Friday, October 16, 2015

One more night to go... See you all tomorrow!

Desserts & Sweets Charity Food Fair @ CXC | 11-2pm | Oct 16

It has been a very busy two months at the Penthouse Kitchen (excuse my absence from posting much) prepping and planning for the Desserts & Sweets Charity Food Fair event that is to take place tomorrow at work. All proceeds will go to Sunnyside Club that supports mentally and physically disabled children in Hong Kong.

I have recruited dear friend Kylie who kept me sane and became a very deft kitchen "dance partner" as we flitted about the cramped and narrow kitchen space. All our efforts culminated these two days with the oven running round the clock, churning out batch after batch of scones that filled my entire penthouse with heavenly, buttery, exotic aromas.
My biggest thank you to Kylie, my unconditionally cheerful partner in crime that kept both us going!

Find out the FIVE FLAVORS featured tomorrow and bag some home!
Cheddar Apple Rosemary is apparently Kylie's favorite
Hundreds... and another hundred more to go

Miss the event? Want some scones? Place an order! Simply send me a message on my Facebook Fan Page!!

[Write to me under comments! Follow me on Instagram @alvinckl and check out my Facebook Fan Page!]

Thursday, October 8, 2015

See you all Oct 16!!

Alvin's Penthouse Kitchen is gearing up for next Friday's charity fundraiser for Sunnyside Club for physically/mentally challenged children in Hong Kong @ Cathay Pacific City! Come & show your support Oct 16! Stay tuned for more details to come!! :)))

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Thai Stir-fried Morning Glory | 泰式飛天炒通菜 | Phad Pak Bung Fai Daeng

Phad Pak bung fai daeng - popularly known as "stir-fried morning glory" - one of the most recognizable Thai vegetable favorites that is ubiquitously served from streetside to restaurants across Thailand, is as easily, and quickly, prepared at home. The ingredient list is so short and sweet, the dish can practically be whipped up in a flash, literally.

Stir fry like you mean it over a blazing flame - and the dish is ready in a flash!

The main ingredient of this stirfry is obviously pak bung jiin (jiin: Thai for China/Chinese), commonly known as kangkong, Chinese water spinach, or ong choy (蕹菜) in different cultures. This Chinese variety is not to be confused with its Thai counterpart, which tends to be larger in the stalk. Like many stirfries in Thai cuisine, the Chinese influence on this dish is undeniable, as is most evident in the use of a wok on very high heat (hence fai daeng, blazing "red fire" in Thai) and the seasoning ingredients.

Water spinach is not only easy to wash, it is super uncostly by the bunch
What makes it distinctly Thai, nevertheless, is its generous use of fish sauce, oyster sauce, fermented soybean paste, chili, and a touch of sugar, which gives the dish its signature savory and sweet followed by a pang of fire. I sometimes substitute Thai fish sauce with a secret ingredient - Bagoong Balayan, a turbid, fermented anchovy sauce produced exclusively in the Batangas, Philippines that imparts an even richer, more pungent "fishy" flavor than fish sauce.

This dish is so tasty, so hot, and ready in seconds, it literally flies - hence its moniker "Flying Pak Bung" in Thai, which also explains why this popular dish is often translated as "飛天炒通菜" in Chinese.

What you'll need...
1 large bunch water spinach
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 large cloves of garlic
3 bird eye chilis
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon fermented bean sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup water or chicken broth

Smashed whole red chilis are easy to spot and pick out after plating 
1. Wash water spinach and drain. Cut into 3-inch segments, separating stalk and leaf. Give the garlic cloves and whole chilis a good whack. Place stalk in a large bowl and top with smashed garlic and chilis.

2. In a small bowl, mix together oyster sauce, fermented bean sauce, fish sauce, sugar, and water/chicken broth.

3. In a large wok over very high heat, heat oil until beginning to smoke. Dump stalk, garlic and chilis all at once into the wok, followed by the sauce. Briskly stir fry, then quickly add the remaining leafy portion of the water spinach and stir fry to coat well with sauce. Remove from heat at once when the vegetables wilt, turn bright green and tender-crisp, and transfer to serving platter immediately. The whole process takes barely a minute.

