INSALATA DI FIORI DI ZUCCHINE CON BURRATA
You normally have to be quite lucky to find courgette (zucchini) flowers on sale in the markets, but in springtime in Venice, every baby courgette on display is sold with its flower still attached, and it is even possible to buy, from many stalls, big bunches of the flowers alone tied together with string.
Typically, Italian recipes suggest stuffing the courgette flowers with mozzarella and prosciutto, before dipping in a thin batter and deep-frying – which is delicious, and ordinarily one of my favourite things – but the fiori in the Venetian markets looked so delicate and beautiful, it suddenly struck me as a bit of a pity to always hide them under so much batter and amongst so much salt…
So I thought I’d try them raw. Eaten in this way, the fiori taste, perhaps unsurprisingly, a lot like courgettes themselves, only more subtly flavoured. In terms of presentation, against the striated green of the courgette ribbons, and stripes of white burrata, the bright yellow flowers look just gorgeous – kind of like a springtime garden on a plate.
If you can’t find burrata (a fresh cheese made by mixing mozzarella and cream) for this recipe, feel free to substitute fresh mozzarella di buffala – it will work perfectly too. But if you can get burrata – buy it, buy it! I could not quite get over the novelty of such ready availability during this trip to Venice and so sought to indulge at every opportunity...
(Serves 4 as a starter or side)
- 6-8 fresh courgette (zucchini) flowers
- 4 young courgettes
- 1 ball of fresh burrata (or fresh mozzarella di buffala if burrata is not available)
- Small bunch of basil
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Juice of 1 large lemon
- Sea salt flakes
- Freshly ground black pepper
This salad can be assembled directly onto the platter that you intend to serve on. Given how delicate the courgette flowers are, it is best to subject them to a minimum amount of handling.
- - - -
Using a vegetable peeler, shave the courgettes lengthways onto your platter, ensuring that you do so finely as is possible. Once you have a mass of fine courgette ribbons, arrange these prettily across the platter, and dress with extra virgin olive oil, some lemon juice, sea salt, and black pepper, tossing to work the dressing through the ribbons.
Next, tear the burrata by hand into strips, and scatter these evenly across the salad.
Pick the most tender leaves from your bunch of basil and scatter these across the salad next.
Lastly, carefully tear each courgette flower in half lengthways, and remove the centre of the flower, along with the stem. Tear the petals lengthways again, if the flowers are particularly large, to form delicate yellow ribbons, and then lay these across the top of the salad.
Salt each piece of burrata individually with a few flakes, and drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil over each as well because this will really bring out the flavour of the cheese.
Lastly, finish with a quick squeeze of lemon over the top of the entire salad – this will dress the flowers lightly without weighing them down or ruining their appearance.
Serve outdoors where possible – and on sunny day – ideally with some very cold white wine!