One of my favorite hobbies is dining at a wonderful restaurant and then trying to recreate a special dish at home. One of the people with whom I love to dine is my dear friend, Courtney. Courtney and I go way back. We were randomly assigned as roommates our freshman year of college, and our friendship has spanned many of the most important events of our lives. We have talked each other through breakups, deaths in our families, new jobs, and of course, changing hairstyles. I think only our mothers were happier than we on the day we moved into our dorm room. Somehow with that motherly instinct, they sniffed each other out, and knew we were a match. Each returned to her home confident that her daughter had found someone with a similar background, interests, and values. We both grew up in homes where we interacted with our grandparents on a daily basis (mine lived upstairs, hers, right next door, we are both half Irish and half Italian, and we both had large, close extended families. We were 'simpatico' from day one. In addition to living together that first year, we also studied abroad together during our junior year. Courtney's name was a difficult one to pronounce for many of the students at the Swiss college we attended, so her nickname that year became "Cookie." It stuck, and I and many of her other friends still use it.
Twenty five years later, we get together at least once a year, as Courtney lives in the Midwest, and I live on the East coast, to reconnect. We talk about our families, careers, travels and books we have read, and pretty much anything else that comes up. Given our Italian background, our tradition in to have a great Italian dinner together. Last week, I spent three days in New York City with Cookie, and we had several wonderful meals. One of these meals was most memorable. I don't know if it was the atmosphere, or the bottle of Proseco with which we started the meal, but I think this was our best Italian meal yet.
One of the appetizers we had was zucchini blossoms stuffed with fresh ricotta cheese, and then fried, and they were amazing. As I am a bit overwhelmed with zucchini right now, I decided to try to recreate the dish at home. It served both as an excellent way to begin our meal the other night, but it also accomplished the secondary goal of cutting down the number of zucchini produced by the plants. Brilliant!
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
5 or 6 fresh basil leaves, julienned
1 garlic clove, minced almost to a paste
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
Mix all ingredients well in a bowl.
6-8 zucchini blossoms, trimmed and washed
1 egg, well beaten and placed in a shallow bowl
1 cup vegetable oil, for frying
3/4 cup of plain breadcrumbs
2 tbsp. grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. chopped parsley