If you ever wonder why this dish is named "Flying Morning Glory", give it a try at your own kitchen and it will all make sense

通菜  600 克
生油  1 湯匙
蒜頭  4 瓣
指天椒  3 隻

蠔油  1 湯匙*
豆醬  1 湯匙
魚露  1 湯匙*
砂糖  1 茶匙
或上湯  60 毫升

1. 通菜洗淨切段,約三寸長,置於大盤內備用(建議嫩葉分開)。
2. 蒜瓣和指天椒略拍扁,放在切好的通菜上面。
3. 調味料拌勻備用。
4. 熱鑊下油,傾入通菜、蒜、指天椒及調味料,用大火快速翻炒再加入嫩葉兜勻。
5. 當通菜顏色變得鮮豔之後馬上熄火,上碟即成。過程僅需一分鐘! 


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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Grilled Eggplant Parmesan with Homemade Marinara Sauce

Once a while when my craving for tomato red sauce hits, the good ol' Eggplant Parmesan sounds like a perfect choice without overloading on carbs from pasta in a spaghetti pomodoro. A hearty staple of Italian Americana, "Eggplant Parm" usually comes breaded and fried - in some instances even drowning in pools of sauce, cheese, and grease when not done right. This delicious grilled version is my take on the traditional one, which is much lighter (and easier to make) and loud on both flavor and texture. The eggplant is beautifully grilled and charred, layered with melted mozzarella and homemade marinara, and finally topped with crisp, golden seasoned breadcrumbs. Forget the heavily breaded, slimy eggplant swimming in grease, because you won't miss that - and those calories - at all.

Now, if you are short on time, you can always use store-bought marinara and breadcrumbs. But making homemade tomato sauce and breadcrumbs is almost as fast as visiting the supermarket and infinitely better than the jarred/boxed stuff on the shelves. With basic pantry staples, you can control what goes into your own sauce, how chunky or smooth you like it, and also make bigger batches for later use. As for breadcrumbs... just like me, once you've made it for the first time you would probably feel silly for having actually purchased any in the past. It is essentially day-old, dried out bread that you can easily transform into tasty, golden, versatile crispy goodness in mere seconds at home.

Below are the recipes for each of the two. The tomato sauce and the breadcrumbs can be made ahead; once you've got those two down, assembling the Grilled Eggplant Parmesan is a breeze!
To prepare... 
For the classic Marinara Sauce:

I go heavy handed when seasoning with fresh herbs!
1 can (28 ounce) chopped tomatoes
1 1/2 tablespoons extra vigin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 sprig fresh basil
Fresh or dried herbs to taste (such as oregano and thyme) 
Pinch of sea salt
Pinch of sugar (optional)
A small handful of cherry tomatoes, halved (optional)

1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add garlic, red pepper flakes and any dried herbs and cook until fragrant. Pour in canned tomatoes and salt, bring to a boil on high heat, then reduce heat and let simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes until the sauce is slightly thickened.

2. Stir in cherry tomatoes (if using). Add basil sprig (and any other fresh herbs) and submerge in sauce for the last 10 minutes. Taste sauce and add more seasoning as desired. Add some sugar if you find the sauce acidic. Discard basil, and remove sauce from heat.

For the Seasoned Parmesan Breadcrumbs:

2-3 pieces of stale white bread or plain rolls, roughly torn
1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino
1/2 teaspoon dried herbs or Italian seasoning
1/8 teaspoon garlic salt, or to taste
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
Several whole black peppercorns

1. Preheat oven to 150C/300F. Place all of the ingredients into a food processor and pulse to desired crumb size. Spread the crumbs evenly on a sheet pan and bake until crisp and just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Let cool and store in the refrigerator for up to one month.

For the Grilled Eggplant Parmesan:

1 Italian eggplant, sliced into 1/3-inch-thick rounds
Extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of sea salt
1 ball of fresh mozzarella, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
Fresh basil leaves, to garnish

1. Preheat grill. Brush eggplant rounds with olive oil on both sides and season with salt. Place eggplant on grill, flipping once, until softened and charred. Remove from heat.

2. Preheat oven to 190C/375F. Place the bottom layer of eggplant rounds on a parchment lined baking sheet. Top each with a small spoonful of tomato sauce (the more sauce there is the more likely the stacks will slip while baking) followed by a slice of mozzarella. Repeat to make a second layer. Bake until bubbly, about 20 minutes.

