If I were to make myself a birthday pizza, Squash blossom pizza would be it. I can’t imagine a prettier and sunnier looking pizza. It has everything I love, fresh edible flowers, soft and decadent cheese, and crispy bread all in one gorgeous pizza. Squash blossoms are a rare treat available only for a about a month in the summer when there is an abundance of male and female flowers on zucchini plants. The male flower is picked, leaving some to continue pollinating the female flowers to grow squash. Luckily my birthday falls during this time allowing me to indulge in one of mother nature’s seasonal gifts.
Squash Blossom Pizza
Unless you grow your own vegetables, finding squash blossoms is challenging. It is like going on a scavenger hunt but instead of knocking on the doors of strangers looking for a wire coat hanger to shape into a sculpture, you go from farmer to farmer looking for squash blossoms. Ask your favorite farm stand vender if they have squash blossoms and if they can sell some to you. Also, I recommend getting to the farmers market just as it opens pick out the squash blossoms before it gets too hot, or before they disappear. Fortunately, I was able to arrange to get these squash blossoms from Rochambeau Farm Stand, for which I am very grateful.
For a 10-inch (25.5 cm) pizza you will need around 12 squash blossoms. From my experience squash blossoms come in all different sizes so I recommend buying a few extras.
Preparing squash blossoms for this pizza is not difficult. All you need is to trim the stems off each blossom then cut the flower open and remove the stamen. Once the pizza dough is ready, arrange the open blossoms in two concentric circles to cover the pizza. The blossoms curl up somewhat but try to get them as close together as possible. The next time I make this pizza I will cut a few extra blossoms in sections, so I can fill the bare spots and get more blossoms per square inch.
Watch out for bees and other insects hiding inside the closed flowers. Once you cut open the flower, carefully inspect each flower and shake off the little critters.
Use store-bought fresh pizza dough from your favorite pizza parlor or buy the dough from the grocery. I hear Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods has delicious pizza dough for sale. My local family run grocer has good pizza dough as well, so look around they are usually found in the refrigerator aisle.
If you feel up to it, make pizza dough, but keep in mind some recipes require you start the process 4 days in advance. I have not posted a recipe yet, as I am still developing my pizza dough recipe. Developing a pizza dough recipe takes time and lots of practice so until then, I have tested pizza dough recipes from Serious Eats, or the 72 hour pizza dough with whole wheat flour in The Baking Steel Cookbook.
Cheese for Squash Blossom Pizza
Creamy burrata is recommended for squash blossom pizza. It pairs well with the tomato sauce and the squash blossoms. It is not too rich, and you add it after the pizza is done baking. If you cannot find burrata, look for any soft and creamy type of cheese like good quality fresh whole milk ricotta, goat cheese, or fresh mozzarella. The goat cheese I would add to the pizza after baking, but the ricotta and mozzarella I would arrange on the pizza before I place it in the oven.
A 10-inch pizza is a small pizza, often considered small enough for one serving. In good conscious, I cannot recommend one person eating 4 oz of burrata. It’s just not healthy to eat a quarter pound of cheese no matter how much you love burrata. If you want your pizza as a single serving, please dollop half the amount of cheese over the pie using 2 oz instead of 4.
Squash Blossom Pizza with Burrata
Use store-bought pizza dough enough for one 10-inch pizza (about 7.5 oz / 212 g in weight) or make your own pizza dough. Making your own pizza dough takes some advance planning as some recipes takes from 48- 72 hours to mature.
Makes one 10 inch (25.5 cm) pizza and serves 1-2 people.
Use a quick, fresh tasting tomato sauce flavored with olive oil. See notes for a recipe.
