside of Italy.

  • camorose

    Yum! I'm not much at frying, but I think I might just have to try to make these on my own before they go out of season. And I absolutely love Provolone–I'll stop at the Italian grocery store down the street from me to get some fresh 🙂

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