zucchini parmesan & panko battered zucchini flowers

My “plan” for this weekend’s post vanished into thin air after an unplanned stroll through Asbury Park’s farmer’s market Saturday morning.  I normally pick up my produce at the market around the corner from my office, about an hour away, but, sadly, have yet to check out the one in my own backyard.  Though smaller in scale, this market did not disappoint.  Several farmers had tables set up with all of the Garden State goodies you could dream up:  sweet corn, peaches, blueberries, squash, kale, and early tomatoes.  We ended up taking home some gargantuan zucchinis, zucchini flowers, and fuzzy yellow peaches.

Now, I have come across a fair amount of zucchini in my days, but never anything on this scale.  These all natural green gourds weren’t on steroids (we checked), but sure seemed like it based upon their hulkish size…

Knowing there’s only so much zucchini you can cook up as a side for two people, I begin to brainstorm some main dishes with visions of stuffed zucchini and giambotta twirling through my head.  But it was actually our new friend, the farmer, who had the best suggestion: “how about zucchini parmesan?” he uttered.  And with those last two words, the deal was done.  One of my favorite dishes in the world is my mom’s eggplant parm:  peeled, floured, and delicately fried discs of eggplant smothered with marinara sauce and cheese, then baked until bubbly.  I’m salivating just thinking about it.

Anyhow, I love zucchini and couldn’t see any reason this dish wouldn’t turn out just as spectacular as the eggplant, so I decided to give it a try and am super pumped to share the recipe with you today.  The zucchini definitely rose to the challenge and made for a formidable substitute.  And, to my surprise, the squash held up extraordinarily well after frying and baking for some time;  not mushad as eggplant can sometimes get, but instead soft at first bite and then a touch of firmness in the middle.  After this successful romp with the zucchini, I’m tempted to try a mixed veggie parmesan:  yellow and green squash, eggplant, peppers, and baby spinach tossed in… mmmmm.  With a foolproof formula like this, you can really let your imagination run free.  And, seriously, what veggie wouldn’t find itself enhanced after a flash in the pan, a drenching of homemade gravy, and sprinkle of cheese?

On a side note, the farmer also sold us some zucchini flowers, these gorgeous, yet curious looking yellow blooms piled into green cardboard pints.  He touted these fried flowers as his family’s favorite summertime treat and guaranteed that we’d be back next weekend begging him for more.  With claims of grandeur like these, our curiosity was instantly piqued and we quickly became the proud new owners of a pint of the radiant gold blossoms.  I talked with my mom later that day and she, too, spoke highly of zucchini flowers, explaining that my grandmother used to pick them straight from her garden every summer, batter them up, and fry them lightly before serving.  Sounded simple enough…

I’ve included the recipes for both dishes below.  And, if you’re wondering if these flowers lived up to the hype… they mostly did.  The flavor was unique and delicately laced with zucchini essence; something I definitely look forward to savoring in the summers to come.  However, because there’s only so much fried food I’m willing to put into my body, I plan to toy around with some grease-less alternate preparations (tossed in a salad, baked into fritatta, or on top of pizza) next time I see them at the farm stand.

Zucchini Parmesan
Serves 6

3 pounds of zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
4 eggs
Fresh ground pepper
Whole wheat flour
Extra light olive oil
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 large cloves of garlic, chopped
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 heaping Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
1 heaping Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Fill a large deep skillet with olive oil until it comes up about 1/2-inch high and heat over a medium flame.  Beat eggs with a sprinkle of salt and pepper in a bowl and set up a plate of the flour alongside.  Dredge zucchini slices in flour and then dip in egg before transferring to the hot oil.  Cook for approximately 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown.  Transfer to paper towel lined trays and repeat cooking batches until all zucchini has been fried.  Blot tops of zucchini rounds with a paper towel to absorb excess oil.

