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Crispy Zucchini Blossom Croutons

10 to 12 small zucchini blossoms
1 cup flour
salt and pepper
2 eggs
1 Tbsp milk
2 cups Panko
salt and pepper

Pick small zucchini blossoms that are growing on a long stem, not at the end of a tiny zucchini. Immediately rinse under water, gently and quickly, then lay out on a towel and pat dry.

Cut the stem off to within a half inch of blossom. Take a sharp paring knife and trim off the pointy leaves from just above the stem, the ones that surround the blossoms at the bottom.

With your sharp knife, make a slice from the bottom of the blossom up through the petals until you can lay the blossom out ‘butterfly’ style.

Remove the stamen or pistil and gently wash off any pollen that may still be in the inside of the blossom. Close the blossoms back up and lay them on a clean platter or tray.

Mix the flour and salt and pepper together in a bowl; then dust over the blossoms, turn them over, and dust the other side.

In a shallow dish, whisk together the egg and milk.

In another shallow dish, sprinkle the Panko and season with salt and pepper.

Now, take each flour dusted blossom and first dip in egg-milk mixture, let excess drain off, then roll in Panko mixture, and set back on tray.

When all are dipped and ready, prepare a skillet for frying. Fill with frying oil, such as peanut oil, to about 1/2 to 3/4 inch deep, just high enough so blossoms are covered by half. Turn heat to high and when oil is very hot, take blossoms and start putting them slowly into oil, one at a time, without crowding the pan. Flip blossoms when they are golden brown and continue frying until browned on both sides.

Remove immediately to a paper towel covered cooling rack.

Sprinkle blossoms with more salt before they cool.

Serve these ‘croutons’ on top of a prepared green salad using a variety of mixed greens.