Zucchini flowers

Zucchini flowers (Rick Loomis, Los Angeles Times)

So bright yellow they almost look orange, zucchini flowers are nearly irresistible to farmers market shoppers. Yet it seems many people don't know what to do with them once they've bought them. My favorite way is to deep-fry them in a very light, almost tempura-like batter. Whisk enough ice water into flour that it thickens to the consistency of heavy cream. Dip the flowers in the batter, give them a twirl to get rid of any excess batter, and fry them in hot oil until they're crunchy--just two or three minutes. That's just one idea.

How to choose: Choose flowers that have been picked early in the morning and are tightly closed (they're more likely to be bug-free). Rinse them gently under cold water and tease them open with your finger just to make sure. Also, I prefer male flowers (just stems, no squash attached) because by the time the squash is cooked through, the flowers are usually overdone.

How to store: Zucchini flowers should be refrigerated tightly sealed.

How to prepare: If you don't want to fry them, cut zucchini flowers into shreds and add them to a risotto or a quesadilla filling.