Monday, January 24, 2011

Tumbled Eggs with Zucchini Flowers

There is an old joke in New Hampshire that the only time anyone locks a car door is in summer, lest they return to find their back seat loaded up with squash. It's easy to plant too much – five zucchinis for a family are more than enough - and yet they are so easy to grow, and so delicious fresh, that it's hard not to.

We're well into zucchini season, and our plants are running riot. After the initial glorious burst, during which we ate zucchini salad every day for two weeks, it was time to turn my attention to the flowers. Golden zucchini flowers are velvety in texture and taste faintly of, you guessed it, zucchini.

I love the flowers. Stuffed with mozzarella and grilled, or lightly battered and fried, they are absolutely delicious, if a little fiddly to prepare; but in the middle of the week, when I'm looking for something easy to cook, I mix them with eggs. Eggs and zucchini flowers go beautifully together.

Pick male flowers, which are on little stems; or female flowers attached to visibly swollen zucchini. Leave the other female flowers, and at least one male flower to fertilise them, so that the zucchini glut continues. Later in the summer, when the pumpkins are really romping, use pumpkin flowers, instead.

If you don't grow your own zucchini, look for the flowers at the markets. Meanwhile, make a note in your diary to find a sunny corner or a large tub, and fill it with zucchini next summer.

Tumbled Eggs with Zucchini Flowers

- 8 to 10 zucchini (or pumpkin) flowers
- 6 or so basil leaves
- a good knob of butter
- 6 eggs
- a small handful of grated cheddar
- 2 tbs water
- salt, pepper

Slice off the hard base of the zucchini flowers and remove the sepals. Shake out any ants. Gently tear the petals from base to stem into strips about ½cm wide, or wherever the tear lines feel natural. Tear the basil into small pieces.

Crack the eggs into a bowl, and whisk with 2 tbs water. Add the grated cheese, and set aside.

Gently warm the butter in a wide skillet. When it has melted, add the flowers and the basil, and sauté for several minutes or until soft. Tip the contents of the pan into the eggs, and stir gently.

Raise the pan to medium heat, and add a little more butter if necessary. Tip the eggs into the pan, and draw the flowers around to distribute them evenly. Leave for a minute or so. Then, using a spatula, scrape the eggs from the edge to the middle of the pan, drawing them up into soft mounds. Do this several times, until the eggs are barely set. The eggs will continue to cook after you have removed them from the heat, so don't let them dry out.

Serve with salt and freshly ground pepper, tumbled over grilled bread.

Adapted from a recipe by Deborah Madison in The Savory Way.

(Local: zucchini flowers, basil, eggs. Not local: butter, salt, pepper.)

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