- 10 – 12 fresh squash blossoms
- 1 fresh pizza dough portion for a 10-inch 25.5 cm pizza
- 1 TB 15 ml extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for finishing the pizza
- Kosher Salt
- ¼ cup 75 ml fresh tomato sauce
- 4 oz 125 g burrata
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Remove the pizza dough from the refrigerator 1 hour before cooking. This step allows the pizza dough to relax and come up to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 500°F / 260°C /Gas Mark 10 one hour before you want to cook the pizza. If you have a pizza stone, lower the rack at the bottom position and place the stone on the rack. If you have a baking steel, position the rack 6 inches (15 cm) under the broiler (top rack) and place the baking steel on the rack. Or, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Preheat stone or steel in the oven.
If you have neither stone or steel, place a baking sheet pan upside down on top of the bottom rack, similar to the baking stone, and preheat.
If you do not have a pizza peel, reserve a sheet pan to the side of your work space and cover with a sheet of parchment paper. Once the dough is shaped, you will assemble the pizza on the sheet pan instead of a peel.
Prepare the squash blossoms
Trim off the stems of each squash blossom and discard. Open each blossom by cutting down the side of each blossom with kitchen scissors then and cut away the stamen. Discard the stamens. Set aside.
Shape the dough
When you are ready to cook the pizza, assemble all the equipment and ingredients you need for the pizza. The peel, extra flour and some corn meal for the peel, and all pizza ingredients. Arrange them on either side of your work space, giving you plenty of space to shape and assemble the pizza, but still within arm’s reach.
Lightly flour your work surface and pizza peel, if using. Tip your pizza dough in the center of the floured work surface. Press down on the center of the dough ball and flatten to form a disk. Press near the edge of the dough with your fingertips, creating a rim border about 1-inch (2.5 cm) thick around the pizza dough.
Hold your hands in a loose fist and drape the disk over the tops of your fists. Holding your fist in front of your body stretch out the dough and allow it to drape down over your hands. Move the pizza dough around in a circle to evenly shape the pizza dough. Stretch the dough from the outer rim with your thumbs, and from the weight of the dough draping over your fists.
When your dough stretches to a 10-inch diameter (25.5 cm) pizza, place it on your floured pizza peel or prepared sheet pan. Shake the pizza peel back and forth to see if the pizza dough will slide off the peel. If it sticks carefully add more flour or corn meal over the pizza peel by lifting up the edges of the pizza and dust the pizza peel. Do this around the pizza until the dough slides easily.
Assemble the pizza
Quickly assemble the pizza. Spoon the tomato sauce in the center of the pizza and spread it evenly over the surface leaving a one-inch (2.5 cm) border. Starting at the inside edge of your border, arrange the squash blossoms in an even and circular pattern around the pizza in two concentric circles. The exterior side of the blossom faces up. The tips of the flowers in the inner circle will overlap the stem end of the flowers in the outer circle. Place two blossoms over the center of the circle with the stem ends touching each other.
Shake the pizza peel to see if it is loose and will slide. If the pizza is sticking, carefully lift up the edges and dust with flour or corn meal until it easily slides.
Slide the pizza off the peel and position on the stone, steel or sheet pan. If you are not using a peel, place the sheet pan holding the pizza on top of your baking steel, stone, or upside down sheet pan.
To slide the pizza off the peel, position the pizza peel towards the back of the stone or steel. Give the peel a definitive shake, pulling your peel towards you. You want the pizza to slide off the peel with one good shake so don’t be timid about pulling the pizza peel towards you. One good jolt helps the pizza slide off and retain its shape. Pull the peel out of the oven then close the door and bake.
Bake in the oven until the crust is golden and crispy anywhere from 8-12 minutes depending on your oven. Lift up the pizza with a large spatula and inspect the bottom crust. That should be golden as well. If you are using a Baking steel it may take less time. Use the time as guidelines because individual conditions vary. Half way through baking, Use a large BBQ spatula to rotate the pizza from front to back to ensure even cooking.
When done, remove the pizza from the oven and slice into quarters with a large and sharp chef knife or pizza cutter. Cut the burrata into 4 even sections and place in the middle of each pizza wedge. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. If you have good quality finishing extra virgin olive oil, use it here with a few grounds of fresh black pepper.