3. Top each stack with a heap of golden herbed breadcrumbs and garnish with fresh basil. Serve immdiately. Enjoy!

Sprinkling the seasoned breadcrumbs on top last ensures that they stay crispy and crunchy

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Grilled Peaches with Cognac Butter Glaze and Vanilla Ice Cream

If you are anything like me, you look forward to summer peaches all year more than you ever would your birthday.

Every summer I find myself bewildered in New York City's bountiful farmers markets, dazzled by color and intoxicated by the perfume of peaches and nectarines at their peak. These blushing beauties are delicious fresh as they are, but also make heavenly desserts grilled.
Grilling intensifies the natural sugars in peaches, not only bringing out the sweetness and juiciness, but also softening the flesh. If you ever wonder what to do with underripe peaches, the grill comes to the rescue! Never throw out any "bad" peaches again!

A super simple dessert that requires under 10 minutes and only a handful of ingredients - making this a perfect choice for last-minute summer entertaining!
The peaches will soften and get those pretty grill marks
Serve grilled peaches alongside vanilla ice cream, greek yoghurt, mascarpone - whichever your heart fancies - all it takes is just minutes and you have a perfect ending to any meal that looks like a million bucks. The almond biscotti adds a welcome crunch and perfectly complements the liquor - which brings us to the best part - that drizzle of booze that takes this fruit dessert to a whole other level. Substitute the biscotti with a shortbread cookie or some chopped almonds if unavailable!

Hail to the peach season this year!

To prepare...
3-4 large, ripe peaches
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
1 tablespoon Cognac, brandy, or rum, plus some for drizzling
Vanilla ice cream
Almond biscotti

1. Heat the grill. I lined my Panini Grille with foil for easy clean up. Lightly grease the foil with oil.

2. Half each peach and remove the pit by loosening one end with the tip of a knife. In a small skillet, melt butter together with brown sugar until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat. Mix in ground cinnamon, nutmeg, and liquor.

3. Grill peaches skin side down (lightly brush peach with olive oil before grilling if placing directly on grill without foil), basting occasionally with the Cognac butter glaze, 3-4 minutes. Repeat with the cut side down for them sexy grill marks. Serve at once with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream and an almond biscotti. Spoon any remaining glaze over the grilled peaches and finish off with a drizzle of Cognac all over.

For a less naughty version of this scrumptious dessert, try greek yoghurt - the taste of grilled peaches will pop out even more!

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Friday, August 7, 2015

Cheddar, Apple and Rosemary Scones | 車打蘋果迷迭香美式鬆餅

Weeks passed since I've buried myself deep in training and assessments, and now I am back having achieved a major career milestone! Over the last two weeks my body has undergone significant shock, for once in years actually adapting to a lifestyle grounded in routine and one stationary time zone. Soon my body will have to readjust as I embark on my new role. But for now, lets celebrate this occasion wholeheartedly - with none other than the heavenly homemade scone.

Perhaps because scones are often associated with English high tea, I have always regarded scones as a form of royal decadence and indulgence. I took a break from attempting to make my own years ago ever since an epic fail (an irremediably gooey dough that resulted in misshapen choking hazards). After weeks of intense pressure and dreadful cafeteria food, I longed for something comforting and homemade. A block of aged cheddar in my fridge and an overgrown rosemary bush on my rooftop garden gave me just the right nudge for a renewed attempt - and a savory one this time.

Go for mature, sharp white cheddar or other hard cheeses like Gruyere for the best results
Tender, flaky, fluffy, crispy, crunchy, cheesy, savory scones perfumed with the piney scent of fresh rosemary
Makes 8 wedges; alternatively, cut scones into rounds or squares as desired

All apprehension set aside, these scones turned out so fantastic it is safe for me to say that I have never had a better scone in my life. Perhaps it is because I finally got the hang of mixing, and not over mixing; or that I showered it with love; but more likely it may have to do with the apple hidden somewhere inside.

Grate apple with ease or add them diced for a more noticeable crunch
Now, we all know apple and cheddar are a match made in heaven. In this recipe, however, the apple plays more of a supporting role, balancing the sharpness of cheddar and the woodsy, piney aroma of rosemary with a subtle sweetness. More significantly, though rendered invisible after baking, the apple provides just the right amount of moisture that effectively keeps the scone tender and fluffy, thereby reducing the liquid needed in this recipe.

As usual, I am shamelessly bold with fresh herbs in cooking, so feel free to tweak the quantity to suit your preference.

Serve these heavenly scones with Cider Braised Pork Shoulder with Apples and Cranberries.

