A few nights ago some girlfriends from work (and my teenage step-son The Actor) came over for a long overdue dinner promised many, many months ago. The night air in Melbourne is becoming chillier as autumn begins to settle into its rhythm and the markets are full of fabulous fresh veggies. So using what was fresh and gorgeous, here's what the lovely Miss Claire and I cooked for everyone for starters. Really, really good.
Stuffed zucchini flowers - serves 4 as an entree
Zucchini flowers seem to be in abundance at the markets at this time of the year and this is, I think, the best and simplest way to serve them. There's no getting around the fact that this is a bit fiddly and takes a (very) little practice but don't worry too much and all will be fine!
4 generous tablespoons of soft goat's cheese
1 generous tablespoon of pine nuts, toasted in a dry pan until golden
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Fresh thyme leaves, about 2 teaspoons worth
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 zucchini flowers
1 teaspoon of butter
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
Roughly mash the goat's cheese in a bowl with a fork. Add the toasted pine nuts , zest and thyme leaves and continue to mash until well combined - you want the pine nuts to be a little bit crushed, but not totally decimated. Throw in some sea salt and pepper to taste and set the mixture aside. This can be done well in advance and kept covered in the fridge until you're ready to cook.
Gently pull the petals of one of the flowers apart - they will tear a little and this is okay - and stuff with about one teaspoon, maybe more depending on the size of the blossom, of the cheese mixture. Gently fold the petals around the filling, and twist the tips with great care to secure the 'package'. Continue until all the flowers have been filled.
Heat the butter and oil together in a heavy-based, non-stick frying pan and gently cook the flowers over a medium heat, turning a couple of times for 3-4 minutes. Some of the cheese will inevitably seep out and into the pan, but this doesn't affect the finished result. Serve immediately with wedges of lemon on the side.