Stuffed zucchini flowers, or 'çiçek dolması' (chee-CHECK' dole-MAH'-suh), are great example of edible flowers and one of my all-time favorite Turkish 'meze,' or starters. In Turkish cuisine, 'dolma' means something stuffed, and 'sarma' means something wrapped.
Stuffed zucchini flowers have a light, delicate flavor and look stunning on any table. This delicacy is most common in the Aegean regions of Turkey during the spring and summer months when zucchini flowers are fresh and plentiful. It has also been rediscovered by many chic restaurants in Istanbul and other major cities.
All types of 'dolma' are a matter of pride for Turkish cooks, but stuffed zucchini flowers hold a very coveted position among "stuffers and wrappers," as they are very delicate, and you must get the level of seasoning just right as not to overpower the flavor of the flowers.
If you grow zucchini in your garden, pick your flowers fresh and cook your 'dolma' right away for the most amazing flavors. You can also buy zucchini flowers at many farm stands and fresh produce markets. Try this recipe for stuffed zucchini flowers I prepare at home.
- 30 fresh zucchini flowers (or courgette or pumpkin flowers)
- 1 large onion (finely diced)
- 1/2 cup/100 ml olive oil
- 1/3 cup/100 grams dried currants (or dark raisins)
- 1/3 cup/60 grams pine nuts
- 1 large bunch fresh dill weed (sprigs only, thick stems removed)
- 2 cups/400 grams short-grain white rice
- 3 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- 3 tsp. cinnamon
- 2 tsp. allspice
- 2 tbsp. sugar
- Handle your squash flowers very gently to avoid bruising or tearing. Do not wash them as this will cause the delicate petals to stick together.
- Prepare your flowers for stuffing by gently removing any green leaves at the base. Set them aside.
- Now it's time to prepare the stuffing. First, put a shallow pan on a medium flame and fry the onions in the olive oil until they are soft and reduced.
- Add the pine nuts and brown them.
- Add all the other dry ingredients and mix well.
- Stir in the water, then bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat until the water is almost absorbed. You'll know it's ready when you have a fragrant mixture of half-cooked rice.
- Once your filling cools down enough to handle, you can begin stuffing your flowers. Handling each flower gently, fill the center of each using a small spoon and fold the petal tips over the top of the stuffing so they overlap, covering the filling completely.
- Do your best not to overstuff the flowers. You need to leave enough room for the rice to expand while they cook. Don't worry, it takes some practice to get it just right, but once your fingers get used to it, stuffing is easy!
- As you stuff each flower, place them side by side lining the bottom of another shallow pan. You can start a second layer if necessary, but keeping them to a single layer is always best.
- Add enough water to the pan to cover the stuffed flowers, but no more. Drizzle about 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive over the mixture and add some extra salt to the water.
- Bring the pan to a soft boil, then immediately reduce the heat to low and cover. The flowers should simmer very gently with the cover on until all the water is absorbed.
- Remove the pan from the heat and let it continue to steam until it cools to room temperature. If too much condensation forms on the lid, cover the pan with paper towels and close the lid over them letting the flowers continue to steam.
- When the flowers have cooled down, they will become firmer and easier to remove from the pan. Remove each one gently with your fingers being careful not to damage it, or the other flowers around it.
- Place each 'dolma' on a decorative serving dish creating a random pile, drizzle them with some more olive oil and garnish the plate with a few fresh zucchini flowers, if desired.
Stuffed zucchini flowers, like other Turkish stuffed and wrapped dishes, keep well in the refrigerator for a few days so you can make them ahead of time.