2 cups plain flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon sugar
113g (1/2 cup) cold butter, cubed or thinly sliced
1 large egg, plus extra for egg wash
3-4 tablespoon milk, plus extra for egg wash
1 firm, tart apple, peeled
3 teaspoon finely minced rosemary*
1/2 cup grated or diced white cheddar

*Tip: using a bullet blender saves time and effort and lessens bruising of the herb

1. Preheat oven to 200C/400F.

2. Sift flour, baking powder, salt and sugar into a large mixing bowl. Add butter and, using a pastry blender or two knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until the texture resembles coarse sand. Stir in rosemary and cheddar. Using a hand grater, grate apple into the mixture and stir until evenly coated.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and 3 tablespoons of milk. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the egg mixture, reserving some for the egg wash. Gently fold to combine. If mixture appears too dry or sandy, gradually add remaining milk. Be careful not to over-stir. The mixture may not be fully combined at this point and it is perfectly okay!

4. Turn mixture out on a lightly floured surface and gently knead a few times to bring the dough together. Pat the dough into a 9-inch circle and dust the bottom with flour. Cut the circle into 8 triangles.

5. Place the triangles on a parchment lined baking sheet. Lightly brush with egg wash. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through. Cool on a wire rack until cool enough to handle. Bask in the heavenly aroma, and try not to finish the scones all at once!

Note: Make ahead and store unbaked scones in the freezer until you need them. Simply brush with egg wash and bake still frozen for a few extra minutes.

Bask in the heavenly scent of cheesy rosemary scones baking away in the kitchen, and melt into ecstasy as you gently break apart a freshly baked scone...
Tried this recipe?
Share with me or leave a comment below! Tag #alvinspenthousekitchen.
Find me on Instagram @alvinckl and @alvin.penthousekitchen and follow my Facebook Fan Page!

【 車打蘋果迷迭香美式鬆餅 】

低筋麵粉                 250 克
泡打粉                     2 茶匙
幼鹽                         1/4 茶匙
砂糖                         1 茶匙
冰凍牛油                115 克
大雞蛋                    1 隻
牛奶                         3 - 4 湯匙
青蘋果                    1 隻
新鮮迷迭香           切碎約 3 茶匙
車打芝士               切碎約 110 克

1. 預熱焗爐至 200C/400F。
2. 牛油切成粒或薄片。
3. 麵粉、泡打粉、幼鹽和糖過篩拌勻。加入牛油,用酥皮切刀搓碎至粗沙質地。
4. 拌入迷迭香碎和芝士。青蘋果去皮刨絲,加入拌勻。
5. 雞蛋和 3 湯匙牛奶攪勻,倒入麵粉裡並搓勻成麵糰。保留少量牛奶蛋液備用。
6. 若麵糰質地偏乾身,可逐少添加牛奶混合。
7. 放在灑上麵粉的工作枱上,把已揉好的麵糰用手壓平至直徑約 9 英寸圓形,再切成共 8 件三角形。
8. 放在鋪有牛油紙的烤盤上,留意每份鬆餅麵糰需隔 1 英吋為佳。掃上牛奶蛋液。放入焗爐焗 20 - 25 分鐘至金黃色便大功告成!

備註:未烤的鬆餅麵糰可先切好並放進冰箱雪藏。需要時只需掃上蛋液,放入已預熱的焗爐焗 25 - 30 分鐘至金黃色即成。

Tried this recipe?
Share with me or leave a comment below! Tag #alvinspenthousekitchen.
Find me on Instagram @alvinckl and @alvin.penthousekitchen and follow my Facebook Fan Page!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Mexican Brownies

There is nothing more tantalizing than the rich aroma of chocolate brownies baking away in the kitchen... except brownies secretly spiked with cinnamon and a pinch of Mexican chile.

Cinnamon and chili work magic when fused with chocolate, period. I first experienced the mouthwatering chocolate-cinnamon duo taking my first sips of Mexican hot chocolate in charming Oaxaca. It was love at first taste. Then, some years ago I timidly reached for my first scoop of Chili Chocolate at my favorite local artisan gelateria. The unprecedented pairing of bittersweet and heat gave a not-so-subtle kick. I was hooked.

