The Smell of Summer

A while back, my cousin posed this question on Facebook, “what smell most reminds you of summer?” Responses varied from the exotic scent of coconut (common in sunscreen and tropical drinks), to the salty smell of the sea (such as the Ionian where she is fortunate enough to spend her summers vacationing in Calabria), to the fragrant scent of summer fruits like watermelon. I too added my response and in Calabrese dialect, piteyi i hiuri (zucchini blossom fritters). The smell of these southern Italian delights being crisped up in a pan of hot oil is one of summer’s quintessential profumi for me.

They are rather simple fritters whose key ingredient can be found in the title, the delicate, edible zucchini blossom. They make their appearance in my father’s garden and in many farmers markets for a few short weeks in late June and early July, usually harvested in the early morning hours. While we use them in several summer dishes like soups, frittatas and risottos, the first raccolta is always used to make the batter from my piteyi. This year’s first batch was prepared by yours truly and enjoyed accompanied with briny green Calabrese olives, homemade salami and goat’s milk cheese from Italy.

If you have never had the opportunity to try these golden treats I definitely urge you to do so, however, be warned, they are addictive, particularly if you eat them hot out of the frying pan. Buon Appetito!

Zucchini Blossom Fritters (Yields 40-45 Fritters)

  • 3 cups of all purpose flour
  • 4 tbls grated parmiggiano
  • 20-25 zucchini blossoms (the more the better)
  • 2 cups of water (room temperature)
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup cubed soppressata, pancetta or capicollo (optional, can be omitted if you want to make this a vegetarian dish, but I love them with chewy bits of my dad’s homemade soppressata)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • olive oil for frying
  •  Optional ingredients: chopped scallions, chopped basil and chopped zucchini

Method:

Prepare the zucchini by lightly brushing off any dirt and then slitting each flower and removing the pistil or stamen inside. Once you have cleaned all your flowers tear or chop them into pieces.

In a mixing bowl combine the flour, cheese, chopped zucchini blossoms and salt and pepper, stir to combine everything and coat the flowers. Next add your eggs and water and mix well. Then proceed to add in the soppressata and any of the other optional ingredients. Once everything is combined you will end up with a pancake like batter.

Next, heat the olive oil in a pan on a high flame testing it with a small drop of batter. When the oil bubbles with the batter you are ready to spoon out the fritters. Measure out the batter using a tablespoon and drop your fritters into the hot oil. They will take a few minutes on each side to puff up and turn golden and crisp. Once you have browned them on both sides, place them onto a dish lined with paper towel and enjoy immediately.

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