We've got some beautiful end-of-summer produce right now, including items that we'll only see for a few short weeks. Zucchini blossoms seem to be at their peak. Hint: if you can buy them still attached to baby squash, they are often a better deal. They stay fresh longer, plus you gets some nice tiny squash in the bargain. For this dish I sliced the blossoms in half lengthwise so you can see the beauty of their interior, an idea I cribbed in different ways from both Ubuntu and Coco500.
Padrón peppers are a Spanish variety, frequently served for tapas. The traditional technique is to simply pan-fry them in olive oil and serve them whole with plenty of flaky sea salt. I'm not big on green bell peppers, but the Padróns have a more complex flavor. They are a bit of a gamble on the Scoville scale – some are completely tame and others have a substantial level of capsaicin, like a hot serrano.
With two beautiful items in hand, I wanted to serve them in a way that would really show them off. A simple grilled flatbread with olive oil and chevre was just the ticket. There isn't really a definitive difference between flatbread and pizza, but I tend to call it flatbread if there if there isn't a sauce or thick layer of cheese. You can do this in the oven just as well, preferably on a pizza stone, but even a baking sheet at 450 F. is a fine option.
I like to make the dough a day in advance and leave it to rest in the refrigerator overnight. This process is called retarding the dough; by slowing the rise you allow more complex flavors to develop. You can also do it the same day as long as you give it a couple hours to rise. For added flavor, I use a bit of rye flour as recommended in Alice Water's superb cookbook, The Art of Simple Food.
Grilled Flatbread With Padron Peppers and Zucchini Blossoms
Yields rectangular breads about 12" x 4"
Vegetarian; vegan if you omit the chevre
For the dough:
- 1 package dry yeast
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 3 1/2 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup rye flour (or use more white flour if you don't have rye)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Combine yeast, warm water and 1/2 cup of the white flour in a stand mixer, or by hand in a large bowl. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes, until quite bubbly.
- Stir in the remaining white and rye flour, the salt, 3/4 cup of water, and 1/4 cup of olive oil. Knead thoroughly, by hand or with the dough hook on a mixer, until you can pull a piece thin enough to allow light through. If using within a few hours, allow to rise in a warm place and punch down once or twice, the last time about 45 minutes before you want to roll it out. Otherwise, divide in half and store in two gallon plastic bags in the refrigerator and take it out about 2 hours before you want to roll.
For the vegetables and assembly:
- 24 Padrón peppers
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
- flaky sea salt
- 12 zucchini blossoms, cut in half lengthwise
- 12 ounces fresh chevre (goat cheese)
- Saute the Padrón peppers in 1/4 cup olive oil until blistered and blackening; remove to paper towels and season liberallly with good flaky sea salt.
- Light a grill and allow the fire to burn down to hot coals.
- Working on a floured board, roll and stretch the dough to form two loaves about 12" long by 4" wide.
- Brush one side of each bread with olive oil, and place that side down on the grill. Cook until golden brown. Brush the other side with olive oil and flip. While the second side is grilling, Top with the zucchini blossoms and Padron peppers, alternating. Randomly place small bits of the goat cheese. Cook until the bottom side is done, then hit with a last bit of sea salt and serve. If you like, you can pre-slice so that each person gets one zucchini blossom and one Padron pepper.