Both cinnamon and cayenne (or chile pequin) add warm spiciness that intensifies and complements the rich flavor of chocolate. For years I longed to recreate this sensational experience in the ordinary brownie, but shame on me - I procrastinated. Finally, I ran out of excuses when I was invited to a weekend rooftop housewarming fiesta at my Mexican ex-pat friend Miguel's cozy new pad in the Midlevels. Highly portable, a breeze to make, and just a tad twisted - spiked brownies are perfect for any sorts of gathering especially when you are tight on time. And, they go fast.

Add a touch of spice and heat to these fudgy chocolate brownies for a surprising twist!

Before the squeamish ones turn away - "Mexican brownies" ain't tongue-burning hot; rather, the spices deliver a gentle, delayed kick that leaves folks wondering and pondering, while lip-smacking, just when, and how, they got this elusive kick... and they will never get their heads around it. Try it and you will know what I mean.

Add chocolate chips for extra fudgy chocolate goodness or chopped nuts for texture and an extra layer of flavor. I added a handful of chopped Almond Roca. Finally, finish with a sprinkle of powdered sugar, cocoa, cinnamon and one last pinch of cayenne to really set these brownies apart.

 To prepare...
Brownies just got sexier.
112g (4 oz, approx. 3/4 cup) baking chocolate, any combination of semi-sweet, unsweetened, dark, and milk chocolates
170g (3/4 cup) butter
1 1/4 cup sugar, or more as desired
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne
1/4 teaspoon ground chile pequin (or replace with cayenne)
Pinch of salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips (I used chopped Almond Roca)

For the sprinkle...
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
Pinch of cocoa powder
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground cayenne

1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Line a 9x12" pan with parchment paper so that it overhangs on the sides. Set aside.

2. Place baking chocolate and butter in a large, microwave-safe bowl. Heat on high for 2-3 minutes, stirring every 30-40 seconds, until chocolate is smooth. Stir in sugar. Once mixture slight cools, stir in vanilla extract, eggs, cocoa powder, cinnamon, cayenne, chile pequin, and salt. Mix in flour and stir until combined.

3. Pour the batter in prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out with just a few crumbs stuck on it. For even cutting, allow brownies to cool completely before slicing into squares.

4. Mix powdered sugar and a pinch each of cocoa, cinnamon, and cayenne and sprinkle over sliced brownie. Serve as is or à la mode!

A fun-filled night surrounded by skyscrapers and new and old faces; (far right) Mexican Brownies all packed and ready to go!

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Monday, July 6, 2015

Winter Melon Soup with Tonkin Jasmine and Chinese Mushroom

July has barely just arrived, Hong Kong surely already feels like a raging furnace. The crippling heat is exacerbated only by a heavy cloak of subtropical humidity that spares no nook or cranny in its reach. At such times when mere breathing is sufficient to make one perspire, the last thing one would dream of is slurping a scalding hot bowl of soup.

Add flavor with dried mushrooms or seafood
Much to the contrary, generations of wisdom in Cantonese cuisine - backed by an all-encompassing, deep-seated "science" of internal balance and "hot versus cold" - have developed just the kind of soups that are believed to beat the heat with the right application of ingredients.

One such summer-specific "tonic" is the winter melon soup (an interesting irony, I reckon). White and mildly sweet in the flesh and dark green and waxy on the skin, the winter melon (冬瓜) - also known as wax gourd - typically grows to impressive sizes and often comes in pre-sliced wheels or otherwise dissected on the spot at markets. Winter melon soups are widely known to help dispel excessive heat and moisture accumulated in one's body, and are generally nourishing and cooling against summer's unforgiving climate.

A winter melon's delicate white flesh carries no distinct taste on its own, so other flavorful ingredients such as pork bones, dried Chinese mushrooms, dried shrimps and conpoy take up the role in flavoring.

Tonkin Jasmine: the "Night Fragrance"
If you are lucky, you might just run into packets of handpicked Tonkin jasmine flowers (夜香花) sold alongside winter melons which, to me, are like the cherry on the cake in this popular summer soup. Known as "Night Fragrance" in Chinese, these unassuming green and golden yellow blooms got its namesake for seducing passerbys with an even richer fragrance as night falls. During summer months, these inexpensive, modest flower buds silently make their way into local markets in small batches, often used in soups and favored for their delicate perfume and alleged ability to detoxify, maintain eye health, as well as eliminate excessive moisture. Not only do the flowers add a pleasing pop of jade, their crunch also gives a nice contrast to the soft, velvety texture that the winter melon takes on during cooking.