Nancy Silverton’s specifies a Passata di Pomodoro sauce for this pizza. It is made with 2- 28 oz (794 g) cans of whole plum tomatoes, a shy tablespoon of sugar, a shy tablespoon of Kosher salt, and ¼ cup (75 ml) extra virgin olive oil. The skins and seeds are removed from the tomatoes using a food mill, “passed through” as the name indicates. I do not have a food mill, so I just puréed the tomatoes and can liquid with an immersion blender after I removed the seeds. FYI, the brand SM whole plum tomatoes (San Marzano tomatoes from California) have the skins already removed. Heat up the olive oil in a large pot and carefully add the tomato purée and the remaining ingredients. Simmer until it thickens. About 30 minutes.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
I am just going to pretend that the summer is not fading away, but is in full swing in all its glory. It is difficult to believe that September is a month away when summer squash, corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, stone fruit, fresh herbs, and green beans are now ripening at a sprinters pace. This time of year is wonderful, with many sunny days and cooler nights, but I am not ready for fall to be around the corner. I want summer to last, as it is my favorite season.
Over this past month, I wanted to make zucchini fritters. This obsession came out of the blue. Maybe because I always wanted to make them, but never got around to do it. I like all kinds of fritters. They are fun tasting with less filler than cakes. Making fritters is like producing a solo play with just enough supporting acts to hold the production together. For this production zucchini is the star attraction with just the right amount of extra ingredients to keep its shape.
I never made fritters before, and wanted to make some that are different from the traditional zucchini pancakes I am familiar with. After some searching, I found a fritter recipe with a southwestern take on a Mediterranean classic, zucchini fritters with cheddar cheese and oregano by Deborah Madison. This recipe is from her latest cookbook, In My Kitchen, (Ten Speed Press 2017). She is one of my favorite cookbook authors and is a valuable resource for me. If you need a good vegetarian cookbook, anyone of her books are a great choices. I believe she helped change vegetarian cooking from its cardboard tasting roots in the 1970’s, to the lively and fresh cuisine it is today.
Her zucchini fritters are different. Besides using non traditional ingredients, she slices the zucchini into thin coins instead of grating them. They look beautiful and unmistakable for what they are. The zucchini slices are visible and overlap each other to form a cake with flecks of fresh herbs and clusters of crunchy cheese and bread crumbs mixed in.
I found it a little more challenging to shape each pancake, but it is worth the effort. Honestly, I am not sure how Deborah Madison artfully formed her fritters. She did not include instructions describing her process in the recipe. The several times I made them, I did the best I could with what I knew. If the thought of shaping these fritters intimidates you, please put the thought out of your head. This is your meal, shape your fritters anyway you want. Scooping up batter with a spoon and sliding the batter in the skillet works just as well. Yet please take Deborah Madison’s advice, do not apologize if they don’t turn out the way you want. You just made a homemade meal. No apologies are necessary. They might not look how you hoped, but they will still taste great.
More zucchini recipes: Zucchini Fritatta, Zucchini and Corn Salad with Avocado and Pistachios, Marinated Zucchini
I made some changes to her recipe. First, she uses fresh oregano and a lot of it. It was too much oregano for me, (which is hard to believe because I am always adding more fresh herbs than a recipes calls for). Also oregano can get very bitter, so it is not one of my favorites. I replaced the oregano with basil. I love basil with zucchini and it worked with the cheddar. Feel free to experiment with other herbs you like, and if you love oregano, go for it.
Other variations included corn meal and corn flour independently, instead of bread crumbs. I love zucchini and corn together and experimented with corn meal to see how it would taste and work. The corn meal is grittier and does not absorb the liquid as well as bread crumbs and corn flour do. In the photograph above showing zucchini arranged on a slotted spatula, the batter was too thin. To absorb the extra juices, adding more cornmeal would give the batter more heft. Keep experimenting and see how you like it. Each option provided has its merits and I liked the taste of all of them. The breadcrumbs and corn meal had similar textures, and the corn flour made the fritter more pancake like.
