making zucchini flowers into frittersprologue-5 – italy 2014

I knew it was summer, because my mom would make pittuli and even though the term in Italian is generic, to me it always meant zucchini flower fritters. Later, I learned that in Calabria they also made puttuli with cauliflower, dandelion and field greens.

pittuliGrowing up, I always associated the pittuli with the contadini traditions that we brought with us from Calabria. Traditions grounded in eating vegetables from my dad’s garden, in making wine in the fall, in making sausage, prosciutto and capicola. Today, the markets in Italy are full of zucchini flowers and trendy restaurants both here and there serve the blossoms dipped in batter. (I’ve never eaten the dipped zucchini flowers. This summer whether in Sicily, Calabria, Naples or Rome, I want to make sure to try them.) Today, the salumi my parents make are high-end items at the organic, up-scale markets across the country.

The batter is simple – flour, grated cheese, a couple of eggs and the zucchini flowers. (I use San Pellegrino instead of tap water; the fizz make for a lighter batter.) As a kid, I was given the job of cleaning the zucchini blossoms that my dad picked. He would pick the flowers in the morning when they first open. They are freshest then, and an open blossom tends to have no cucumber beetle in it. By late afternoon the blossoms close and begin to wither trapping any bug in a yellow-orange cocoon. Also, when it comes to zucchini-flower cooking, you can tell who the johnny-came-late are; these late bloomers do not remove the pointy green things at the bottom of the flower before cooking. My mother just shakes her head. She has no understanding why someone who is supposed to know their way around a vegetable can do such a stupid thing.

Also, I don’t put salt in the batter for the pittuli. The cheese has enough salt for this delicate recipe.