Under the weather? Beat the heat with this "cooling" winter melon soup!
To prepare...
1 1/2 lb winter melon
1 lb pork bones or lean pork
1 inch ginger, sliced
8 Chinese dried mushroom
4 dried scallops (optional), rinsed
8 cups water
A large handful of Tonkin jasmine
Salt, to taste (optional)

1. Soak dried mushrooms in water for a minimum of 20 minutes. Soak Tonkin jasmine in salted water for at least 15 minutes, rinse then set aside.

2. In a small pot, add pork, several slices of ginger and water. Bring to a rolling boil for 4-5 minutes, then turn heat off and discard scum and water. This is a crucial step to ensure a clear soup free from unsightly impurities and unpleasant odours from the pork.

3. Discard seeds and cut winter melon into roughly bite-sized chunks, keeping skin on for aesthetic reasons if desired. Cut mushrooms into thin slices. Place pork, winter melon, mushrooms, scallops (if using), and the rest of the sliced ginger into a large stock pot. Pour in 8 cups of water, cover, and bring to a boil. Continue to boil on medium heat for 15 minutes, then lower to a simmer for 1 hour.

4. When soup is almost done, tip in Tonkin jasmine and leave to simmer for one more minute before turning heat off. Serve piping hot in bowls and season with salt to taste. Happy Summer!!

For more traditional Chinese soup recipes, try:
Fish Maw, Monkey Head Mushroom, Whelk, and Lean Pork Soup

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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Fiori di Zucca Ripieni di Acciughe e Camembert | Zucchini Blossoms Stuffed with Anchovy and Camembert

While hastily scanning through the produce aisles during a last minute groceries shopping spree in Italy, my eyes rested firmly on little lanterns of vibrant sunshine orange and soft green in a cooler. Plump, frilly, ethereal flowers they are: zucchini blossoms. Fragile to the touch and delicate to the tongue, these blooms are sure signs of an Italian summer's bounty, so rarely seen elsewhere or in restaurants abroad. I could barely remember when I last tasted these seasonal treats in Italy (they were sadly "finito" when I ordered them at a trattoria in Orvieto just this weekend when my craving hit!). Without second thought, in goes a package into my shopping basket.

Zucchini flowers may not taste a whole lot on its own, but they sure are aesthetically appealing and a delight to bite into stuffed with cheese and fried golden for a savory antipasto. Imagine crisped yellow petals giving way to a cavern of hot, oozing cheese, then finally rounding off with a mouthful of crunch around the receptacle of the blossom. I am not the kind of guy who is easily talked into dispensing a pot full of frying oil and making a greasy splatter at a kitchen, but when we have such an exotic delicacy in hand, such operation demands no justification.

Here are my special thanks to a friend from Australia who has home stayed with first generation Italian immigrants since school age and years of managing an Italian restaurant. Together I have learned to stuff the flowers and fry them in a tempura-like batter that is light and airy.

Interchange Camembert with goat cheese, ricotta, mozzarella, or pecorino to stuff the blossoms. Skim on salt when using saltier cheeses and anchovies. For a vegetarian option, replace anchovies with chopped herbs!

To prepare...
1 dozen fresh zucchini blossoms
1 small block (about 1/2 cup) Camembert, at room temperature
4-5 anchovy fillets
Canola oil

For the batter...
1/2 cup or more plain flour
1/2 cup or more ice cold water

1. In a small bowl, roughly mash the Camembert with anchovies until creamy. Gently open the zucchini blossoms and pluck out any stamens. With a small spoon, scoop a heaping spoonful of the cheese mixture and carefully stuff into the heart of each flower without overfilling. Ensure that the cheese mixture is completely covered by gently twisting the top of each blossom to enclose the mixture. Repeat with remaining flowers.

2. Heat oil in a pot over medium heat. Make the batter by whisking flour and cold water until smooth. The batter should trickle in a steady stream when lifted with the whisk and not too thick. Add more water or flour to obtain the right consistency.

3. Dip a stuffed zucchini blossom into the batter and twirl gently between fingers until the flower is fully, but lightly, coated. Repeat with the remaining blossoms.

4. Working in batches, slip blossoms into the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan. Lightly fry for 1 to 2 minutes per side until the flowers are golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

Serve immediately with a scatter of chopped parsley and some freshly ground pepper. Buon appetito!!

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