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Squash blossom risotto

Flowers. I like to receive them, just like I like to scatter small low-maintenance plants through my house. The first flower bouquet that I was gifted was a surprise my father organized on the morning of my seventeenth birthday. He left the bouquet on the porch table in the small house we rented for the summer holidays: when I went outside for breakfast – a fried doughnut bursting with vanilla pastry cream was surely waiting for me – I was so moved by that unexpected gesture. Twenty-four years later, I’m still moved by every single flower bouquet I receive, be it a bunch of slender tulips or a baroque bouquet with roses, greeneries, grasses, and berries. 

Then, there is a unique flower bouquet category that makes me grin with pleasure and anticipation: flowers you can fry.

Give me elderflowers, artichokes, and especially squash blossoms, and you’ll make me happy. I’m a simple girl who loves to fry.

vegetable garden

Let’s take squash blossoms, for example, as they are in season now, dotting the vegetable garden with bright yellow flowers. I know they are hard to find outside of Italy, but they are the edible flower of any kind of summer or winter squash, including zucchini, marrow, and even butternut and spaghetti squash. So if there’s a squash plant, there must be edible flowers, too. They have a delicate flavour and are highly perishable, so ideally they should be cooked as soon as they are picked.

Squash blossoms can be stuffed, battered and fried, layered in a potato casserole, or trimmed to make an omelette (I like them in my chickpea cake for example) or even ricotta gnocchi.

Recently, thanks to a collaboration with RisoChiaro.it, who provided me with excellent Carnaroli rice, perfect for risotto, I made a squash blossom risotto that I cooked repeatedly also during cooking classes: easy and colourful, it makes for a seasonal weeknight meal, but also for a celebratory Sunday lunch. Any leftover can be turned into delicious rice croquettes, too!

And now I’ll tell you how the idea of this risotto was born…

Squash blossom risotto

Squash blossom risotto

Recipe developed in collaboration with RisoChiaro.it

Since Carnaroli is the perfect rice for all risottos, especially the creamy ones and those with vegetables, I thought I would make an early summer risotto with the products I found in the garden. This risotto has the smell of summer mornings in the vegetable garden when the squash blossoms are still open and fresh, and the herbs are still enjoying the balmy air of the night. I picked squash blossoms, a zucchini for the stock, a bunch of herbs, and headed for the kitchen.

First, I made a light vegetable stock with herbs, carrot, celery, onion and zucchini, and then I used it to coddle on the stove a risotto with squash blossoms, which lend a note of colour and brightness to a very delicate dish. In the end, I whipped the risotto with fresh goat cheese to add a hint of acidity.

Squash blossom risotto

The secret ingredient hard to detect? Two anchovy fillets melted in the soffritto made with shallots, oil, and butter, recalling one of the most classic recipes made with squash blossoms, fiori di zucca fritti, fried blossoms with a piece of mozzarella and an anchovy fillet inside. Just avoid them to make a vegetarian version of this risotto.

Zucchini blossom risotto
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5 from 1 vote

Squash blossom risotto

This risotto has the smell of summer mornings in the vegetable garden when the squash blossoms are still open and fresh, and the herbs are still enjoying the balmy air of the night.
Course First course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword risotto
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 50 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
Serves 4 people

Ingredients

For the vegetable stock

  • 1.5 l (6⅓ cups) water
  • ½ golden onion
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 sprig of parsley
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 3 basil leaves
  • 1 small piece of Parmigiano Reggiano rind
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt

For the risotto

  • 40 g (3 tablespoons) butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 shallots
  • 2 anchovy fillets in oil
  • 300 g (1⅔ cups) Carnaroli rice
  • 140 ml ( cups) dry white wine
  • 12 pumpkin flowers, cleaned and finely sliced (approx. 100 g/3½ oz)
  • 950 ml (4 cups) vegetable stock, hot
  • 100 g ( oz) fresh goat cheese
  • 50 g (½ cups) grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • fine salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

Start by preparing the stock.