In a medium saucepan, heat extra virgin olive oil over medium-low heat.  Add garlic and onions and saute until soft, careful not to brown, for approximately 5 minutes.  In the meantime, pulse tomatoes and their juices in a blender until desired consistency (I like my sauce chunky).  Add tomatoes, salt, pepper, basil, and parsley to the saucepan and stir well.  When the sauce begins to boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring often.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350-degrees.  Spoon a light coating of sauce in the bottom of a large baking dish (8 x 12-inch rectangular would work).  Add a layer of zucchini rounds on the bottom of the dish.  Smear with approximately 1/3 of the sauce and sprinkle with cheese.  Repeat to make three layers, ending with the remaining sauce and a generous sprinkle of cheese.  Bake in the oven 30-45 minutes until bubbly.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

A few notes:

  • Chances are, you may not come across one 3-pound zucchini like I did.  In that case, you will have to buy several smaller ones.  Be sure to slice them on a diagonal in order to batter and fry the fewest number of pieces possible.  This is important for two main reasons: the smaller and more numerous the pieces are, (1) the more laborious the frying effort becomes and (2) the greasier the dish will be.
  • I used whole wheat flour, but all-purpose would work just fine.  I am of the mindset that better choices – no matter how small and, yes, even when you are frying – count for something.
  • Feel free to sprinkle some mozzarella cheese on top for more cheesy goodness.
  • This is a labor intensive dish.  I fried my zucchini in the morning, made my sauce in the afternoon, and assembled the dish in the evening, as not to be overwhelmed.  While I recommend frying the zucchini and assembling the dish on the same day, you can most definitely make the sauce up to two days ahead of time.
  • For great reheats, warm up in the microwave, sprinkle with more cheese, and pop under the broiler for a few minutes.

Panko Battered Zucchini Flowers
Slightly adapted from Tyler Florence’s recipe

1 dozen zucchini flowers
2 egg yolks
1 cup ice water
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
Vegetable oil

Rinse the outside of the flowers under cold water.  Carefully open up the bloom and flush insides with more cold water.  Trim stems to 1-inch and set aside to drain on a towel.

In a medium bowl, beat egg yolks slightly.  Then add water and mix well.  Whisk in flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper until smooth and the consistency of heavy cream.  Add panko and stir again.

Heat about 1 inch of oil in a large deep skillet over medium-high.  Once hot, hold the flowers by the stem and dip each in the batter until well coated.  Fry in pan about 2 minutes on each side or until light golden and puffed up.  Transfer to paper-towel lined plate to drain.  Sprinkle with salt and serve immediately.  You can eat evey part including the stems.


16 Responses to “zucchini parmesan & panko battered zucchini flowers”

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  1. this is a great recipe! I usually make this with eggplant but I would love to incorporate more zucchinis in my daughter’s diet.:)

  2. I am bookmarking that zucchini parmesan! And that is one jumbo zucchini! 🙂

  3. sue says:

    Thank you for this wonderful slant on a parmesan dish by incorporating one of my favorite veggies! Already updated my grocery list and will be making it over the weekend.

  4. I love the zucchini parm. recipe! I’m always looking for new ways to use zucchini. I never know what to do with it all. This sounds fabulous.

  5. I used to regularly get zucchini that big; one would be hidden and then…viola. A monster! When you can’t find one more dish…shred and freeze and use for zucchini bread in the winter. No blanching required; just save in two cup measure and throw in everything; zucchini and the water it gives off.

    And more importantly…this looks terrific. I have zucchini. A lot of zucchini; I must make some!

  6. That zucchini Parmesan looks so good 😀 I love using eggplant but for some reason I hardly get any out of my garden but I get a ton of zucchini so I’m going to try this for sure 😀

  7. KarmaCucina says:

    Thanks for all the kind comments : ) This dish was super yummy and I’m happy I was able to share with other zucchini lovers!

  8. Jaime says:

    Next time, you should try stuffing the zucchini blossoms with herbed goat cheese before frying. Way better.

    • KarmaCucina says:

      Sounds delish – I’ve heard ricotta is also excellent! Can’t go wrong stuffing these with cheese!

  9. DMan says:

    I’ll be honest – I do not even like zucchini but this dish was amazing! I’ll be honest again – I did not prepare the dish either – but would gladly it again. Job well done!

  10. MARIA says:

    Thanks for the recipe. I, too, am blessed w/more Zucchini than I know what to do with. This recipe looks like a winner. If you haven’t tried Chocolate Zucchini bread, you must!

  11. Steve says:

    The squash blossoms have always been my favorite treat….I add a little reggiano ..unbelievable…if Italy they add ricotta inside also..I like my blossoms wide open picked at sunrise…

  12. This looks delicious and I can’t wait to give it a try. I love trying new recipes and this is definitely different than what I have tried before, but I love all the ingredients so I know I will like it and hope my family does too!


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