Zucchini Fritters 4 Ways
- Follow the recipe for Zucchini fritters made with basil, cheddar and breadcrumbs.
- Substitute the bread crumbs with the same amount of corn meal or corn flour. (gluten-free option)
- Make the recipe but substitute the cheddar cheese with Comté or Emmenthal (Swiss), or Gruyère Cheese. Use bread crumbs with this cheese substitution.
- Make a traditional zucchini fritter and substitute the basil with dill, and the cheddar with feta cheese. Add some lemon zest as well.
With all these different variations, you can make zucchini fritters for days and use up your abundant supply of zucchini before the summer is over.
Serve the cheddar basil zucchini fritter as a vegetable side dish, or an appetizer with tomatillo salsa and yogurt. They are also delicious paired with a sauce of parsley and capers.
Zucchini Fritters 4 Ways
- 1 TB olive oil
- 1 lb zucchini
- 1 large shallot thinly sliced
- Kosher Salt
- 2 eggs lightly beaten
- 1/2 - 1 cup bread crumbs or corn meal, or corn flour
- 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
- 1/3 cup chopped basil
- 3 TB chopped parsley
- 1 -2 TB olive oil for cooking
Prepare the Zucchini.
Evenly and thinly slice the zucchini into coins. If you have a mandoline this will make your job quite easy. No more than a quarter inch. Heat up 1 TB of olive oil in a large 10 or 12-inch skillet. Add the zucchini coins and sliced shallots and a small pinch of Kosher salt to the skillet, then stir to get an even coat of olive oil over the vegetables. Cook the zucchini over medium heat and occasionally stir them in the skillet until the slices are tender, but still have some firmness in them, and starting to look dry. (No liquid in the pan). This could take around 15 minutes depending on how thick your zucchini slices are and how hot your pan is. When done, turn off the heat.
While the zucchini is cooking, chop the herbs and get the batter ready.
Mix the eggs and 1/2 cup bread crumbs (or corn meal if using) until well combined. Add the grated cheese and chopped herbs to the egg mixture and mix. Add the cooked zucchini to the batter and gently stir to combine without breaking up the zucchini slices. Add more bread crumbs or cornmeal if the batter is too wet.
Make the Fritters
Heat 1 TB olive oil in a large skillet
Preheat oven to 200°F and place a baking sheet or oven proof plate in the oven.
Test to see if the skillet is hot enough by adding a teaspoonful of the batter to the pan. If the batter immediately sizzles, then the pan is ready. Finish cooking your sample then taste for seasoning. Correct with salt if needed.
Shape and slide one fritter at a time into the skillet. I like the fritters to look somewhat flat with the zucchini slices spread out and overlapping each other. Not mushed up. I scooped up the zucchini batter with a slotted spatula or spoon, then spread out the zucchini slices to make an even pancake. Once formed, slide your arranged fritter into the skillet. I used a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to encourage the fritter to slide off the spatula into the skillet in one piece. For each batch, 3 fritters fit comfortably into a 10-inch skillet. Patiently cook the zucchini fritters on one side for a couple of minutes, until it starts to get golden on the bottom. You want to handle them as little as possible, so flip them one time during the cooking process. With a thin flexible spatula, like a fish spatula, turn the fritter over and cook for a couple of minutes more. Move the finished zucchini fritters to the oven to keep warm. Repeat until all the batter is used.
Serve immediately as an appetizer or side dish with tomatilla salsa and yogurt or creme fraiche. Or, serve with parsley caper sauce.
I have made these fritters with bread crumbs, as the original recipe indicates, and also with corn meal and corn flour. The corn meal does not absorb the juices as well as the bread crumbs, but do add a nice texture and subtle flavor. You can add more of the filler if there is extra liquid in the bowl, or just let the juices drain out the bottom of the slotted spatula before you add the fritter to the skillet.
