Flower power

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 June, 2011, 12:00am


I'm pretty sure Billy Joel didn't have zucchini in mind when he wrote Only the Good Die Young, but it certainly applies to the summer squash. The vegetable (which is, in fact, a fruit) is at its best in its embryonic stage - a flower with the tiniest of zucchini growing from the stem of the plant. The bloom doesn't last long and drops off as the zucchini grows.

Old, overgrown zucchini aren't good for much - they're watery, seedy, tough and fibrous. Fortunately, you won't come across such specimens unless your neighbours are eager gardeners: the vegetable grows prolifically. Shops in Hong Kong tend to sell medium-sized zucchini - about 20cm long - which are fine, but they're even better when smaller because they're less watery and more tender. When buying zucchini, check the stem end - it should look and feel fresh, not shrivelled.

Zucchini fritters are a great way to get children (and adults) to eat their vegetables. Shred the zucchini, mix in some salt and leave in a colander - the salt draws out the excess moisture. Rinse thoroughly with cold water then drain and squeeze as much liquid as possible from the zucchini. Put it in a bowl and add minced onion, beaten eggs, freshly grated parmesan, salt and pepper to taste and enough flour to bind the mixture into a spoonable batter. Heat about 5mm of oil in a skillet, spoon in the batter, flatten the fritters slightly and pan-fry until medium brown before flipping over to cook the other side. Serve them with a spicy tomato salsa.

Zucchini flowers aren't easy to find in Hong Kong - I've only seen them a few times in supermarkets. The female flowers have a small zucchini on one end, the male flowers don't. With both, remove the interior of the flower, leaving just the leaves. Stuff the centre with a flavourful mixture (soft goat's cheese is delicious) then close the petals securely over the filling so it's tightly wrapped. Dip the flower in batter and deep-fry until golden brown. Serve immediately.