On summer mornings, right after sunrise, there is a very surreal and peaceful lapse of time, usually about an hour or less, between the first Sun beams hitting the fields, and the actual arrival of the daily heat.
A few animals indulge in a quick final meal, before retracting to the freshness of the woods up the hill; if you were to take a walk through the olive grove, you could stumble upon deer, boars, hares, hedgehogs and the first birds flying off their nests. The crickets have stopped chirping, but the cicadas are still silent.
The Tuscan country side, at this particular moment of the day, is extremely beautiful and calm, it delivers those emotions we all try to describe to those who have never been here, it is also very often the connection that we share with anybody that had the luck to visit at some point in their lifetime.
That’s when I usually walk down the field into our vegetable garden, to collect the leafy greens we will eat during the day; after a night of breeze and northern fresh air, all the different varieties of salad, from rucola to lettuce, are perked up and happy. They literally look crunchy. It is also the moment I like to cut flowers to bring home to my wife: roses and wild daisies for her side of the bed, and zucchini blossoms for her lunch. Tomatoes will have to stay on the vine until sunset, so they can make it to the dinner table still Sun warm.
While you might consider blossoms a rare delicacy, they are incredibly abundant on zucchini plants when they are at their peak, and everyday we collect a large basket full of them. For our family they have always been a staple in our summer menus: we stuff them, we fry them, we use them with eggs or make them into delicious risotto. While not that versatile, they carry the delicate flavor of mother plant, along with a very saddle bitterness that is though never overpowering… eventually through the years we have started using them also as a seasoning in our summer vegetable stews like eggplant caponata, or in fish and pasta sauces with anchovies, caper and olives.
Look for them at your local farmers market, or grow a couple of plants of zucchini if you have the space, indulge in the blossoms’ delicacy and start playing with this new fun ingredient!
Note about the dough. I have found difficult, while living in the US, to find extremely good frozen dough to casually use at home. Here at our local stores in Florence we can find several kinds of frozen or fresh sheets, both sweet and savory, as they are just a simple and very common ingredient, used often to prepare quick dishes on the fly. If you have your own recipe to make a nice flaky savory dough, then you are already one step ahead of me, if not, I am sure you can find an ok selection in the frozen section at your local grocery store. While living in in Brooklyn I settled for the ubiquitous Filo Dough… it’s ok, but I am sure you agree with me, there must be something better out there!
Serves 4-5 / Prep Time: 20 mins / Cook Time: 30 mins / Cool Off: 10 mins
2 medium zucchini
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano
1/2 cup mozzarella, diced
Salt and pepper to taste
11″ puff pastry, savory (fresh or frozen)
1 Preheat your oven to 375F / 190C.
2 Gently remove pistils from inside the blossoms. Slice the zucchini thin.
3 Mix together eggs, whole milk, Parmigiano, salt and pepper. Whisk well until fluffy.
4 Drizzle about a tablespoon of olive oil on a 11′ pan, then lay the dough and press its edges to the rim.
5 Arrange the zucchini slices on top of the dough, then gently pour over the egg mix making sure it does not push the vegetables around.
6 Spread evenly the diced mozzarella on top.
7 Using a pairing knife, open the blossoms to one side and spread them open, then arrange them on top of the quiche.
8 Bake for 30 minutes, then cool off for 10 minutes. Serve warm or room temperature, never hot.