Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Zucchini flowers make pizza blossom


The Saucy Cook

By Mary Jo Spiegel
Enquirer contributor

Jerri Roberts of Wyoming enjoyed zucchini flower pizza in Tuscany so much she wants to recreate the experience here.

While I could suggest drinking wine until it seems like everyone is speaking Italian, instead I travel to Northside Farmer's Market on Wednesday afternoons for serious answers. There, Matt Tomaszewski of Earth Source Organics in Batavia sells beautiful produce, including, now and then, zucchini blossoms.

"Locally blossoms can be in season for as long as May through October," says Matt, who sells at Findlay Market most Saturdays. "You can eat the male or female blossoms, you can stuff them with couscous, rice or batter and fry them."

Or, of course, put them on pizza.

Inspired by Jerri and Matt, and having missed "National Sneak Some Zucchini on Your Neighbor's Porch Night" on Aug. 8, I've decided I will literally nip the rest of my burgeoning squash in the bud.

Zucchini blossoms are delicate. You can substitute the blossoms of any summer squash, but try to use them the day they are picked - wash gently and blot dry. Otherwise, wrap them in a damp paper towel and refrigerate in an airtight container. Whether or not you remove the inner pistil and stamen is up to you. You'll have plenty of time to decide while you make the following pizza dough, which takes up to 8 hours - almost as long as the flight to Italy.

(Northside Farmer's Market, 4100 block of Hamilton Ave., is open 3-7 p.m.Wednesday. May-October.)

• This dough, approved by Italy's governmental agency for such things, is from Pizza Napoletana! (Ten Speed Press; $17.95), by Tuscany resident Pamela Sheldon Johns. The toppings are adapted from www.italianfoodforever.com.

Pizza with Fresh Summer Herbs and Zucchini Blossoms

NEOPOLITAN DOUGH

11/2 cups water (105 to 115 degrees)

1 teaspoon active dry yeast

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup cake flour

1 tablespoon sea salt

Olive oil

TOPPING (per each 10-inch pizza)

3/4 cup chopped Roma tomatoes (salt and drain if desired)

4 ounces thinly sliced fresh mozzarella cheese

Olive oil

1/4 cup fresh mixed herbs, diced (oregano, thyme, basil, etc.)

5 zucchini blossoms

To make dough, combine water and yeast and allow to sit 5 to 8 minutes, until foamy. Mix flour and salt in mixer with dough hook. Add yeast mixture to flour and knead on low 30 minutes. Form dough into ball, place in oiled bowl, turn to coat, cover and let rise 4 hours in a warm place.

Punch down dough, divide into 4 equal pieces and shape into balls. Brush lightly with olive oil, cover and let rise another 2 to 4 hours. Shape dough into four 10-inch rounds.

Preheat oven to 550 degrees. Top each pizza with tomatoes and cheese. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake about 8 minutes or until crust and cheese are golden. Finish with fresh herbs and blossoms, return to oven just long enough to soften blossoms, about 3 minutes. Makes four 10-inch pizzas.

• Only the elusive Leon makes salsa for Landen's Fiesta Brava restaurant (not affiliated with the Fiesta Brava in Forest Park). Thank heavens Anita White in Lebanon comes through with a similar recipe for Barbara Johnson in Loveland. Use the "salsa dance" taste test.

"If it makes you do a little dance, it's just right," Anita says of her cousin's recipe.

Cousin Gary's Salsa

6 to 8 tomatoes, diced

3 to 6 jalapenos, diced fine (or to taste)

1 large onion, diced

1 bell pepper, chopped (optional)

1/2 bunch cilantro leaves, chopped

Juice of 3 to 4 limes

Mix all ingredients in glass bowl. Salt to taste. Leave chunky or puree.

Makes about 3 cups.

Can you help?

• Speaking of squash, Diane Hahn wants a squash ravioli recipe like Palomino's. They won't share. Will you?

• Walt and Barb Zimmer in Colerain Township want a recipe for "solidarity soup," served at Zino's when it was in Corryville. The soup features cabbage, potatoes, ham and maybe carrots in a creamy base.

Send food questions, tips, recipe requests and recipes to Saucy Cook, the Enquirer, 312 Elm St., Cincinnati 45202. E-mail: mary jo@saucycook.com. Include name, neighborhood, e-mail and phone number.




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