  • Fill a pot with water, add the herbs, salt, Parmigiano Reggiano rind, and vegetables, and bring to a boil.
  • When the water boils, lower the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes.
  • After this time, strain the stock and keep it warm.
  • Mince the shallots (if you do not feel to master the knife skills properly, use a cutter, but do not chop it too much or it will become a mush).
  • Pour the olive oil into a saucepan, add the butter, the minced shallots, the anchovy fillets, and half a teaspoon of salt: the salt will help you to cook the shallots without burning them. Sauté the shallots over low heat until they become translucent and soft. Just a few minutes will be enough.
  • Add the rice and toast it. Stir it with a wooden spoon into the sautéed shallots and let it toast, always stirring, over medium-low heat, until the rice will be translucent, almost pearly. If you listen carefully to the pot, you will hear it crackle imperceptibly. Another tip to see if the rice is ready is to hold a few grains between your fingers. When they are too hot to handle, they are nicely toasted. Again, a few minutes will be enough.
  • Pour the white wine over the rice: let it evaporate, stirring with the wooden spoon until the rice has absorbed it.
  • Now cook the risotto by pouring the hot stock in at least 4 times. Cook the risotto over medium-low heat, stirring often. By doing this, the risotto will become creamier thanks to the starch released by the rice.
  • Halfway through the cooking, when you have used about half of the hot stock, add the zucchini flowers.
  • Keep on adding the hot stock to cook the rice. The whole process will take about 15-18 minutes, not more, so remember to taste the risotto every now and then. It will be ready when you feel it soft, but still with a hard soul inside, slightly al dente.
  • When you have finished the hot stock, or maybe you’ll have just a tiny bit left, and when the rice will be cooked but still al dente, remove the risotto from the heat, add the grated pecorino cheese and the fresh goat cheese, and stir well. This is what we call mantecare, in Italian, which means almost to cream the butter and cheese into the rice. Taste it one last time to see if it still needs a little salt and you are ready to serve it.
  • Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and serve immediately.
Tried this recipe?We love to see your creations! Snap a pic and tag @julskitchen and hashtag it #myseasonaltable!

Riso Chiaro

Riso Chiaro, a project to promote Italian rice

The Riso Chiaro project is a project aiming to protect and promote Italian rice, an excellence of our agriculture and an integral part of our gastronomic culture, which over the centuries has shaped the landscape and social fabric of many Italian regions. The project also protects the end consumer, increasing his awareness of the rice he brings to the table thanks to Blockchain technology.

Do you know what a blockchain is? The Blockchain is a register for the secure transfer and storage of transactions, distributed among different users. The data entered into Blockchain are immutable and traceable and therefore provide greater security for the end consumer. Thanks to blockchain technology, simply scan the QR code on the rice package with your smartphone camera and you have instant access to all the information in total transparency. 

Scanning the QR code and entering the rice’s lot number, I easily found out when it had been harvested, where, and by whom. Information can be found on the geographical area where the rice was produced, its variety, its production and sustainability protocols, its treatments, and packaging.

riso

A rice is chiaro, transparent, when it has no secrets, when it tells the story of its supply chain from sowing to the shelf.

The Carnaroli rice I used in this recipe was produced by Azienda Agricola Osenga, a family-run company in Trino, in the province of Vercelli, north of the Po River and close to the Monferrato hills.

The company produces Selenio, Baldo, Roma, and Carnaroli Classico rice. Here the adjective classico, classic is fundamental. Reading the company’s page on RisoChiaro.it, I discovered that the name Carnaroli generally includes several varieties belonging to the same product group. With the wording classic, on the other hand, we are guaranteed 100% Carnaroli.

Squash blossom risotto

More recipes with squash blossoms from the blog archive

  • Fried squash blossoms. Fried zucchini blossoms is a traditional antipasto in trattorias or family lunches, but they can easily be turned into the highlight of a brunch with friends. Fry them on the spot,  leave them just one or two minutes in a dish lined with kitchen paper, then enjoy them standing, all around the dish, in a new modern ritual made ​​of murmurs of pleasure, small surprised exclamations when you bite into the melted mozzarella under the crisp crust and happy eyes of those who savour one of their favourite dishes.
  • Ricotta gnocchi with squash blossoms. The best seasonal fresh herbs shine through these ricotta gnocchi: mint, basil, and lemon balm add a fresh and verdant note, enhanced by a bouquet of zucchini blossoms used as an unusual seasoning. It’s like biting into an early summer evening, like a restoring nap among bushes of fresh herbs in the shade of a quiet garden.
  • Squash blossom and potato casserole. Layers of thinly sliced potatoes, zucchini blossoms, mozzarella, eggs and goat cheese, and then fresh herbs such as basil and chives, make this zucchini blossom and potato casserole a perfect main dish for a summer dinner. You can also make it in advance: reheat it just before serving.

Squash blossoms

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. 5 stars
    This was an exceptional dish. The stock is worth the effort since it has a lighter, more summery flavor profile than a typical vegetable stock. I use Trapani sea salt so definitely need to cut back on the salt recommended for the stock and risotto. Thanks to Juls for sharing.

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