Any of the three options work well. The corn flour will make the fritter more pancake like.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
During the busy summer months we all need those back pocket recipes. The ones you can just whip out and create without thinking about it. Marinated Zucchini is just one of those recipes. It is so easy, after you made it a couple of times you know it by heart.
What I love about marinated zucchini is, the cooking process is simple and (to coin a phrase from Food52), genius. First, you slice each small zucchini lengthwise down the middle. Once prepared, sear each zucchini slice in a skillet with olive oil. Then, marinate the seared zucchini for one hour in a basic vinaigrette and fresh basil. That is it. Simple, but a recipe that develops great depth of flavor in a mild tasting summer vegetable. If properly cooked, the acid will not make the zucchini soggy. Instead, it develops a bright taste yet retains the subtle and clean zucchini flavor.
This recipe is from Canal House Cooking Volume 8: Pronto (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2013) via Food52. There is no need to make adjustments, it is already perfect. I just added a little more fresh basil right before serving as a garnish and extra basil flavor. You could experiment with other herbs like lemon thyme, parsley or tarragon, but the warm sunshine flavor of basil is notable.
Is your garden overflowing with zucchini? Try these other great zucchini recipes from my archives:
This recipe is also easy to resize. The original recipe calls for a half pound of zucchini. Fortunately, I found the perfect size zucchini at my local farm stand, each one weighing about a quarter of a pound, (113 g). I decided to double the recipe just so I could have more zucchini to photograph and work with. I was also able to fit all 8 of my zucchini halves in my 10-inch cast iron skillet. Look for small, same size zucchini at your store or market. The little quarter-pounders are perfect. Big and fat zucchini may look impressive, but are not suited for this recipe. They take longer to cook and have larger seeds in the middle.
The only difficult part about making marinated zucchini is remembering to make them at least an hour in advance. This is not a last minute recipe idea. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to make marinated zucchini and realized I forgot about the marinating step. This is not a salad recipe where you add the vinaigrette just before serving. The hour marinating is important to build the bright flavor from the vinegar and sets this recipe apart from others. As a result, this is a great make ahead recipe.
Fresh Herb Marinated Zucchini
- 2 TB 30 ml olive oil
- 1 lb 453 g very small zucchini, ends trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
- Pinch of Kosher Salt
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 2 TB 30 ml red wine vinegar
- 6 TB 1/3 cup / 75 mlextra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt to taste
- Fresh ground black pepper to taste
- 6 - 8 fresh basil leaves thinly sliced
Cook the zucchini. In a large skillet, heat 2 TB (30 ml) olive oil over medium high heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the zucchini halves to the pan cut side down. Depending on the size of your pan and zucchini, you may have to cook the zucchini in batches. Sear the zucchini until nicely golden brown. After 3 minutes check to see if the zucchini is nicely golden brown*. If not, continue to cook on the cut side checking every couple of minutes until tender. Once the zucchini is golden brown turn over each piece, then cook on the opposite side for 3 minutes more. The zucchini is done when it is golden brown on the top and tender, but not too soft in the middle. Transfer the zucchini slices to a shallow dish and sprinkle with a pinch of Kosher salt.
While the zucchini is searing, in a small bowl whisk together the minced garlic, red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, and a couple of grinds of fresh black pepper. Pour the vinaigrette over the zucchini slices and add the fresh basil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for one hour. If you need to make this well ahead of time, marinate the zucchini in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container. Serve at room temperature as a vegetable side dish.
* The original recipe says to cook for 3 minutes on the first side. I have never gotten the zucchini a nice golden brown in 3 minutes. I have a gas stove top using liquid propane, and typically it takes 6 - 8 minutes to achieve a light golden brown. As with all recipes, use them as a guide because your conditions and equipment are different from the author's.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.