Fontina & Sage Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms

Zucchini blossoms seem to me the embodiment of summer. Their time is short, their flavor delicate, their essence as ephemeral as summer itself. And while I love deep fried zucchini blossoms (I dredge them in a batter of sparkling cold water and flour, barely beaten so there are still a few lumps left), baked zucchini blossoms are an everyday indulgence I feel far more virtuous bringing to the table. When it comes to zucchini blossoms, less is more: less stuffing, less salt, less cooking allows their gentle flavor to shine through. So even though it may seem like the cheese stuffing is skimpy, it’s not; it’s just enough to give a luscious melting quality without overwhelming the floral flavor of the blossoms.

stuffedblossoms1

Serves 2

  • 16 zucchini blossoms
  • 1 ounce Fontina from Val d’Aosta, rind removed, cut into 16 very thin slices
  • 16 small sage leaves, stems removed
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

stuffedblossoms2

stuffedblossoms3

stuffedblossoms4

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Trim each zucchini blossom carefully by first removing the small dark green leaves at the base of each blossom and then trim away the long stem so there is only about 1/4-inch left. With a paring knife, make a small vertical incision at the base of the each blossom and with your fingers pull out the stamen or pistil. It tastes bitter so it must be removed.

Gently rinse the blossoms under running water (there are often little insects lurking inside) and place on a layer of paper towels to dry off. The blossoms need to be dry before they are baked or they will steam rather than turn golden and crisp at the edges.

stuffedblossoms5

stuffedblossoms6

Stuff each blossom with a slice of Fontina and a sage leaf.

Oil the parchment paper lining the tray and place the stuffed zucchini blossoms on it, with the opening facing up. Using a pastry brush, brush with olive oil. Season very lightly with salt and pepper.

Bake in the preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the Fontina melts and the blossoms are golden. Serve hot.

stuffedblossoms7

stuffedblossoms8

stuffedblossoms10

stuffedblossoms9

Two-Layer Blueberry-Pistachio Semifreddo

Don’t be daunted by the long ingredient list and multiple steps in the recipe below. This is quite an easy semifreddo to put together and requires no special tools or ice cream machines. It looks striking, with two distinct layers, one intensely blueberry-colored and flavored, the other creamier and richer in dairy notes. It tastes like summer on a plate, and the surprise element is definitely the pistachios, which have a real affinity for blueberries. I used Sicilian pistachios from Bronte, which are deeply green and very aromatic; but any unsalted pistachios will do. Store any leftover pistachios (or all nuts for that matter) in the freezer to stave off rancidity; the high fat content of nuts makes them turn faster than you’d like.

Serves 8

For the cooked blueberries:

  • 3 cups blueberries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch, dissolved in tablespoon cool water

For the dark mousse:

  • ½ cup shelled unsalted pistachios
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ¼ pound cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup heavy cream, chilled

For the swirled mousse:

  • 3 ounces sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 ounces milk
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 3 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 12 shelled unsalted pistachios, finely chopped

Make the cooked blueberries: In a 1-quart saucepan, combine the blueberries with the sugar and bring to a light boil over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until jammy, about 10 minutes. Return to a vigorous boil, stir in the cornstarch slurry while whisking, and cook 30 seconds, or until glossy and the juices are thick. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.

Make the dark mousse: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the pistachios out on a tray and roast in the preheated oven 8 minutes, or until toasty. Cool and coarsely chop. Set aside.

Place the sour cream and cream cheese in a food processor and add ½ cup of the cooked blueberries. Puree until smooth and set aside. In a large bowl, beat the heavy cream to soft peaks. Fold in the blueberry-cream cheese mixture until blended, without deflating the cream. Stir in the chopped pistachios and 1 cup of the cooked blueberries.

Line a loaf pan or terrine mold with plastic wrap, allowing excess to hang over the sides. Spoon the dark mousse into the mold and freeze until firm, about 4 hours.

Meanwhile, make the swirled mousse: Combine the condensed milk, milk, and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat; cook 3 minutes, or until the sugar dissolves and the mixture bubbles. Place the cream cheese in a medium bowl; gradually add the hot milk mixture, whisking until smooth.

Stir in the yogurt and vanilla. Cool completely. Stir in the remaining cooked blueberries until the mixture looks swirly; don’t overmix, as you want to keep the mousse looking marbled. Pour over the frozen dark mousse in the mold and sprinkle with the finely chopped pistachios.

Freeze until firm, then wrap tightly in the plastic wrap and keep frozen until ready to serve (up to 1 week).

blueberrysemifreddo2